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Ice Breakers for Presentation Openings: from Anecdote to Game Quiz

Ice breakers for presentation openings may be just the ticket to get your presentation off to a good start. Well chosen ice breakers can break down barriers between audience participants and quickly engage them in the presentation. But presentation ice breakers may not be for everyone, or every presentation. So how do you decide what's best for you and your audience.

As always, you must start by doing some audience analysis:

  • How much time do you have
  • What is the size of the group
  • What is their current knowledge of the subject.

Before looking at what works best for different groups, one word of warning: When considering ice breakers for presentation openings don’t start with a joke. If you do, chances are it will go down like a lead balloon, leaving you feeling even more nervous and loosing you a lot of credibility. Leave joke telling to the professions; even they get it wrong a lot of the time.

How much time do you have?
Most ice breakers for presentation openings work best if the group is to be together over a longish period, perhaps even over several days. Examples are workshops, seminars and in an educational or training environment.

Why I am here?
A simple yet effective presentation ice breaker is simply to ask them to introduce themselves. This works best in smaller groups up to a maximum of about 15 people or so. Again, workshops and educational groups come to mind. Start by introducing yourself. This could even be a short yet relevant anecdote. Make it personal: tell them something about your background, what you're currently working on, how you came to be involved in the presentation subject, etc. It can even be funny (I hope I haven't contradicted myself! I differentiate between amusing personal anecdotes, which are OK if kept to a minimum, and a joke.) You could then ask you audience to introduce themselves and say something about where the come from, hobbies and so on. Try to find some common elements within the group, such as hobbies or special interests.

If it's a larger group, you can split them into smaller groups of say five or six people and give them ten minutes to introduce themselves to their sub-group. Each group can appoint a spokesperson to give a summary of who is in the group and what they have in common.

Did you know...?
One of the best ice breakers for presentation openings I have seen is to start with a relatively easy yet relevant game quiz. This works particularly well if your audience already know a little about the subject you will be discussing. I was at an excellent presentation recently where the presenter had created a Jeopardy-type interactive quiz in PowerPoint. He made it into a game where people shouted out the answers. But if you do this, don't put individuals on the spot, remember you're trying to break the ice not freeze people out. One nice thing about this presentation ice breaker is that you can throw in a few thought-provoking questions or amazing facts to grab your audience's attention and lead you into the presentation.

Ice breakers for presentation openings can be a great technique to put you audience, and yourself, at ease and lead you skillfully into the presentation. So if you give presentations to, for example, training workshops or groups of people who don't know each other, or if you just want some fun, go on, give them a go.


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