radioactive elements


What is an Icebreaker?

An icebreaker is an activity designed to help participants learn more about one another, the presenter, or the topic.

Other Common Names

Other common names for dialogue education include:

  • Anchor activity
  • Intro activity

Key Properties

While the mere mention of icebreakers can make learners want to run for the door, this is an element that can mean many things to many people, and has some appealing core properties:

  • Allow learners to get to know one another
  • Remove tension or discomfort around being in a new environment or learning a new topic


An additional property for icebreakers in a virtual environment (such as for webinars or virtual instructor-led training) is that they introduce people to the technology that will be used during the session (such as the chat feature, polling feature, or on-screen drawing tools).

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Some charged statements from Brian's book What's Your Formula?

Whats Your Formula book
Order your copy to learn more about icebreakers and all of the related elements.

Experiments you can try at home (or work) to Make Icebreakers more Relevant

If you feel an icebreaking activity is important to help create a sense of connection and get participants talking with one another before the “real work” begins, what’s a trainer to do? There are several elements that can be built around an icebreaking activity to make it a more meaningful and important opening piece to your training session, and if you were to bond these elements together the formula may look something like this. Click the image to learn more!


audience response systemsAudience Response

Especially when you are working with larger audiences or classroom-style seating—where it becomes harder to break the ice through more traditional means—incorporating technology and audience response polling can be a quick way to introduce a topic and get energy flowing in the room. For virtual presentations, the polling feature would be equivalent to a classroom-based software tool like PollEverywhere.

quiz softwareQuiz Software

Similar to audience response applications, integrating quiz technology such as Kahoot can help you survey what your audience knows about a topic, introduce friendly competition, and generate some energy.


Having your learners record key information about themselves on a flipchart during the icebreaker and then posting that page around the room allows the information to remain visible for the duration of your session. If you’ve asked your learners to capture information about them that also relates to your topic, you can also refer back to what they’ve written throughout the session.


A quick game such as those mentioned earlier—passing the tennis ball or BINGO—can help boost the energy and warm up your learners. Take care to make sure there is a proper debrief to connect any game you play to the session topic.

goal settingGoal Setting

Some icebreakers can be as simple as “Tell everyone your name, where you’re from, and one thing you’d like to be able to do now or differently or better as a result of today’s session.”

Download the Element Sanity Check

Even if you haven’t yet purchased the book (what are you waiting for?!) you can get access to worksheets that will help guide you through the use of the elements of amazing learning experiences.