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Rocking, Rolling Ice Breaker Questions

Use These Ice Breaker Questions to Open Your Meetings and Training Classes

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Coworkers sitting at work station in discussion
Thomas Barwick/ Taxi/ Getty Images

Need a quick, no preparation, ice breaker that works magically to break the ice in a meeting or training session? Highly adaptable and customizable, ice breaker questions pull your participants into talking about the content of your meeting or training session.

Ice breaker questions are versatile and easily customized to your meeting or seminar needs. Ice breaker questions are also fun and insightful, depending on the ice breaker question that you use.

The joy of ice breaker questions is that you can think about the needs of your group in the back of your mind for days. Suddenly, and I never know where the inspiration comes from, but the perfect question enters and won't leave my mind. How about you?

No pressure, of course, but thinking up an appropriate ice breaker question is engaging and thought provoking. Some ice breaker questions work better than others but if you are willing to give it a shot and try out some questions, you'll learn what works for you over time.

Try these sample ice breaker questions to break the ice, open the discussion, help participants get to know each other, and set the course for a positive meeting or training experience for your participants. Meeting attendees love ice breaker questions when they are not responsible to implement the answers.

Steps in Using Ice Breaker Questions

  1. Divide the meeting participants into groups of four or five people by having them number off. (You do this so that your participants get to know fellow attendees. People generally begin a meeting by sitting with the people they already know best, when your goal is to build a sense of team work across a group.)

  2. Present your ice breaker question to the group.

  3. Tell your groups that individual participants can spend five minutes thinking about a response to the proffered ice breaker question. They can jot down an answer to the ice breaker question that you used to open the discussion.

  4. After five minutes max, ask participants to share their answer to the ice breaker question with their group. Tell them that the purpose of the question is to spark discussion and commentary.

    This ice breaker question helps the group of people explore their thoughts on a common issue. This ice breaker is a perfect segue into the topic of the meeting or training class.

  5. This ice breaker question sparks spontaneous conversation in every group as no answers are right or wrong. The ice breaker question encourages participants to share their opinions in a non-threatening activity. Two readers report using the ice breaker question, "What's rocking your world today?" Both said the ice breaker question generated several hours of discussion.

  6. After completion of the initial spontaneous discussion in the small groups, ask the participants to share their thoughts with the larger group. Ask for a volunteer to start, and then, ask each participant to share something. If you have no volunteers, and this would be unusual, elicit each comment with, "Hey Sally, what's rocking your world today?" (Even your most quiet participants were comfortable sharing a thought.)

  7. Next, after the participants have listened to the comments from the larger group, ask them to explore several add-on questions. Your opportunity for follow-up questions is endless. These debriefing questions can further support the content of your training class or meeting.

  8. Because participants are your contributers of laughter and fun, each of these steps generates remarks, insights, ah-has, and examples.

  9. Upon completion, move into the rest of the material you have prepared for the session.

This ice breaker question activity, depending on the question selected, can take 30 minutes with the initial enthusiastic, unstructured discussion that the ice breaker generates. Total time will depend on the question. As stated, two readers said that they had allowed up to two hours for the full discussion that their ice breaker question generated.

You can cover a more trivial ice breaker question in 15 minutes by leaving out the debrief with the large group. Keep in mind though, that humans are nosy and curious. We always enjoy hearing what everyone else said.

Depending on your topic and the needs of your group, the ice breaker question can be the focus of the meeting, based on its importance for what the group wishes to accomplish by meeting.

Recommended Ice Breaker Questions for Meetings and Work

These are sample questions that you can use to start out your meeting, retreat, or training class. In the right circumstance, use the ice breaker question as the focus or content of the meeting.

Periodically, I plan to add to these sample ice breaker questions, so you may want to save the page for future reference.

More About Using Ice Breakers

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