Author Profile Picture

Steve Robson

Marine Industry

Learning and Development Consultant

Read more from Steve Robson

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });



Far from breaking any Ice, Icebreakers leave me stone cold, absolutely pointless in my opinion.

So my first award goes to...

"Find someone with your star sign"

Why why why why why??????

22 Responses

  1. Nicebreaker


    You have obviously led a sheltered life. This exercise could easily be made far more ridiculous with the simple addition of…’without speaking’.

    As to the reason why, it is as plain as a very plain bun made from plain ingredients and served on a plain plate: it is because the trainer has not been properly trained. The poor soul is probably doing their level best to do what they think is helpful for the group. In some circumstances (and I have my Mr Optimistic hat on here), it might just lighten the mood. But unless that group are all astrologers, it is not likely to win the ‘business focussed training of the year’ award.

    (Half man, half horse; can you guess the sign yet?)

  2. Sagittarius?

    I guess that makes you Sagittarius…I’m a Leo so we can move on to the next one and have more "fun"

    No 2 award goes to "tell me something unusual or funny about yourself"

    errr…none of your business…get on with it! 🙂

  3. Turn to your partner

    Turn to the person to your left and find out something interesting about them.  And then introduce them in front of the whole class (badly) paraphrasing what they’ve said (badly), meaning they have to fill in the gaps themselves.


  4. Vicebreaker


    With ears like mine I don’t have to tell you anything unusual or funny about me.



  5. Actually …

    the "Tell me something funny or unusual about yourself" has yielded some interesting answers.  Such as the employee who told us about the time she delivered her grandchild when her daughter very suddenly went into labour and couldn’t be transferred to the hospital by ambulance, such was the speed with which the baby came.   Not always such a naff ice breaker ….  🙂

  6. but Andrew….

    IF you are running an interviewing or presentation skills course think of all the benchmarking opportunities and learning points you can draw out of those (badly) s!



    I was understudying many years ago when the trainer told the delegates that he was going to stick a sticker to each persons back with the name of an animal on it, the group then were not allowed to speak but had to mill around the room making the noises of the animal on the other peoples backs until everyone found their partner.

    A delegate asked what was the point of this activity

    "To pair you up" said the trainer

    "Couldn’t we just pair up anyway" she asked

    "Its just a bit of fun" said the irrepressably upbeat trainer


    With that she sat down and refused to "play"……as did all the other delegates

    So that wasn’t a pointess icebreaker….the trainer learned quite a lot!


  7. Post it on the back

    On a more positive note…

    I was on a soft skills course last year and at the end of the course we had to write down what we thought of other people on the course on post it notes. ie "nice smile", "clear speaker", "confident" etc etc

    We then stuck these post its on each others backs and were then invited to go and read what everyone had written about each other…did we agree?

    When we had read everyone elses backs we were invited to look at our own…

    Very well facillitaed and worked well…


  8. But why use it all the time?

    I don’t disagree Clare and Rus; on a presentation skills course it’s more than an effective way to start, but it’s overused to the point where attendees have ‘stock’ stories to bring to the room.

    I agree it’s interesting but is it always the best use of the participants time?  A recent trainer I saw asked the participants to work as a group to agree and write out their agenda for the day (with timings).  Everyone contributed, everyone had a learning area covered on the agenda, the trainer had clearer understanding of what they wanted to get from the day.  And it took the same time as a once round the room exercise.

  9. Agree

    Completely agree Andrew.

    If I am paying £500 a day to attend a course I do not want to share "funny" stories about myself or "stand in the part of the room that represents where I live in the UK"

    I have been attending courses for as long as I can remember and have never ever once needed "warming up" before I start…

    I was once asked to stand in a circle and throw a tennis ball to someone and shout out my name…if it ever happened again I would throw the tennis ball at the "Trainer" and ask for my money back!


  10. on the other hand Steve…

    re the "what I thought of my fellow delegate"

    I read about one occasion where this was done on a soft skills course and one delegate was mortified (to the point of tears apparently) to discover that after all the time spent with the other people on the course (three days) and all her intellectual input to case studies and behavioural demonstration of her ability in experiential role plays the only thing people commented on was her "nice smile"……

    Own goal for that trainer!


  11. Good point Russ

    Good point Russ, I have only experienced the post it on the back once and it worked really well.

    Like all these things there are excepetions and no such thing as one size fits all in training.

    I’m on a course next week and will be interested to see how I will be "warmed up"…

  12. My vote goes to….

    The old chesnut of everyone taking off their shoes and swapping them to "feel what it is like in other people’s shoes" really annoy me that one

  13. On the wall not off it


    I must confess I am not averse to creative activities, including ice-breakers. I tend to prefer those that best match the audience, the subject matter and the tone I’d want to set. Best of all, though, is if there is a learning point too.

