Getting Acquainted Activities

The amount and quality of in-class communication between you and participants, and among participants, can often directly impact the success of a session. One of the key differences between pedagogy and andragogy is the experience level of adult learners. Providing opportunities for participants to share their knowledge and expertise is important.

Often, communication can be facilitated through activities in which learners have a chance to get to know one another, build rapport, and share what they know. Such activities are often called icebreakers when used at the beginning of a program because they provide a vehicle for learners to get acquainted and start to meld as a group. Later in a session, such activities might be called energizers, or simply activities focused on accomplishing a variety of course-related objectives, including enhancement of communication. As with other elements of the human resource development (HRD) process, there are many books and published activities on this subject that you can adapt or adopt. In deciding which is the most appropriate activity for your needs, consider the objectives of the activity, session goals, audience demographics, resources, facility, available equipment, and time that you read about earlier.

Rather than using the same activity each time you facilitate, build a repertoire of at least a dozen and alternate them when you train. This prevents you from becoming bored and appearing practiced and gives participants who attend many of your sessions some variety. This latter point is crucial in keeping learners stimulated and alert so that they want to learn and participate. The last thing that you need at the beginning of a program is for a participant to decide early that he or she has "been there" before and to turn off to what is being offered. If they are required to take part in activities that they have experienced previously, they could very easily shut down and even undermine the activity for others out of boredom.

Getting acquainted Activities

Getting acquainted Activities

Get Acquainted Activities

MINDMAP 1. Getting Acquainted Activities

To provide a different approach for participant introductions, do a little advance preparation. Create a colorful flip chart page with borders or small art characters (e.g., flowers, a smiling sun, or cartoon) somewhere on the page. Across the top, write in bold capital letters, "INTRODUCING . . .". Spray the page with artist's adhesive or photo mount so that items will stick without tape. Display the page by the room entrance.

As participants arrive, give them a 3 x 5 colored index card (use a variety of colors to add pizzazz to the room) or a small piece of blank colored paper about the size of the cards. These paper strips can be cut in shapes (e.g., stars or geometric shapes, such as those found in the Tools for Trainers section in the appendices). Have each person print his or her name, title, and organization on the card along with one strength (e.g., knowledge, skill, or attitude) that he or she possesses related to the session topic. Once finished, participants should put their cards on the flip chart page. After everyone has arrived and is seated, move the flip chart page to the front of the room. Ask for a volunteer to come up and take any card other than his or her own. That participant should then read the name that is on the card by stating, "Good morning. I'd like to Introduce ... ." The person whose name was read should then stand and the entire class should enthusiastically shout in unison, "GOOD MORNING_." This participant should remain standing until the person holding his or her card reads the remaining information about him or her. Both people can then be seated. This process should continue, with people randomly coming up to select a card and reading the name and information until all participants have been introduced. After everyone has finished, you can say something such as, "What a great group with wonderful strengths to add to today's program. Let's get started by giving a round of applause." Remember that you are trying to create an environment of enthusiasm and excitement. Little things such as applause for acknowledgment can help by recognizing and rewarding while raising the noise and energy levels in the room. A nice side effect is that by clapping, participants increase their heart rate and blood flow to the brain.

It's My Birthday

This activity gives participants an opportunity to get acquainted and learn a bit of information about one another. Have everyone stand. Tell them they have 3 minutes to form a single line based on their birthdays. Once correctly in line, you can have them form into groups of three or four participants to get acquainted or for any other activity you designate.

Help Yourself

This is a standard get acquainted activity used by many trainers to help participants learn more about one another in a fun manner. As such, you may want to caution anyone who has participated in the activity in another session to not disclose how it is done and to play along. To start, give each person a 3 x 5 index card in bold numbers (use markers) and pass around a bag of shelled roasted peanuts, hard candy, plastic coins, or any other easily handled item. You can also use a box of facial tissue, or a roll of toilet paper or paper towels. As you pass the items around, encourage people to "help themselves" and take as much as they like.

Once everyone has taken a share of the item, have them count the number that they took and write the number on the 3 x 5 card. After they have done so, ask for a volunteer to show the number on his or her card. Once they do so, tell them that the purpose of the activity is to get to know one another and that they should tell who they are, their organization or job title, and bits of information about themselves equal to the number on their 3 x 5 cards. For example, if soemone took 15 squares of toilet paper or peanuts, he or she must share 15 professional or personal pieces of information abot him- or herself. For example, someone might disclose that he or she is one of nine siblings.

Truth or Fiction

Here's another classic training activity that you can use to help learners get to know details about one another that might not typically be disclosed during a training program. Have participants form groups of two to four people. Give participants 3 x 5 index cards and ask them to write down three things about themselves that others in the group do not likely know. Two of the items should be truth and one should be something they make up. The fiction items should be plausible. To get them started, you may want to share three items about yourself and have them guess which is untrue.

Next, have participants find a partner and get to know one another by trying to guess which of their partner's items is false.

