Icebreakers and Team Building Exercises That Make Fun Meetings Productive

How many meetings have you been to that are just the same old thing — boring gatherings you cannot wait to leave. Most meetings are poorly managed and non-productive.

I have been a teacher, management consultant, and meeting facilitator for over twenty years. In the hundreds of classes and seminars I have taught, I have learned one truth — people get more out of your meetings if you mix in a little fun.

By using team building exercises and icebreakers you can make your next meeting, class, or team building event something dynamic and fun.

It is wise to consider a few basic elements before choosing a team building exercise or a meeting ice breaker.

Ownership — First, icebreakers tend to work best when participants have taken ownership of the activity chosen by the facilitator. You must put five key elements in place.

1. Explain the activity.
2. Provide the goals of the activity.
3. Outline the structure of the activity.
4. Allow time for questions.
5. Give permission to participate at their comfort level.

This last element is crucial and overlooked in many cases. Make an announcement at the beginning of an exercise to insure participants understand they are not “bound” to participate in the activity or team meeting.

For those who opt out, perhaps ask them to be “observers” and see if they are comfortable providing a debriefing at the end of the event. Provide them something constructive to do during the exercise. When given the freewill to choose, people will take greater ownership of their participation.

Set the Climate — Icebreakers set the climate for the event to proceed. With this understanding, it makes sense to choose an icebreaker that is in alignment with the climate of the meeting. An ice breaker or team building exercise could send a wrong message. The unintended message could send the meeting in a different direction. Therefore, it makes sense to spend the time to choose the proper meeting icebreaker.

Learning Objectives — Some trainers and team facilitators prefer using either a meeting ice breaker or team building exercise focused on the learning objectives related to the meeting, training program, or goal of the group. Others prefer using an unrelated exercise just to break the ice. However, each icebreaker is dynamic and has both intended and unintended consequences. Consider this prior to the event so you can maximize the experience and build a cohesive meeting.

Safety — The first rule is not to take any chances that could cause physical injury to your participants.

One of my favorite team building activity is called the “Terrorist Toxic Popcorn Situation.” This is an easy team activity for both adults and teens. The goal is to decontaminate a can of “toxic” popcorn that has been secretly placed in the room by “terrorists.” Your team must quickly come up with a plan of action; assemble tools and equipment, transfer the material into a “safe” container before the “toxic” substance explodes. This is a great game to identify the planners, doers, and thinkers in your group. It also demonstrates the importance of having a good plan.

Sample Team Building Exercises and Icebreakers

A Great Day for Hats!

Give each participant a donut-shaped piece of felt or other material approximately 18 inches in diameter. Tell participants to form a hat with the material. Participants should have enough time to make their hat. At the end of the team exercise, allow each person to explain the hat they created. You can also put people on teams and have some friendly competition between the groups on who can come up with the most creative hat.

Letters and Names

Give each person a few moments to think of an adjective starting with the same first letter in his or her first name (e.g. “Great Greg”). Begin by modeling it yourself. Then go around the group asking each person to state their name/adjective combination. During various points of the exercise, or at the end, ask volunteers to remember and repeat each of the names and adjectives volunteered so far. Provide prizes to those who do the best job.

The Napkin Game

Ask participants to form equal size groups. Give each group a napkin and ask them to fold the napkin as small as possible. However, it must be large enough for members of the team to place their toe on the napkin.

Paper-Tearing Exercise

This meeting icebreaker only takes about 5 minutes to conduct.

Give everyone a blank 8 1/2-by-11-inch sheet of paper. Tell them the following: “We are going to do something that will show us some important things about communication. Pick up your sheet of paper and hold it in front of you. Close your eyes and follow my directions-and no peeking — you cannot ask questions.”

Then tell them the following. “Fold your sheet of paper in half. Now tear off the upper right-hand corner. Fold it in half again and tear off the upper left hand corner of the sheet.

Fold it in half again. Now tear off the lower right-hand corner of the sheet.”

After the tearing is complete, say something like “Now open your eyes, and let’s see what you have. If I did a good job of communicating and you did a good job of following my directions, all of your sheets should look the same!”

Hold your sheet up for them to see. It is highly unlikely any sheet will match yours exactly.

Ask the group why no one’s piece of paper matched yours. You will probably get responses like “You didn’t let us ask questions!” or “Your directions could be interpreted in different ways.” Then, lead them in a discussion about the need for effective communication.

