The following tips might be helpful to you as you use icebreakers, energizers and games in your facilitation.
Connect to Your Content
Whenever possible, connect your icebreakers and games to the content. Don’t just use them to increase energy; this is not the best use of your time. You should be able to debrief the activity and make connections to one of your learning objectives. (P.S. You can apply this principle to devotions, worship and even breaks sometimes.)
Provide Clear Instructions
Give instructions a little at a time and more than one time. If you give all the instructions at the beginning, participants are likely to get confused or forget them. Make sure you repeat the instructions, because there are always some who are not paying attention or don’t understand the first time.
Practice Before You Facilitate
Icebreakers and games rarely go as you planned them in your mind, and practice can help you see the flaws. As you practice, think about how the activity will sound and feel to the participants. Putting yourself in their place will help you see where you need to make adjustments.
Design Your Debrief
Design really good debrief questions to make sure they get the main ideas. Icebreakers and games are fun, and participants often forget they are learning while doing them. This is great, except that if you don’t do the work to connect what just happened back to the content, they may leave without learning what they needed to learn.
Set Clear Boundaries for Competition
When people compete in games, they get pretty upset if you change the rules in the middle or at the end. They will be very creative in coming up with new ways to reach the goal, so you have to decide whether or not you want to allow creative solutions that may feel like “cheating” to other groups or individuals. Make sure your rules are clear and comprehensive, and then stick with them.
Schedule for Downtimes
Icebreakers, energizers and games can be a very effective way of increasing engagement levels, especially when everyone is feeling tired or distracted. The best times to schedule them are: at the beginning of the day, after breaks and after lunch. It’s also a good idea to have a few extra energizers ready in case you can tell you are loosing your participants’ attention. Try to keep icebreakers and energizers under five minutes so that they don’t eat up your facilitation time.