Kickoff the session & check-in

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TL;DR recommendations
—How you start the session will impact the participant’s energy and involvement —Match your icebreaker to the session goal —Tailor it to the group size —Explain the purpose —Ofer alternatives to engage (for introverts, neurodivergent participants etc) —Introduce any tools you are using —Lead by example

As we all know, starting an online workshop can be a bit challenging. You can't rely on the usual face-to-face interactions to create a comfortable and engaging atmosphere. That's why icebreakers and energizers are a great way to break the ice, get your participants warmed up, and create a fun and relaxed environment.


Here are some tips and strategies for using icebreakers and energizers effectively:

👉 Tip #1. Match the icebreaker to the session goal

When planning your icebreaker, think about what you’re trying to accomplish in the session. Are you trying to create connections, boost people’s creativity, or enter a reflective state? Choose an icebreaker that accomplishes that goal.

This also means matching the tone you’re trying to nurture throughout the workshop. You might not want to run a silly icebreaker in advance of a heavy topic.

👉 Tip #2. Tailor it to the group size

Some icebreaker activities are hard to scale. If your group is bigger than eight people, pick one that allows for breakouts or simultaneous participation. Select activities that are simple, easy to understand, and fun! Your participants are there to learn, but they also want to have a good time. Icebreakers and energizers that are too complex or difficult may leave them feeling frustrated and disconnected.

👉 Tip #3. Be mindful of time versus value

If you have a big group and little time, go for something simple. There’s nothing more unwanted than an introduction round robin that drags on and on and decreases the energy in the room. On the other hand, if you’re trying to create connections at the onset of a multi-month project, it’s worth spending significant time on an icebreaker.

👉 Tip #4. Explain the purpose

If you want participants’ full buy-in, they need to understand the “why” behind the icebreaker before they will commit to your instructions. If they understand what’s in it for them, they’ll give you better participation, no matter how out of their comfort zone they are.

👉 Tip #5. Give alternatives for introverts

As with any other facilitation activity, allow for different forms of participation to account for different personality types. Her’;s how some of our community members approach this:

  • “Design it for introverts. Ease into the session with something simple, rather than asking for something that takes too much vulnerability,” says Jan Keck.
  • To do this, Susanne Heiss uses quiet reflection time to start her icebreakers. “I like giving one or two minutes of Think & Write, or to use a board with sticky notes. Both approaches enable introverts to think and share. Or I break them into smaller groups to take off the weight of having to ‘perform’ in front of the whole group."
  • Community Builder Rosie Sherry adds, “I find lots of people are uncomfortable and not ready to talk, so I like to give people options—or options to not participate—and not feel excluded as a result. For example, I love sharing insights as a group in a Google Doc or a Miro board, then giving people the option to talk about it, but not make it so everyone has to.”

You can also give effort-level alternatives, such as “Take us on a camera tour of your office” versus “point your camera towards the window so we can see your view”. Give them different communication channel options as well. Tell participants they can use the chat, their camera, or their microphone.

👉 Tip #6. Introduce the tools

If you’re using new tools in your session, use your icebreaker to get people feeling comfortable with the toolset so that tech challenges don’t interfere with the rest of the workshop. For example, if you’re going to be running a Miro collaboration session in Butter, run the icebreaker in Miro too. If you’re using Butter, you can break the ice with this Intro to Butter: Rules of Engagement flashcard deck.

👉 Tip #7. Lead by example

Your energy is contagious. The more energy you put into your icebreaker as the facilitator, the more you’ll get back from your participants. But you can also acknowledge that not everyone will be coming into the session with the same energy levels.

🧰 For your toolbox:

And here are our top 6 online check-in generators: