Searching for the perfect icebreaker

icebreakerI’m supposed to come up with an icebreaker for an upcoming workshop, and all I can think of is … beer pong.

I’m not big into icebreakers, something to which anyone who’s ever thrown me any kind of shindig can attest. For about as long as I can remember, my main party requirement has been NO games. Not one. Nada, or I’m leaving.

These days, if someone’s throwing a party for me, and I want to avoid looking like a total jerk, I’ll concede, but only if it’s a drinking game. That’s it.

It’s not that I want all the guests to get loaded, it’s just that my request usually ends up translating into no games, just like I want. Maybe the event in question is too polished for boozing it up. One time I was pretty sure it was because nobody wanted to get their butt kicked in beer pong by a pregnant woman at her own baby shower. ‘Fraidy-cats.

The situation this weekend is going to be even less conducive to beer pong than a baby shower, since (a) it’s professional and (b) it’s in the morning, and (c) my aim is surely rusty after all this time. It’s been a while since my last baby shower. And if I can’t win, I don’t really want to play.

When it comes to gatherings, I’m more into chatting someone up in the buffet line, or standing at the periphery of a conversation, nodding and smiling until someone includes me in the conversation. Either scenario is more comfortable than telling some stranger what my superpower would be and why.

Just to be a good sport (and, you know, avoid getting fired), I searched for a few icebreaker games online. The internet was more than happy to oblige:

Three truths and a lie. This one I’ve done before. It’s just like it sounds. You share a number of things about you that are true, and mix one lie in there, and then people guess which is the lie. It’s interesting enough, until someone overshoots it.

“Uh, let’s see … I used to raise llamas … I’ve been arrested more than once … I speak fluent Klingon, aaand … Oh, I met my husband at a neighborhood key party.”

Which one is the lie? Um, nope. Don’t want to know.

Guess who you are. This is the one where you wander around with a sticker on your back with a name on it – Bruce Jenner or Mahatma Gandhi or something – and you’re supposed to ask people questions until you guess who you are. I was at a party where we did this once, and the adhesive on the stickers was so strong, the stickers wouldn’t come off without ripping fabric.

In that case, I guess whoever that sticker said, it better be someone who liked wearing a sticker forever.

If you had a choice of one superpower, what would it be? Really, this could go south so dang fast. Just let there be one, creepy guy who’d take x-ray vision, and then every time he looks at you from that point on, you’re going to want to punch him in the mouth.

Other sucky ice-breakers might include:

  • Name one thing we wouldn’t guess about you. Someone named Martha is going to want to tell everybody everything they never wanted to know about her seven cats. No thank you, Martha.
  • Anything that requires changing chairs. I was just getting comfortable. If I have to get my carcass up, it better not be so I can run across the room in search of the last empty seat. If I think there’s one chance I’ll be the last one standing, I’ll throw an elbow.
  • Anything to do with drawing. Or Popsicle sticks. Or glue. Or anything crafty at all for that matter. Really. I’m not in the mood.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t want to know anything about my fellow party-goers. I am fine with chatting with people. In fact, I kind of dig it. Beer pong is actually pretty conducive to conversation.

Well, okay, smack talk. It’s conducive to smack talk. But still, you can learn a lot about someone from the quality of smack they can deliver. Or take.

I just don’t think most icebreakers are going to tell you anything substantive about anyone, except root a few of us out who hate icebreakers.

So… back to my search. After finding several stupid suggestions, I eventually landed on one that I kind of liked, even given a notable absence of beer pong. This is one where you invite everyone to share, in just a couple of sentences, a little about their best and worst jobs and why.

Pro tip: If this is a work-related event, it’s probably good to exempt your current job. I’m just guessing. And, really, everyone should also leave off parenting as one of the best or worst jobs. Parenting would kind of be the Russian Olympic gymnastics judge in this scenario. Parenting is pretty much everyone’s best and worst job, unless you’ve got amnesia.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I have a couple examples to share just to get the ball rolling. And we have a small crowd. I’m just going to go around and invite everyone to share.

And, it’ll be timed, of course. I don’t want anyone going on endlessly about her cats or anything.

Any icebreaker suggestions, guys? Hit me up. Or drinking games. I want to know.


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Photo by: llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru

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  1. I\’ll wager the majority of us detest these icebreaker events. Especially the ones that don\’t include alcohol. I remember an especially painful one at a leadership convention at Notre Dame back when I was in grade 12. Three of us had flown in from the Pacific Northwest and were blurry with lack of sleep and angst at this huge group of strangers. First up? An icebreaker where you had to pair up and then hook up with another pair and so on. I grabbed the first person I saw. Huge groups formed with the exception of my classmate and another girl. The woeful expressions on their faces still haunts me.
    As for an icebreaker thought … hmmm. Maybe have everyone turn to the person on their left and state one reason they deplore icebreakers?

  2. It\’s probably not really an icebreaker, but I can\’t stand the \”greet your neighbor\” thing at church. I don\’t like shaking hands (I\’m a tad germaphobic) and smiling a forced smile. Okay so that being said, sorry, no (good) icebreaker ideas. Not sure how you\’d beat beer pong anyway though. Is there any way to do some \”cleaner\”/modified version of beer pong? Or would you consider that to be sacrilegious?

  3. Oh my goodness. Hate hate HATE the icebreakers. That\’s when I usually slip out the back for an extended hiatus \”in the ladies room\”. Really despise them…

  4. I played beer pong once. My aim was so bad, it was mortifying. I thought my teammates would kick me off. As for the others, I have to admit it, I\’m a nerd. I actually like party games. Any of your suggestions would work for me. Sad but true!

    1. I have terrible aim as well. Feel free to adopt any of these suggestions for your next function, just be aware that I will show up after the icebreaking time is over.

  5. Despite the early hour of this work function, I think everyone would be most appreciative of beer pong. After a few longs THEN do the best/worst job game….fun right!?!