With a small group, participants have the opportunity to get to know each other well, without getting terribly bored or consuming too much time. Although small group icebreakers are easier to orchestrate than large group icebreakers, small group icebreakers still need to be done well to be effective.
Here are some popular choices for small group icebreakers at large meetings:
- "Two truths and a lie": This popular game enables participants to learn interesting things about each other, and it encourages conversation. Have each person come up with three statements about himself or herself. But instruct them that only two of these can be true statements; the other should be a lie. Each person tells the group these three statements, and the others guess which statement is not true. To spice it up, encourage the members to come with unexpected truths about themselves and be imaginative with the lie. One variation of this game is to have everyone submit these statements anonymously into a shoebox. That way, people must first guess whose statements are whose.
- "M&M's game": Pass a bowl of M&M's around the group and instruct everyone to take as many as they like. Tell the participants that they will be able to eat them later, but not yet. After everyone has gotten a chance to reach into the bowl, tell them that for each piece they took, they need to tell the group something interesting about themselves. One variation on this game is to color code specific questions. For instance, for every red M&M, have them state one favorite movie, and for every blue M&M, one favorite food and so on.
- "Celebrity": Prepare index cards with a different celebrity name on each one. Then, as people filter in to the meeting, tape an index card to each person's back without them seeing the name. Tell the participants that they must find out the celebrity name by asking each other only "yes" or "no" questions.
- "Perfect match": This is a variation on the "celebrity" game. In addition to having people identify the name on their backs, they must find another person who represents the other half of their famous pair. For instance, you can use names like Romeo and Juliet or Bill and Hillary Clinton. The first pair to find each other wins.
Remember that many of these games can be used in multiple situations. "Interviews," for instance, can be a great icebreaker for strangers and for small groups. Use your best judgment and assess the atmosphere of the office or meeting to pinpoint the appropriate game. To raise the stakes, offer a prize to the winners of the games and tell the people ahead of time what they're competing for.
For more information on games and the art (and science) of communication, investigate the links on the next page.