Hello, it’s Shelagh again. You know, that person who has been fairly consistent in offering thoughts about all things EA- and PA-related … until, that is, the past few weeks of what I’ll categorise as a period of intense workplace demands and commitments to professional groups.
Today, I’m writing with a question: How do you break the ice?
No, no. While it is now summer time, and it could be tempting to look for mixology advice after a challenging few weeks, I’m actually thinking about event management and icebreakers.
Hands up, please, if you’ve coordinated conference sessions or events in which you bring together people who have limited knowledge of one another. Whether it’s an in-house meeting of people in different departments, or a regional, national or international gathering, we strive to move past that sometimes awkward, glad-to-meet-you, handshake stage to one where people in a fairly compact group are able to feel comfortable contributing to a group session.
As one of the organisers of a national meeting early last month, our event planning included a search for icebreakers. A number of delegates to the AGM were longer term members of this professional body, but at least a third of the group were first-time participants in an AGM with this group. One of our organisers reached out to peers within the IAAP, another professional body, and came up with Two Truths and A Lie.
Like most good ideas, this little icebreaker is not new and it’s lovely in its simplicity.
How to begin? In our session, we simply asked everyone in the audience take a minute or two, to prepare to offer three brief statements about themself. Two should be truthful, and one should be untrue. Invite a volunteer to start off the rounds of truths and lies, and you’ll be off to the races. While this is seen as a good team builder for workplace meetings, it could also be a nice opening for a shower.
You don’t need any handouts, and you’ll find people to be innovative and entertaining.
After an individual offers her/his two truths and one lie, your facilitator will encourage others in the room to identify the lie. What I found interesting, but unsurprising, is that some of the truths were stranger (or more unexpected) than the fictitious statements. In my case, a number of people were apparently ready to accept the lie that I have an identical twin; in almost all instances, we had a good chuckle while getting a better sense of our peers.
If you have a large audience, you’ll no doubt wish to break people into groups, whether by table or clusters of four to six people. Our original intent for this year’s AGM was to have people tell their truths and lies solely to others at the rounds of six to eight people per table. Instead, gauging the room, we made a last minute change in plans and asked each of the participants to tell their respective tales to the delegation at large.
Less than 20 minutes later, amidst much laughter and a number of surprised, “Really?” queries, people not only had a fun start to the day, but also a better sense of their peers. Equally important, they were ready to move on to the educational and business elements of the day as a cohesive group.