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Break the Ice and Get People Talking at Your Next Event

by Nicholas Rhodes
Last Updated on November 29, 2022
Break the ice and get people talking at your next event

A successful live event demands that your attendees are fully engaged. That means you need charismatic hosting, interesting content, and (for the love of god) a network that can handle everything you and your guests throw at it.

Engagement isn’t just about the interaction between you and your crowd, however - you want everyone present to get along famously! Social and networking opportunities are what make live events appealing for most, and it’s therefore in your interest to create an atmosphere where it’s easy to mingle and chat.

People don’t necessarily need help conversing - it’s the getting started part that’s the hurdle. That’s where these fun activities come in handy. Introductory activities of this kind are very effective at quickly washing away awkwardness and getting everyone talking.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to break the ice between your attendees, no pickaxe required:

Speed dating
Speed Dating

Speed Dating

Don’t worry, we’re not actually asking people to pursue romance here - if you wish to avoid confusion, you can call it speed networking. The concept however, is the same. You pair off your attendees and give them two minutes to get to know one another. Once completed, everyone swaps partners and repeats the process, for as long as you deem necessary.

It’s surprising how well people can connect when they’re up against the clock.

Virtual “big talk”
Virtual “Big Talk”

Virtual “Big Talk”

Allocating time for some “big picture” discussion before the actual event allows attendees to bypass all of the formalities and get straight to talking about things that really matter. News events, politics, environmental issues, head scratching philosophical conundrums - these kinds of topics affect everyone and tend to provoke intimate conversation.

Of course, the goal isn't to generate heated debate, so be careful about picking subjects that are controversial or polarizing.

Ball toss
Ball Toss

Ball Toss

Balls = instant fun. We all learned that at 4 years of age.

The addition of a small ball to your event is a simple yet effective way to get people loosened up and laughing. Instruct your attendees to toss a ball between themselves, and whenever someone catches it, they have to say their name, where they’re from, along with another interesting fact about themselves. To make it easier for them, you can ask for a more specific quirk - favorite food, song, tv show. You can use your imagination.

The ball toss is merely a way to provide people a spotlight to introduce themselves, in a manner that isn’t overly professional or boring.

Team Quiz

Putting people in teams and giving them a goal (such as winning 1st prize at all costs) is one of the best ways to shatter the ice. Especially when there’s a quiz involved - few things turn strangers into cooperative teammates like the heat of a quiz.

This is ideal when your crowd is separated by tables, but it could also work virtually using the appropriate online platform.

If you want to up the ante here, you can utilize a 2- or 3-step, escape-room-style puzzle to replace the quiz.

Reception-Style Online Networking 

Did you know that you can bring reception-style networking to life in a virtual environment? We’re not talking about your average Zoom meeting here. Instead, we let attendees move freely around the room and strike up conversations with others.  

If you’re looking for support here, We & Goliath is an event agency known for producing table-based discussions in an online environment where guests can choose to participate in topic-based sessions, private conversations, or organic “hallway style” chats. 

It makes for a fun and lively experience seeing everyone moving around the event! It’s also a great way to maximize your time and energy because you can meet many new people in a quick session, even while you’re relaxing at home.

Photo Booth

Often the problem with networking at events - particularly at business or corporate ones - is that the atmosphere is just way too serious. Photo booths (complete with costume and props or virtual stickers & frames) are naturally silly, and never fail to lighten the tone wherever they are placed.

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that strangers become far more approachable once you’ve seen them donning a fake mustache and a giant cardboard martini.

Flash MOB (Muted Opening Breakouts)

Hybrid events can be the trickiest to navigate, especially when it comes to both inclusivity and breakout organization. Have the event moderator/host pick a safe-for-work four letter word from local audience suggestions, then again from virtual attendees. Segment everyone – virtual and in-person alike – into messaging groups on their phones, laptops, or tablets and encourage them to take turns changing one letter at a time to turn the first word into the second word.

As the name implies, just make sure everyone keeps the sound off.

What’s the Scenario?  

An enjoyable way to get your online attendees conversing is by presenting them with a hypothetical scenario that requires their input. It could be something as basic as “which one

superpower would you choose and why?”, or a more challenging moral dilemma like the trolly problem. If the goal is to create a friendly, warm atmosphere amongst your group, then you’re probably better off going with something not too complex or serious.

Guess The Name

Name tags are a staple of many live events, and usually people fill them in.

Too easy, we say.

Instead, why not instruct your attendees to leave their tag blank, and let others guess their name. It’s a novel excuse for everyone to forgo the trivial discussion, and have a laugh while introducing themselves.

Guests can provide hints like rhyming words, or books, songs and movies that include their name. Anything goes, except saying the name itself.

Pre-Event Online Networking

Why wait until the day itself to break the ice, when you could simply do it beforehand? Giving your attendees the opportunity to connect online in advance of the event means there’s less chance of them arriving cold (that’s an icebreaker pun, and we insist that you laugh).

This can be achieved on either your own platform or Zoom, though arguably by multistreaming to social media channels you can create even more of a buzz. Creating a private Facebook group that encourages your members to share their LinkedIn or Twitter profiles is a convenient and user-friendly way of familiarizing everyone. If you feel a more direct messaging service might be useful, then you could also set up a Slack channel or an event platform that will tie together chat, agendas, session links, and more.

For larger groups, consider using a table-based virtual networking platform with a variety of “tables” set up by fun, common interests, like pointy-snouted dogs, kite-flying hobbyists, and needle crafters.

Pre-event networking benefits both in-person and virtual crowds, especially helping those who are shy or dislike the traditional methods.

Untangle Us!

If idle chatter isn’t inspiring your guests, then a more hands-on, team-building type activity might be what your event needs.

Make all attendees stand in a circle, and then ask them to join each of their hands with anyone except the people on either side of them. Done correctly, this should result in an amusing tangle of arms and bodies. It’s now the job of your guests to untangle themselves back into a circle, without breaking the chain.

Can it be done? Probably not, but that’s KNOT the point. Hilarity is guaranteed with this one.

Virtual Recall

Hearing a bunch of new names and job titles over the span of a few hours is often quite dull and forgettable. A way to make the various new acquaintances more memorable is by gamifying the process. Ask each member on the stream to provide a nugget or two of information about themself, and then one-by-one they have to recite what others have shared.

The reality is that you cannot force your guests to socialize or be comfortable at your event, but there are many things you can do to create a more communal environment. You want to ‘read the room’ and be considerate of the personality types in attendance (i.e. musical chairs probably isn’t appropriate for a group of executives), but don’t be afraid to use your imagination when planning your next event.

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