You can also do this as a group activity in which participants form groups of four or five members, then each person does a self-introduction and shares what is written on his or her card. After they have done so, the members of the group should come to a consensus on which item was not true.

After all participants finish their introductions, you may want to ask randomly which were some of the truths and the untruths. This activity will work for any size group.

My Potato

This is a fun activity that can be used to help learners get acquainted or as an activity in classes on communication, presentation, or selling skills.

To get started, pass around a bag with potatoes in it and have each participant take one. After everyone has a potato, tell learners to take 3 minutes to get to know their potato well. Tell them to note unique characteristics about their potato. Once participants have had time to learn about their potatoes, have each person in turn stand, introduce herself, and tell what is unique about her potato and why she feels that makes it unique. You might also want to have her tell how her potato's unique qualities are like her. For example, "My potato has many eyes and I am constantly observing others."

If using this for an activity in a class on selling, you could have participants tell the features (characteristics) and benefits of each of those features to get them used to the traditional selling model.

Me Too!

Tell participants that they have 10 minutes to move around the room to find one or more people who have the same birth month that they do. If someone has no matches, have them find someone with a birth month that is closest to their own. Once they find a match, they should spend the remainder of the time getting to know one another. At the end of the designated time, have participants introduce themselves to the group, tell where they work, and anything else about them that they think others should know. It is best to limit this introduction to 30 seconds in case you have a participant who enjoys talking and being the center of attention.

Toy Story

Collect a variety of small toys (kitchen items, tools, or similar groupings also work well) and put them in a large box or bag that you pass around the room. Have participants reach in and select something. Give them a few minutes to examine their toys and then have them introduce themselves telling why they selected the toy they have and how its characteristics are similar to their own. For example, someone might get a small GI Joe or other military figure. They might disclose that they or someone in their family is or was in military service.

Let's Get Together

This is a great activity for providing some interaction when pairing participants or forming small groups.

Start by randomly selecting half as many playing cards from a deck as you have participants. For example if you have 24 participants, choose 12 cards. Cut the selected cards in half and mix them up. Randomly distribute one half of a card to each participant. Tell everyone to get up and move around the room looking for their other half. Once all participants are paired, have them participate in an activity.

An alternative to pairing participants is to have each person find the person holding the other half to his or her card, then those two participants would continue jointly to locate four other cards (eight other people who are holding cards) that will help their team end up with the highest poker hand in the room. Set a time limit of 5 minutes to do this and at the end of time, people who still do not have a group of 10 participants will randomly be grouped with others. The team having the best poker hand should be rewarded with small prizes.

Variations of this activity can be done by writing famous quotes (e.g., "Time is money," or "Waste not; want not"), capital cities and states (e.g., Tallahassee, Florida), or any other recognized statement, thing, or title that can be divided in two. Cut these in half and distribute instead of cards.

What a Zoo

As participants arrive for a session, attach a stick-on nametag, or safety pin a piece of paper, with the name of a wild zoo animal on it to their backs. Tell them that they have the names of zoo animals on their backs; however, they cannot look at what is written on the tag or paper, or have anyone read it to them. Once everyone has arrived, have all participants walk around the room meeting others and ask one closed-end question (e.g., yes/no or short answer) of each person they meet. The goal is to try to determine what kind of animal one is. They cannot ask open-ended questions. Instruct participants to shout out the name of their animal once it is known. If correct, reward them; if not, have the introductions continue. This activity integrates well into inter personal communication, interviewing skills, customer service, or team-building sessions where better communication or effective questioning is an objective. Instead of zoo animals, you can substitute countries, flowers, states, or other categories. Just keep in mind the demographic makeup of your audience and choose things that everyone is likely to know.

Remember Me?

Here is a fun activity that can help participants learn each other's names as well as a detail about one another. I often use this activity when I teach sessions involving memory. To conduct the activity, have participants form circles of no more than nine people. Remember what you read about memory in an earlier chapter related to the brain's ability to retain approximately seven bits of information, plus or minus two?

Once in a circle, explain that each person will do a self-introduction by giving his or her first name and the name of one flower (or car, vegetable, tree, country, state, or whatever you designate) that she likes. The item she chooses must start with the same letter as her first name. For example, someone with the name of Lisa might choose a lily as her flower. After the first person has self-introduced, subsequent participants must repeat the names and flowers of each person before them, starting with the first person and going in order of previous introductions. For example, if I were the third person in a circle following Tom and Michelle, my introduction would be. (Gesturing toward Tom) Hello, this is Tom and he likes tulips; (gesturing to Michelle), this is Michelle and she likes mums; I'm Bob and I like babies' breath. When it gets back to Tom, he must name everyone starting with the person to his right or left (depending on the direction in which introductions went).

This activity builds on the concept of repetition and is helpful in getting people to know one another in a fun manner.


What are some additional techniques you know of to help participants get to know one another?

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