In a world where people are bombarded with email and texts, and where learning often happens online, the simple fact of being face-to-face at meetings and conferences has gained outsized importance. As Steve Jobs once said, “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.”
Attendees will value and recommend your events to the degree to which they connect with other attendees. Whether that means hatching new ideas, finding a client or resource, or simply matching a face with a name, connections are your stock-in-trade.
The question, however, is how to facilitate those connections. As ever, planners will plan coffee breaks and networking receptions, and some of today’s conference apps and technologies can help match like-minded attendees. But before any of these tactics can work, planners need to prime the pump, to get people relaxed and connecting on a human level. That’s where icebreakers come in.
“Even those of us who are very outgoing can be a little reluctant to interact at the onset of an event. A well-designed icebreaker can get everyone comfortable very quickly,” says Edward Belleville, PR manager at Spacebase, a venue booking platform. The key is to create playful-but-professional activities that make people willing to let their guard down. “The more unusual the activity, the more authentic a response you will be likely to elicit from your guests,” he says.
Think your group is too sophisticated? Ignore this step at your peril. Ideas don’t flow and people don’t connect if their guard is up. Here are 13 creative icebreakers designed to get attendees mixing and mingling—and put them in the frame of mind to connect with people and ideas.