    I ran a session for some pretty serious managers and I had to command every bit of their confidence when I suggested a ‘Simple Simon’ type exercise (asking them to do as I say; ‘put your hands on your head’ etc; with me then putting my hands on head but saying put your hands on your shoulders). It was all light-hearted with some entering into the spirit and some looking as if a spirit had entered them. At the end I was able to make the point that as managers, some people pay more attention to what you do than just what you say. Strength comes when your behaviour and your language is consistent and congruent. One of the most cynical managers nodded seriously, pointed at me and just said: ‘Got it’. And I think I got his attention for the rest of the day too.

    What I object to….really object to…. is not the wackiness of an icebreaker. It is the apparent casual disregard for the suitability of the activity and the sensibilities of the recipients. Some of the best icebreakers I have experienced are a bit counter-cultural but are usually accompanied by obvious fore-thought and consummate skills of the facilitator. In less experienced hands they would be seen as off the wall, but when it comes down to it, icebreakers should surely be just as on the wall as the rest of the course you are warming people up to.

    The big-eared Sagittarian with more coloured post-its than you can shake a stick at

  14. Icebreakers
    Well, you all certainly made me laugh at the start of this week with all your examples of ice-breakers. I’ve been on the receiving end of a few of those, but some were indeed eye-opening! I think for nearly every type of ice-breaker there are instances where it works (and is appropriate) and instances where it doesn’t. So perhaps there are no good or bad examples as such (other than the astrology one), but it’s all in the application…

  15. Simple Simon


    I am not against any type of activity, providing it is approriate and facillitated professionally.

    Your Simple Simon exercise is a perfect example of doing something relatively silly but demonstrating your point perfectly. Fantastic idea.

    Where it all goes wrong is when the "Trainer" goes to a well known book website and buys "50 Best Icebreakers" and a box of tennis balls and bounces in to the training room and says

    "Today we will have some fun"


  16. Suitability

    I think that’s the key word Graham.  If a trainer does as Steve suggests and pulls out an ‘off the shelf’ activity it leaves me cold.  I feel that the trainer should consider the start of the traning and the icebreaker should be the same as any other part of the day; i.e. they should have the same thought when considering what may be appropriate.  A lack of thought of the icebreaker infers a lack of thought for the content (it’s an add-on) and I agree that using an activity just because it is fun seems pointless.

    However, fun activities can be entirely appropriate if the context demands.  I saw a trainer use a ‘stay standing’ exercise at the start of a sales training event.  They asked dozens of questions and the participants had to stay standing if they answered one way or another.  The trainer then linked the fact that some people were still standing after 10 minutes to the use of closed questions when uncovering facts.  Fun?  Possibly, but it worked to introduce the group to each other and introduced a learning point.

  17. Why you shouldn’t use ice breakers! A TJ Article by Stella Colli

    Here’s an interesting ‘end article’ to a series Stella Collins has been writing in the Training Journal on the use of Ice Breakers, based on some of the responses here it may well be of interest to some people:

  18. Environment

    I wasn’t suggesting for a moment that creating a warm, open, friendly environment wasn’t essential.

    However  after attending courses for 20 + years very very few get it right.

    My own method is to make at least 3 contacts before delegates get anywhere near the training room, this is followed by some time spent having refreshments…this time is part of the course…when it’s time to learn there is nobody in the room that needs warming up.

    Nothing is forced, nothing is out of a book and nothing is done to have fun…people respond much better when they are not being manipulated or coerced into having "fun"

     If the first part of the course is designed around solving their problems…

    ie "it doesn’t have to be like this"   I understand your problem and will fix it…


    a short video or other image that shows you know why they are there and how you will make them bettter at whatever they are there for.

    I have done quite a few Surveys and "Whats in it for me" is the No 1 reason for anyone being on a paid for course…yje sooner we get to this the sooner they will be ready to learn…

    Of course there are exceptions but I can’t think of a situation where I would get peple to pass balls round or the 10000 of other ridiculous ideas found in Training rooms up and down the country.







  19. Videos

    Video 1

    Mindtools regurtitating (sp?) a load of old guff that belongs in the 80’s

    Video 2

    Quite funny ( I would be the one that said "I’m a battery hen" just to wind up the "Trainer")

  20. Shoe swapping…?!

    The old chesnut of everyone taking off their shoes and swapping them to "feel what it is like in other people’s shoes" really annoy me that one

    Uggh – how disgusting!! (Have you seen my shoes?)


Author Profile Picture
Steve Robson

Learning and Development Consultant

Read more from Steve Robson

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!