Unconventional Icebreakers That’ll Get Attendees Talking

Make your next Network event anything but awkward

“So, uh, where do you work?”

“What are some of your hobbies outside of your career?”

For many of your attendees, a Network event can feel like a painfully awkward first date or nerve-wracking interview filled with less-than-creative icebreakers. But who blames them? With so much professional pressure surrounding these types of events, sticking to a generic, back-and-forth Q&A is fairly standard. But as recent research has found, establishing connections isn’t just essential for building our social (or professional) status––it’s absolutely crucial in boosting our creativity, resilience and even our life span. 

But how do you as an event planner help to establish those connections during events, sans the awkwardness? Here, we list four of our favorite, completely non-boring icebreaker activities to get your guests talking. 

Sharing a Common Dislike

When we attempt to establish a connection, so much of our effort goes into finding a common interest, because naturally, we tend to be most passionate about what piques our interest. But as a recent post from Huffington Post suggested, that common thread doesn’t necessarily have to be a happy one. 

The article, which was written by an entrepreneur and former actor, highlights that one of his most successful icebreakers involved listing off some of the “worst” parts of his day that might be relatable to the person he was talking to (think: getting stuck in traffic for two hours or spilling coffee down your blouse, as opposed to something more dire like a serious personal crisis). Despite the desire to present our best selves (especially during a Network event), we’re all human––and that humanity is likely to emit a sense of authenticity and likability to the person you’re talking to. 

Consider prompting your guests to write down the annoying/crappy/humorously challenging thing that happened to them that week, and then finding someone who might’ve experienced a similar challenge in the past year. 

Evoking a Sense of Nostalgia

When perusing pockets of conversations at a Network event, the last thing on most people’s minds is fun. More often than not, we’re continuing to list off deadlines, encroaching work assignments and other adult-centered thoughts, even as we talk to others. 

Pull attendees far from the serious nature of a Network event and give your icebreaker activity a sense of youthful nostalgia. Fortune-telling cootie catchers (those little paper creations we used to tell our friend’s future with on the playground) could be an excellent start. But instead of projections of a crush asking you out, maybe it’s a projection about life ambitions or values. 

Similarly, consider encouraging attendees to ask each other who their “imaginary friend” might be if they had one. Despite seeming fairly childish, this type of mental creation actually says a lot about a person’s emotional state and approach to relationships, according to some psychologists. 

Highlighting Lesser-Heard Voices

In a crowded Network room, you’re most likely to see the highest concentration of minglers surrounding the big honchos––aka the individuals most likely to be advantageous for others to build connections with. 

Reverse this all-but-guaranteed trend by spotlighting the lesser-heard voices in the room, an icebreaker strategy depicted by Forbes. For example, if your client’s company is based off an experience-driven hierarchy, consider making more inexperienced millennials the focal point of conversation and have others ask them questions in small focus groups.

Bring Together the Book Nerds

Establish a common ground among attendees long before the day of the event arrives by organizing a book club a month prior. When the meeting begins, separate (and clearly identify) tables or rooms dedicated to the different books your team has chosen. While a book club is obviously the most standard type of bonding “club,” the logic applies to a number of extracurricular activities––from movies to international destinations traveled.