Suppose you have a group of people that don’t know each other very well and you want to get them feel more comfortable with one another. If you put this group of people in a room together, they will eventually mingle but the process is often inefficient. Most often the talkative or extrovert types dominate the conversations while others simply listen. People receive a lot of information about a few loud people and start to feel frustrated that they couldn’t get a word in. Alternatively, some may simply feel shy and not so comfortable to suddenly talk about themselves among a group of strangers.
In such cases, a structured approach to break the ice is useful. One simple way to do this is to divide the delegates into smaller groups and provide them with a set of questions that encourages them to talk about specific topics. This exercise and its variations help you achieve this.
Note that the questions listed here are designed to excite and encourage the delegates to talk. They go beyond the usual questions often suggested such as, “What is your hobby?”, or “What country do you like to travel to?” The aim is to ask deeper and more meaningful questions that touch the heart and make the person really excited to talk about themselves. In fact, these questions can make the person learn something about themselves which makes the exercise much more useful.
Often it will take much more than a few minutes to answer some of the questions listed here, but this is fine for the purpose of this exercise because the aim is to simply make people talk excitedly about themselves.
The collection of questions presented here can also be used to interview people or when you simply want to get a person talk about themselves. They can be rather effective in making an emotional connection.
Get to know others by answering the questions provided.
What You Need
- A series of question cards. A comprehensive list of such questions is provided below at the end of this exercise. You will need to prepare a large set of cards with these questions for this exercise.
- Shuffle the cards and place them in the centre of a table.
- Ask delegates to pick three cards at random.
- Ask delegate to pair up with someone.
- Ask one person in each pair to read a question from one card and expect the other person to answer it.
- The person has 3 minutes to answer the question. You can adjust this as necessary. You will notice that as time goes by, people tend to want to spend more time answering questions and talk more and more about themselves. Go with the flow and allow more time to encourage people to get more comfortable with each other.
- Now ask the other person to ask a different question using their cards and expect an answer.
- Ask pairs to split up and look for someone else.
- When they find another person, they can use a new question or ask the same question. This is their choice because if they find the question useful and interesting, there is no point to move on to another question quickly.
- Continue as many rounds as desired until you get a feeling that the group is getting comfortable with each other and the ice is broken.
- If they run out of question cards and need more, they can take three more from the stack. They should discard the used question cards in a discard pile. If the stack is finished, shuffle the discard pile and present it as the new stack.
- Questions should only be asked from a question card that the person holds. Other questions are not allowed.
- If you have many delegates and are short of question cards, you can pause the exercise after a few rounds, ask everyone to bring back the cards, shuffle them and redistribute the cards to start the process again.
Explaining the Exercise: 5 minutes
Activity: 3 min for each round for as many rounds as necessary
Group Feedback: 5 minutes
How effective were the questions? What questions did you find most useful?
You can optionally get delegates to add their own questions to the mix as well. Give them a number of blank cards and explain the kind of questions you want them to consider. They can then write one question on each card. Mix these cards with the set you already have or just use these for the exercise.
- Write or print each of the following questions on a blank card:
- Who do you think is a great example of a successful person?
- As a child, what did you want to become when you grew up?
- What is your greatest achievement so far?
- What was your childhood’s nickname and why?
- What is the most difficult part of your job?
- Tell me a funny story that happened to you.
- Who has been your best mentor so far? In what area?
- What hobby or sport activity are you good at?
- What would you rather do when you are not working?
- Share a memorable event of your life with me.
- What would you do if you won the lottery? How would you spend the money for yourself other than giving some to others?
- What are you most proud of in your life?
- What is the most challenging task or project you have ever been involved in?
- What do you most appreciate in life?
- What is great about living in the country you live in?
- What do you most appreciate for living in this era?
- Which five cities do you want to visit, that you have not visited yet, before you die?
- Why are you here?
- What is the most influential book you have ever read?
- In your opinion, what is the secret to mastery of any given skill?
- What do you know about the “law of attraction”? What do you think of it?
- If you were diagnosed with a terminal illness and were told you only have a year to live, what would be the most exciting thing you would do?
- If you had a chance to meet three celebrities, who would you pick?
- What does family mean to you?
- What is your most favourite board game?
- What is your most favourite sport?
- What is your most favourite computer game?
- If you were told you can have any car, what model would you choose?
- What is your favourite food?
- What is your favourite movie?
- Would you rather have a dog or a cat? Why?
- There has been a scientific breakthrough eliminating the need to sleep. What would you do with all the extra time?
- What do you live for?
- What is your favourite documentary?
- Why do you think _____ has been successful? (To Questioner: Fill in the blank with the name of a celebrity of your choice)
- What is your typical day like?
- Suppose, you can take a pill and learn a skill instantly; what skill would you choose?
- What five books would you recommend to people to read if they didn’t have a chance to read anything else?
- What recent purchases of a £100 or less have you made that had a significant positive impact on your life?
- What is the best question you heard recently? How would you answer it?
- What is the most interesting conversation you had recently?
- What is the greatest threat to humanity’s survival?
- What is the most exciting technological advance in the coming decade?
- What is your morning ritual?
- What is your most favourite tool?
- What is your most favourite app?
- What is your most favourite device?
- What do you do in the first 60 minutes of your day?
- What’s one thing that you do that people think is crazy, but you do it anyway?
- To what do you attribute ____? (To Questioner: Fill in the blank based on what you already know of the person. If you don’t know them, complete the question with, “your current success”)
- What painting has evoked great emotions out of you?
- What is your favourite work of art?
- What is your most favourite fiction? And why?
- When was the last time you changed your mind on an important issue and how did it happen?
- What is the book (or books) you have most often gifted to other people?
- What makes you different?
- What are you world-class at?
- What was the happiest moment of your life?
- Who is your most favourite dead person in history?
- What was your most favourite toy as a child?
- What is the strangest thing you have ever done?
- Which country seems most exotic to you?
- What is the greatest lesson you have learn about life so far?
- What three animals would you choose that describe your traits the best?
- If you could use a time travel machine, which period of history would you choose to visit?
- What is the one thing for which you are most likely to be remembered after your death?
- What would you like to be known for?
- What is your most favourite question to ask? How do you answer it yourself?
- What do people never ask you that you wish they did?
If you have more ideas on questions to ask, please suggest them in the comments section below so we can have a master list of all useful questions which the training community can benefit from. We will update the list over time to include the most useful questions.