June 2020
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TD Magazine

Know How to Break the Ice

Monday, June 1, 2020

Priming learners requires careful consideration.

It's critical to start off a training event—whether classroom or virtual—the right way: setting the stage for learners to be comfortable and ready to learn. That's why becoming adept with icebreakers—activities, games, or events that welcome participants to the training session or meeting—is so important for facilitators. In "Icebreakers: Be Strategic," Nikki O'Keeffe and Patty Gaul update Robert Preziosi's Infoline issue and provide key factors for you to consider with icebreakers.


Being familiar with the audience gives you insight into the type of icebreaker that is appropriate. Do classroom participants work together, or is the training session the first time everyone will have met? Does an icebreaker that enables participants to introduce themselves to others make sense, or do you want one that will build a deeper level of rapport among teammates? What role do learners fill? Are they senior leaders or IT professionals, for example? How will they react to your icebreaker?

You can also modify many icebreakers for virtual training sessions. For instance, participants can use virtual breakout rooms for brainstorming. Or you can use the chat function for the One Word icebreaker, in which participants answer an opening question with one word after the facilitator kicks off the exercise.

A final piece of advice: Always have a backup plan if your first icebreaker falls flat.

These tips were adapted from the June 2020 issue of TD at Work. Learn more at td.org/TDatWork.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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