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Networking Icebreakers

Chamber events provide an opportunity for members to network. How do you break the ice, though? This helpful guide, Ice Breakers: Easing Group Contribution from the Communications Skills Toolkit from MindTools gives tips on designing ice breakers along with several examples. Get more inspiration from these 8 Smart Phrases That Will Make You Better at Networking from Inc.com. This TED article How to turn small talk into smart conversation, shares creative open-ended questions as a way to expand small talk at your next networking event.

The following Networking Icebreaker suggestions are tried and true practices from ACCE members...

Icebreaker Tips, Games & Activities

-Prepare before your event with this fun, quirky, retro-style video that gives simple but important points on how to effectively network. Forbes Etiquette Guide: How To Work A Room (2.23 min)

- 9 simple ways to start a conversation with strangers at awkward networking events - A list plus links for more ideas to empower the ice breaking.

-16 Conversation Starters That Work 100 Percent of the Time - It can be tough to start talking to a stranger. These sentences will help.

-Cartoon Networking - Place a cartoon character on each name tag and ask attendees to find their match. Once they do they can come up to our table and place their business card in a fish bowl for a prize drawing.

-Business Card Contest – At the beginning of the event, announce a contest that the one who gathers the most colleagues' business cards will receive a reward, like a bottle of champagne or free attendance to a chamber event. You can make it easier by making hurdles: 5 cards gives you a keyring with chamber logo for example, or with ten you get a T-shirt or something of higher value, and then the one who has shown the biggest stack of business cards is rewarded afterward when the results are tallied. Note: It may be a good idea to tell people to bring good number of their business cards to the event, but do not tell why.

-Themed speed networking - Same idea as Cartoon Networking but instead use racing car stickers. (Available at places like Target or Party City.) You will probably have multiple matches because you will use the same stickers (4 of the same per pack) on more than two nametags.

-20 Questions - In addition to having name tags for each attendee, set a table with a second “tag” that poses a question or the start of a wish. Each attendee is given a name tag and asked to select a “question tag.” As participants meet each other, they are to answer the question on the tag of the person they meet. The point is to get conversation going and take the pressure off “selling.” See Sample questions here.

-Playing Cards - Lay out playing cards next to the name tags and ask each person to take a playing card. On each of the four walls is a large poster depicting the four suits. Once most guests have arrived, the leader first asks everyone to find everyone who has the same card face (jacks, aces, fours, etc.) and gather together. The leader then instructs the individuals in each small group to introduce themselves and discuss a particular topic for a few minutes. Later during the networking event, participants are told to gather near the wall sign that depicts their suit. Participants are asked to find 4 people in that group with whom they have something in common.

-5-Word Introduction - For our round-table networking breakfasts, we begin the event by asking each person to stand, tell the group his or her name and company, and using only 5 words, describe or pitch their services. It took our members a few times to develop their “5-word pitch,” but now that we have been doing it for a few years, they all like the challenge and some have come up with really good and memorable tag lines (e.g. a photographer who says , “Capturing todays memories for tomorrow,” a chiropractor who says, “I’ve got your back!” a computer support company owner who says, “Tech help, not tech hype.”) We follow this with our traditional round-table one-minute commercial networking, then switch tables so participants can meet another set of contacts.

-Paper Airplanes – Each guest is given an 81/2 x 11 sheet of paper and told to write the name of the person they would most like to sit next to on an airplane, plus their favorite cocktail/drink. Guests are then asked to make a paper airplane out of the sheet of paper. At an appropriate time, guests form a large outer circle and throw their airplanes into the center. Each guest then picks up a plane, finds the owner, and conversation begins.

-Candy Game - Pass around a bowl of M&Ms or chocolate Kisses, or other small candies, and ask the people to take as many as they want. But tell them that they’re not allowed to eat them just yet. Once everyone has selected his or her candy, the leader asks each person to tell the group as many facts about him or herself as pieces of candy in their hand. They can eat the candy, only after they have told an equivalent number of facts.

-Jigsaw Puzzler - Buy small jigsaw puzzles (35 piece or less) and give everyone a puzzle piece as they arrive; the goal is to complete the puzzle as a group; encourages camaraderie and networking.

-Famous Pairs Game – Everyone gets a person or thing that is part of a favorite pair; (ketchup and mustard, salt and pepper, Bonnie & Clyde, Chip and Dale, you get the idea); they are then tasked with finding their match; once they find it the pair is entered into a drawing (sometimes we reward first, second, third, etc based on when they turn in their match). See Sample of Famous Pairs here

-Chamber Bingo – Make up bingo cards with questions in each square (Speaks a second language, plays a musical instrument, is on the board of the chamber, is an ambassador, etc.) the idea is to get BINGO and turn in the card for a drawing. Again, a good conversation starter.

-Human Bingo - Play a fun, timed, speedy game of "Human Bingo," great for opening up short and informative conversations and gets the everyone in the room talking quick and offers a way to remember attendees’ traits, like, or interests (or dislikes). This Human Bingo Game Card was used as the icebreaker activity for the Spring 2017 Colorado Chamber Executives Annual Conference. More bingo cards can be downloaded from myfreebingocards.com.

-Mystery Guest – Identify someone who is coming to the networking event and get them to give us some interesting facts about themselves (maybe they were born in another country; they lived in another state, they were a coach in college, etc). Give each person who comes the event a list of these facts about our mystery guest and their job is to network and have conversation until they think they know who it is; they put their guess on the card and turn it in. The results are shared during announcements and winners declared.

-Photo Contest – This is a favorite, well received, and can be used with volunteers, at events and even among staff. Gather some photos from the community that show landmark places but take them in a way that they are abstract and not easily identifiable. Have a card with the number for each photo and ask people to write down their guesses. The person or persons getting the most correct win. It's a great way to learn about the community!

-Who is Who Game - This game will require some pre-event time. The chamber who suggested this said they Googled and LinkedIn some of the RSVP's and came up with questions about the people who would be in the room. The chamber made up 2 sets of 5x7 cards that said, "Find the person who___________? Ex; Find the person who graduated from Duke? We knew there was someone in the room who had because we had done our homework. It was a great success and fun. The key is using two sets of handouts.

NOTE: Have a suggestion for this page? Please email hero@acce.org with tips. Sample documents or a web address would be great.

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Last Updated: 06/12/2017

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