"The great shake" icebreaker teaches body language.

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Icebreakers for Meetings: Large Group Icebreakers

Large group icebreakers are arguably the hardest to pull off. Because many icebreakers can be time-consuming and simply boring, they prove unsuccessful. If everyone has a chance to speak to the whole group, by the end, no one will be able to keep anyone straight. The trick here is to keep it simple and fun.

Here are some effective kick-off icebreakers for large-group meetings:

  • "Autograph": In this game, the leader prepares a worksheet that includes about 10 to 20 criteria, such as "plays a musical instrument" or "has been to more than three foreign countries." Each participant gets a worksheet and must search the room for people who fill the criteria to sign the sheet. One catch is that no one can sign each sheet more than once. This gets people moving around and meeting dozens.
  • "Simon says": You probably remember this game from childhood. For adults, it's intended to get people pumped and focused. To play, tell the participants that a leader will be giving orders, but only follow an order if it starts with "Simon says." For example, the leader can say "Simon says raise your right arm," and the participants should obey. But if the leader says, "put it down," they should ignore this order. Anyone who mistakenly follows an order without a "Simon says" or who fails to follow a "Simon says" order is out. The faster the leader can bark orders, the more challenging the game gets. When the leader gives up, or there is only one person left, whoever remains is a winner.
  • "Great shake": This icebreaker is particularly effective for sales meetings because participants learn about body language. In it, the leader describes different kinds of handshakes to the group. Suggestions from expert Edie West include the vise (a firm, authoritative shake,) the pump (vigorous up and down motion), the topper (placing your left hand over the shake) and the flip (turning the shake so that your hand is on top). Have participants find a partner and try these different handshakes out, then discuss what each one conveys.

If you have a large group, you may want to break people up into small groups to do their own individual icebreakers. We'll learn about those small group icebreakers on the next page.