Ice breakers at events and planning sessions generally get an eye roll when they are announced. Folks anticipate spending 10 - 20 minutes asking inane questions and feeling silly while doing it.
But ice breakers don't have be awkward; they can form an integral part of driving the agenda and helping the room share information faster.
1 - Ensure the ice breaker has a point (beyond "talk to people" or "be creative"). Why does the ice need to be broken and how will it drive the rest of the agenda?
2 - Ensure clear permission to participate is given (by the facilitator and the participants to themselves). Any ice breaker can work if folks understand the point of it and feel empowered to participate.
3 - Ensure the instructions don't take more time than the activity itself.
4 - Don't make it all a competition. Offering a prize to the person who collects the most names at a networking event doesn't mean the exercise or names collected are meaningful.
5 - The ice breaker does not always have to be the very first item on the agenda. Maybe you don't need folks to start talking until later in the program?
Ice breakers can be useful in group and one/one situations if they're thoughtful and relevant. Feel free to leave me your best ice breakers ideas /links below!