Greg Smith’s cutting-edge keynotes, consulting, and corporate team building programs have helped businesses build better teams, reduce turnover, increase sales, hire better people and deliver better customer service. He has authored nine informative books including his best-selling book called, Icebreakers and Teambuilding Exercises.

Free Team Building Exercises That Work

Instilling a great sense of team and self-worth in your employees does not have to cost an arm and a leg. This can be not only cost-effective but free! Nothing about building a team has to be fancy or expensive; in fact it can be more fun to get creative with a limited budget. The building of a team has gone through many studies and research phases in order to determine if it really does work. The conclusions were that yes, team building has a huge impact on the way that businesses are run and the way that people work together.

Building your team deepens and creates trust between co workers and management teams; this is something that is no easily gained. The reason that trust is so important in a work environment is because in order for one person to do a job correctly, they will need to ask for help from others. If you want to do some free team building exercises based on trust, you can play games such as catch me, 2 truths 1 lie and human knot.

Learning how to accept help from others, and help others can be a hard lesson for some to learn. Games such as G.P.S games, gumball building and mock problem solving. All of these games are free (if you have the G.P.S units) and can help teams learn more about the way team work needs to be done.

Creating bonds is important when you work on a team, and these bonds can last a lifetime. Team building can help create these bonds and allow them to grow. If you are looking to create bonds within the work place, perhaps some of these team building ideas can help: celebrate birthdays, play outdoor games and hold staff picnics. These events and activities can help your team bond outside of work hours.

The basic principle of building a team is learning about each other and accepting people for who they are. A work environment can never do well when people do not get along or have poor team spirit. Building your team will also help productivity go up, and create a happier atmosphere in which to be. None of these things cost money, and every person who attends these team building sessions will feel like they are part of a community, rather than a workplace. Below are a few more ideas on how to make team building exercises free at your workplace!

– Field games

– Ice breakers (name games, quizzes)

– The wallet game (empty contents and show the group)

– Capture the flag (2 teams are needed)

– Create a group flag ( put staff in groups of 3 and each team can create a flag)

– Lunch together

Fun Team Building Exercises That Work Every Time

In the professional work environment people are often asked to work as teams. To get teams to achieve higher levels of activity they must work well together. Having team participate in team building exercises will help them come together quicker and produce at high levels faster. Here are a few great team building ideas that work every time.

When you have a new team at hand you must work carefully. It may be a set of wonderfully talented individuals but they are still just that; individuals. What you need to do is help every person emerge from his or her shell and interact in a smooth manner with the other team members. This is actually easier said than done. It is human nature to be initially apprehensive when meeting new people. Hence what you need to do is make the team relax and then help them gel. A large selection of team building exercises is available to help do this effectively.

Before you can have effective team building you need to have exercises so the participants can break the ice and get to know each other better or in the least get them talking. Here’s an ice breaker exercise that works very well.

Who Am I – Make up a name tag for each participant and have it not be their regular name but the name of someone famous. When they get to the meeting do not let the participants see the name tag and have someone else put it on their back. When the participants get together have them break into small groups. Each person gets to ask questions trying to lean who they are. They can only be questions that are answered with a yes or no. They get to keep answering questions until they get a no from everyone in their group. At that point they need to leave their group and mingle over to another group to continue the questioning. Keep the exercise short 10 min or so.

Once the ice has melted with the group you can start on the real team building exercises. These are more like play than actual exercises. Actual team building exercises aim to promote greater understanding and cohesion amongst the different members of a team such that the team learns to work and think together. A few popular fun team building exercises are described below.

Mine Field – In this exercise, one person is blindfolded and is required to make his or her way through a place scattered with various objects without bumping into any of them. The guide for this person will be a team member who will verbally shout commands that will help the first member to negotiate the obstacles. To successfully complete this exercise, there needs to be an intimate understanding of each other’s point of view and channel of communication. Such an exercise easily helps improve team communication.

Zoom – This is a popular team building exercise in which each team member is given a picture and together, a cohesive storyline needs to be formed out of the content of the picture. No member is allowed to glance at anyone else’s pictures. It is through the description that each member provides that the story must be constructed. It is quite clear that a high level of mutual understanding and very clear communication is essential for this exercise to succeed. This is exactly what the zoom exercise aims to promote; better communication within a team. At the end of a certain time the team needs to present the story they have created from the picture.

Team building exercises not only teach the team how to work more effectively but also give them a chance to bond on a personal level. A effective session of team building exercises is sure to increase interaction between the members , encouraging them to befriend each other so that a great work environment is assured when the team finally gets down to work.