Are You Willing to Take a Provocative Stand in a Meeting?

Use this ice breaker to start stimulating team discussions

Group of women preparing to lead a meeting
Dave and Les Jacobs / Getty Images

Ice breakers are a great way to open up a team and facilitate more effective working relationships. The "take a stand" ice breaker can be especially effective, as it pushes participants to express their views on provocative, sometimes controversial topics. Not only do your questions get your group thinking and taking a stand on issues, but you get your group physically moving. This physical movement warms up your participants more effectively than similar sedentary ice breakers.

Preparing for the Ice Breaker

As with most ice breakers, you’ll need to prepare in advance, but the variations of this group ice breaker are only limited by your imagination. It can take myriad forms based on your topic, the issues your group is considering, and the needs of your group for bonding and coalescing.

To lead the take a stand group ice breaker, the facilitator must bring issues to the meeting. The ice breaker is most effective if the issues about which you ask participants to take a stand are related to the topic of the meeting.

A related issue allows you to segue into relevant discussion and content at the appropriate time. The topic of the issue will help participants think about the topic of the training session or meeting while your participants become comfortable talking with the other participants.

The take a stand ice breaker can work as well with strangers as it does groups who know each other. As long as the facilitator makes it clear that there are no right or wrong answers—just opinions and feelings about the question—people will feel comfortable stating their opinions and engaging in discussion.

Keep the Goal in Mind

With this type of ice breaker, the most important step is selecting controversial issues without being divisive. Topics that relate to politics, religion, race, sexual orientation, some gender and age issues, and national origin will rarely help you accomplish your purpose. They can be divisive—in opposition to your goals for doing the ice breaker.

Keep in mind the primary goal for any ice breaker: to encourage comfortable conversation. You want participants opening up to each other, not closing down.

Take a Stand Group Ice Breaker Steps

Follow these steps to facilitate a take a stand group ice breaker.

  1. Before participants arrive, the group facilitator should turn the conference room into a continuum. Do this by hanging a sign on each end of the room. One sign should say: Totally Agree - 100 percent. The sign on the other end of the room should say: Completely Disagree - 0 percent. At the midpoint in the room, hang a third sign that says: Neutral or Undecided - 50 percent. This provides your participants with guidance about where to stand when they take a stand during the ice breaker.
  2. When your participants arrive, ask them to take a seat as they normally would for your meeting or training session. In this group ice breaker, participants remain in the large group. You may let them sit until you have presented the rules.
  3. The facilitator will then present the group with a series of issues, statements, or conundrums. These must be stated in a way that people can clearly determine a response along the agree-disagree spectrum.
  4. Group members are to react to the presented statement by signifying the degree of their agreement or disagreement with the statement by taking a stand physically somewhere along the continuum that the facilitator created.
  5. Once all participants have physically moved to the location that best represents their point of view, the facilitator should suggest that participants share their rationale with the people standing near them.
  6. The facilitator should then do an overall debrief of the exercise by drawing out the thoughts of various participants about why they took the stand they took. In a second question, the group facilitator should inquire about whether anyone or anything in the room influenced them to rethink their positions.

Sample Topics for the Take a Stand Group Ice Breaker

This simple format allows you to customize the discussion to the needs of your team or business. Here are some ideas for common group ice breaker statements.


  • My employer would think less of me if I asked to be demoted to a less responsible position.
  • If I am too good at my current job, I am less likely to receive a promotion or a lateral move.
  • People who ingratiate themselves with the supervisor receive extra privileges, favored treatment, and promotions.

Team Building

Workplace Behavior and Etiquette

  • Smokers waste too much time taking breaks to smoke.
  • Employees who frequently arrive late to work and miss workdays are uncommitted to their jobs.

Human Resources

  • Human Resources staff care more about enforcing the employer’s policies than they care about being employee advocates.
  • The HR department plays an important role in employee success.

There are an infinite number of issues to explore. Consider the challenges facing your team, the projects on the horizon, and how you want to bring them together. This will give you a solid framework for choosing issues for discussion. Just make sure the questions are controversial enough to make the discussion interesting.