Meetings Key to Success, Icebreakers

Icebreakers: Make Sure Your HR Meetings Don’t Fall Through the Cracks 

Boring. Dull. Unexciting. How can you prevent an HR meeting from being described as such, especially if the meeting is about something as dry as … well, half of the stuff discussed at meetings? The best way is to capture the audience’s attention. Since people will quickly zone out if they recognize that the meeting is going to be boring, it is necessary to capture the audience’s attention right away. If you make your introduction exciting, you encourage those attending to listen to the whole meeting. After all, the whole purpose of your meeting is to convey a message to your audience so you want them to listen, right? 

Now that the importance of an exciting introduction has been established, it is necessary to discuss how exactly to wake up your crowd: icebreakers. Icebreakers are a great way to prepare the group for a meeting because it lightens the atmosphere, allowing everyone to relax. Once everyone has relaxed, they are ready to absorb what you are about to convey. An icebreaker may be a joke or a game. Sometimes your jokes may be corny (or a poor pun like the title of this article) but your audience is not expecting a professional comedian. Nonetheless, there are some jokes you will want to avoid. That includes jokes that are condescending towards other employees. Racist or sexist jokes should also be avoided as should jokes discussing sex, drugs, and/or alcohol. The purpose of the joke is to make your audience laugh, not resent you. If you are not sure if your joke crosses the line, play it safe and do not use it. Because you want your joke to be funny, try it out on someone first before your meeting. Nothing could be worse than a joke that is just not comical. Instead of releasing any initial tension within the room, you begin your meeting by creating awkwardness as no one knows whether they should laugh nervously or if they should look down and pretend you never said anything. For that reason, it is generally a good idea to avoid puns (sorry title) because either no one picks up on them until you point them out or they are simply not funny. 

Perhaps you decide to pass on the following joke:
Sorry I’m late for the meeting. The line at Starbucks was really long. 

...because you know that your audience will not laugh. Remember, not every audience has the same sense of humor. Or maybe your audience does not think humor belongs in the workplace. Try a game instead. You could have everyone stand up and say something that they believe they are the only person to have done. If they are the only person who has ever travelled to Africa they get to sit down. If, however, someone else has snowboarded on the Himalayan Mountains, then the other person (the “someone else”) gets to sit down. The explicit purpose of the game is to not be the last one standing, but implicitly, you are helping your audience bond. This is a great icebreaker when your audience does not know each other well, or even if they do because you never know what you will learn. And do not worry; what everyone shares does not have to be as crazy as travelling to a different continent. Another suggestion is to ask each member of the meeting to say their name and the last vacation they went on. Then you can wrap up your icebreaker by saying “Well, hopefully we all get to go on lots more vacations. To make sure we don’t have to take work with us on vacation, I am here today to explain…” to transition from the icebreaker to the actual meeting. 

Icebreakers are a great way to start a meeting. If done right, they can enliven an audience and encourage them to actually listen to your presentation. The key with icebreakers is to know who your audience is and choose an icebreaker that works for the audience. One last tip: keep your icebreaker short because it is merely an introduction to your meeting.

About the Author
Carolyn Sokol writes about issues that may affect small businesses such as human resources, HRMS, and HRM Software. She is a founder of which helps match small businesses to the right HR or Payroll Service provider for their particular needs. Her background is in marketing and communications, Hiring Tips, employee education and training, development of policies and procedures and the ongoing delivery of outstanding service to customers.

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