Creating Genuine Connections in Meeting Settings

There is a scheduled meeting or workshop with the general objective of team building or fostering a strong culture. The session kicks off with the facilitator announcing, “To foster better acquaintance, we will begin with an icebreaker activity.” At this point, a wide array of emotions might arise within you and the group, ranging from excitement to apathy, and even nervousness.

The latter sentiment often manifests as a reluctance to participate or, in some cases, feeling obliged, whether directly or indirectly, to take part. Having encountered these scenarios numerous times, I made a conscious decision years back to steer away from leading icebreakers in my professional setting. This marked a deliberate transition from icebreakers to activities aimed at building a sense of community.

Challenges with Icebreakers

Icebreakers are commonly defined as games or tasks intended to break the initial tension in a meeting, workshop, or event, fostering a sense of ease among participants who may be unfamiliar with each other. Their main goal is to inject energy into the group and alleviate any awkwardness.

However, icebreakers often fail to deliver the desired outcome. Let’s explore why and my choice to avoid them.

Time Constraints: These activities are typically short in duration, following a set structure and tasks that must be completed within a brief timeframe.

Superficial Engagement: Due to the tendency to create a bandwagon effect, participation in icebreakers can feel superficial. This can lead to performative gestures and shallow relationships, lacking the organic development of real connections.

Lack of Meaningful Interaction: Often, the level of interaction in icebreakers does not serve the true purpose of the gathering. This can provoke anxiety in introverted or reserved individuals, compelling them to disclose personal information that may require a higher emotional investment.

Short-Lived Impact: Icebreakers are usually conducted at the start of an event and seldom result in lasting group cohesion beyond the activity itself.

Emphasis on Building Community

I prefer activities that focus on community building. These thoughtfully designed tasks aim to deepen our shared connections, foster group cohesion, and promote a supportive environment.

Intentional and Purpose-Driven: Each activity aligns with the gathering’s objectives, striving for accessibility, inclusivity, and embracing individual differences.

Meaningful Interactions: Community builders encourage creative discussions and voluntary collaboration, allowing participants to share personal experiences, thoughts, and goals freely.

Interactive Engagement: Participants are guided towards valuable interactions that promote learning ownership within the activity, fostering a sense of agency.

Flexibility and Creativity: These activities promote flexibility and creativity while avoiding judgment, allowing individuals to engage without feeling evaluated.

Creating Impactful Community-Building Tasks

The key elements in designing a meaningful community-building task start with clear intentions: What emotions and achievements do you want to evoke among participants, and how does it align with the gathering’s purpose? Consider inclusivity, potential barriers, and the communicative aspect of feedback.

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