Read an Excerpt
Meeting openers are structured activities designed to help group members introduce themselves, energize (or relax!), and otherwise get ready to participate in a meeting. The openers are not usually connected to the topic of the meeting but rather serve as a vehicle for getting people to open up and feel comfortable with each other before getting to the actual meeting agenda. This is especially helpful when group members don’t know each other very well, there are one or more cliques in the group, or the subject will be particularly demanding.
Some call these exercises icebreakers. The term refers to ships in the arctic regions. These ships are designed to break the ice, allowing vessels behind them to pass more easily. In much the same way, meeting openers, or icebreakers, pave the way for people to interact and work together—easier and smoother. The icebreakers I’ve included are not just for the purpose of introducing team memebers to each other but also to break teams up into groups, get them energized, and brainstorm.
Meeting openers, or icebreakers, are different from team-building activities. Effective team-building activities have a customized, work-related learning objective. Meeting openers, on the other hand, always have the same, simple objective: to help people warm up for an upcoming meeting, whatever the meeting is. Basic introductions are sometimes a part of that warming up. (If you do need team-building activities, see my other two collections, Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers and More Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers.)
I’ve organized the meeting openers into six chapters. The first chapter has two very quick and easy meeting openers with dozens of variations. Use these when you are reviewing this book on your way to the meeting and don’t have time to prep for anything else!
Many openers require that you break the group into smaller groups. Chapter 2 has almost 100 ideas for breaking groups in half, into pairs, and into other smaller teams.
Chapter 3 has icebreakers for introductions. Of course, the activities in the rest of the book may also be used for introductions, so don’t dismiss them if you need an introduction activity. It’s just that the ones in Chapter 3 are specifically designed for this purpose.
The rest of the openers are in Chapters 4, 5, and 6. They are organized by group sizes.
Chapter 4 has activities geared for smaller groups when you have enough time for all participants to speak, share, or introduce themselves to the whole group. Small groups don’t have more than about 20 participants.
Groups that have 12 to 35 participants are the focus of Chapter 5. Here, the meeting openers may keep the participants together for limited full-group interaction or divide them up to allow for more interaction within the smaller groups.
Chapter 6 has activities that are good for groups of over 35 participants. The group is either broken into smaller, more manageable groups, or the participants mingle. If they mingle, there is structure, and there are specific objectives that will encourage (or even force) them to interact.
The outline for each meeting opener is easy to follow. Each one is presented in the same easy-to-read, bulleted format:
This is . . . explains briefly what the activity is.
Use it to . . . tells what the purpose of the exercise is.
Best group size . . . indicates the ideal group size.
Materials you’ll need . . . tells you everything you will need for the activity. Most of the time it’s nothing!
Here’s how . . . outlines, step by step, how to conduct the activity.
For example . . . illustrates how the activity may play out, so you get a good sense of what to expect.
Tips for success . . . includes things that will help you run your exercise more effectively.
Try these variations . . . offers variations on the activity that can be used to spice it up, slow it down, or otherwise alter it for a slightly different experience. I also indicate here how to adjust the activity for other sized groups than the “ideal.”
Relax, you won’t find any of these types of activities here:
NO “touchy-feely” icebreakers in which participants have to touch each other a lot or share intimate thoughts and feelings (activities that push the manager into the role of psychologist rather than activity leader).
NO outdoor activities requiring large areas, nice weather, and physically fit participants.
NO handouts to prepare, copy, or distribute.
NO lengthy activities in which more time is spent warming up than on the real work to be done in the meeting. All activities last less than 15 minutes.
NO role-plays in which participants are given a fictitious role to act out or pretend.
Meeting openers are fun! Use them at the start of your next meeting and enjoy the benefits of a group that’s more engaged and involved and, ultimately, more productive.