My Absolute Favourite Workshop Icebreaker!

Best Workshop Icebreakers - My Favourite with 3 women looking at large board

I started using this icebreaking exercise in my workshops a few years ago - and people always love it. It's very simple - and can easily be adapted for different groups to boost confidence, build teams, identify strengths and much more! This exercise is taken from our 21 Workshop Games, Icebreakers and Exercises eBook.

When people already know each other they get an idea of what people MOST value about them and if people don't already know each other, then they get an idea of the positive FIRST IMPRESSION they make on others!

Adapting the Icebreaker:

  • For the workplace it's good to focus on what skills are valued, or what unique qualities they bring to the team.
  • For youth groups you could ask what they most like or admire about someone.
  • For women's or mom groups you could ask people to tap into their intuition.
  • For people who know each other really well you could ask people to write what great qualities they'd like to see that person develop and use more.

The 5 Steps:

  1. Everyone gets a blank piece of paper and tapes it (with help if necessary) to their back.
  2. Get people to select a coloured pen.
  3. Now ask people to move around and write on other’s people’s pieces of paper the first impression OR qualities they value most about each person.
  4. Allow 5-10 minutes depending on the number of people you have.
  5. Afterwards, it's good to give people a specific time to review their own sheet and find out what they learned about themselves...
    - If reviewing the sheet right away - ask people circle their favourite or  Top 3 qualities on their sheet.
    - You can also ask people to fold the paper and take it home to read later on.

There are so many coaching opportunities with this exercise! For example, they can use the sheet for inspiration whenever they need a boost, or they can reflect on what they think is missing from the sheet - and why that is, or they can consider any surprises that are on there - and what this means to them. The possibilities are endless!

There are a COUPLE OF RULES:

  1. People must ONLY write 'good', positive things.
  2. It's anonymous (so people don't sign their names).

Encourage people to:

  • Keep it Short AND Sweet.
  • Steer AWAY from visual qualities like 'nice sweater' or 'pretty hair' and focus on skills, strengths and personality traits.
  • Dig deep. If necessary people may need to pause for a moment and 'take in' the person they are writing about.

Equipment Needed:

  1. Blank sheets of card or paper for each attendee (these can be plain or coloured)
  2. A variety of coloured pens
  3. A few rolls of clear tape

Watch out for: Sometimes it can be disappointing for people to receive what they consider to be 'boring' comments, especially when they may see people around them getting jazzy, exciting comments. This can be a great learning opportunity - What would they LIKE to be known for? How could they bring more of that into their lives?

So, enjoy - and we'd love to hear how you adapted this icebreaker for your participants in the comments below!

Find this exercise (Exercise 4: How you see me) in our 21 1/2 Workshop Games & Exercises Workbook:

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Image of Workshop Participants looking at Board with Compliments on by Blue Sky Image via Shutterstock

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