The point of most events is to bring people together. However, every planner knows that sticking a bunch of strangers in a room is not going to cut it. Now, I know what you are thinking: “Ugh, another icebreaker where I have to share a fun fact about myself in front of a group of strangers”. Yes, icebreaker games can be great at starting a conversation, but people get tired of the same old thing, and many shy away from the spotlight. Here’s a few different ideas on getting your group mingling:
Jump straight into a team sport*. Soccer, basketball, flag football, and ultimate frisbee are all great games to get everyone up and moving. Plus, most people already know the rules, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining it. Or, make things a little more creative with games like human foosball and gaga ball. Participants will immediately begin working together, as well as navigating through all the other guests at the event. And depending on the travel time, they may be looking to burn off some energy anyway.
Do something funny instead. Humorous tasks that require people to step outside their comfort zones can also be a great way to get people chatting (or rather, laughing). One example is the popular “Face the Cookie” challenge from the game show “Minute to Win It”. Participants place a cookie on their forehead (head tilted back) and have to use only their facial muscles to get it in their mouth. Breaking into small teams for this activity allows guests to cheer each other on in the hopes of being victorious as a team. Afterwards, your group can munch as they laugh at their failed attempts and funny facial expressions.
Dine. Speaking of food, why not start your event with a meal? The trick here is to make sure there are only enough seats so that everyone has to sit by someone. I know this can make some people feel uncomfortable, but the last thing you need is someone sitting off in the corner alone. If you want to save people the struggle of deciding where to sit, you can assign tables based on a similar interest, i.e. Cardinal baseball fans, crafters, movie buffs, etc. Mealtimes are so important for fellowship. This allows people to introduce themselves, talk as they see fit, and provides something for them to politely do when they aren’t sure what to say. Plus, it ensures hunger is not a distraction as you kick off your event.
These ideas are not guaranteed to make guests exchange names, because they may still be laughing and nibbling on their cookies. However, they will be talking. And while icebreakers are great for meeting people, they can cause memory overload as each person tries to memorize the names of everyone else there. If you are looking for a simpler solution to begin your event, try one (or all) of these activities.
*Not intended for non-athletic groups where it would be more of a frustration than fun.