Icebreakers and Energizers
Icebreakers and energizers are a great way to stimulate engagement from your audience and help introverts or shier participants feel more comfortable and make connections within the group. Icebreakers are activities of usually around 15 minutes, whereas energizers are quick bursts of activity to re-energize tired or disengaged participants. Remember to keep your exercises inclusive to all abilities and cultures.
Half-Baked: Purpose: Helps to build the ground rules for the participant’s work for the weekend by helping the participant feel safe in the space and comfortable to take risks.
This icebreaker also helps participants to ease into working with a new team, experience failing fast and making mistakes, understand the elements of a pitch and practise public speaking in a group. Watch a video explanation of this popular Friday night icebreaker game:
Stand up, sit down: Purpose: Gets people moving and comfortable in the space
The facilitator says a phrase and those for whom the statement is true stand up; those for whom it is false sit down. For example, "I have a pet" or "This is my first time attending a Startup Weekend" or "I hate bananas.” After each phrase, you can invite those standing to sit back down again, or if they are incremental topics, you can say "stay standing if ..." Start with not-too-personal subjects and subjects that will likely cause a lot of people to stand.
Question Ball: Purpose: Getting to know you and practice speaking in front of others
A ball is pre-divided with random questions written on it. Ask the group to pre-determine right or left thumb. Then, the participants toss the ball around the circle introducing themselves and answering the question closest to their chosen thumb.
Are we together?! Every time you say "are we together," everyone responds with "yes we are together!" and puts their hands in the air. Do it a few times until they are loud. People love this and it has the added benefit of making them put their phones down.
Good news! The facilitator grabs a mic and goes to where participants are seated or standing, and asks participants to share something good that has happened to them lately. Group clapping in between participant answers is a good way to keep the momentum going and acknowledge the person's good news. You can stipulate that good news can be anything from ‘I woke up today feeling excited’ to ‘my dog had puppies’ or ‘I landed a new job recently.’ This exercise has the extra value of recognizing and feeling gratitude, which is a method for effectively increasing happiness and empathy.
Presentation surprises A surprise or cue, like an image of a fireball showing up in a presentation that calls for a special action from the audience, like jumping up and cheering for your startup, can be introduced at the beginning of the event and used right throughout the weekend. This gets people moving and puts people in a positive and energized state.