How to Use Ice Breaker Questions

Learn How to Use Ice Breaker Questions to Make Meetings Engaging

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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. Your participants are engaged without any struggle on the part of the facilitator.

Relate Your Group to the Ice Breaker Questions

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 you'll never know where the inspiration comes from, but the perfect question enters and won't leave your mind. Does this match your experience, too?

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. You'll find the questions that quickly and effectively engage your audience.

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 for implementing 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 teamwork 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 have reported using the ice breaker question, "What's rocking your world today?" Both said the ice breaker question generated several hours of great 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 after all of the engaging conversation, 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 contributors to the 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. The total time used will depend on the question. As shared earlier, two readers who used this ice breaker 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. Your participants will always enjoy hearing what everyone else said. 

The Bottom Line

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 the 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 circumstances, you can use the ice breaker question for the primary focus or content of your meeting.