Steve Martin once responded to a drunk heckler, “Ah, I remember my first beer.” I wonder if he remembers his first heckle as well. I sure do. My first serious one, that is. I was much younger, in a sales presentation exploring the virtues of “Value versus Price.” Although I’d been a successful salesperson for years and had done a version of this session a few times, an experienced attendee Just. Wasn’t. Having. It. They were loud. They were disruptive. They were convinced and challenged every concept I presented.
Successful icebreakers will establish a safe environment for learning and help attendees become more familiar with each other. They also set the tone for the session and ideally introduces the learning objectives in a fun and engaging way. Our most popular icebreakers have survived the test of time because one brave learning and development professional used them with great success and shared the experience. But what about unsuccessful icebreakers? The ones tried and quickly relegated to the ash heap of history. Here, for I believe the first time, is a top three list of the worst icebreakers ever created.
Dig, if you will, this picture: You’re sitting at your desk, thinking about how to improve information chunking, and you notice the walking, talking embodiment of workplace drama rapidly moving towards you. You immediately imagine John Quiñones lurking somewhere nearby and prepare to respond appropriately to the hidden camera test about to start.
How might Carrot Top, world-renowned prop comic and Vegas resident, fare as a learning and development professional? Would the zany onslaught of chips, dips, chains, and whips (figuratively speaking) contribute to the learning objectives or distract from the seriousness of the session? The immediate response is, “It depends. I’d always keep it professional.” While that’s true, let’s explore the boundaries of props in a professional presentation. I don’t mean flipcharts and whiteboards. I’m talking about toys, costumes, canned goods, and the occasional water balloon. In regards to props, do we take ourselves to seriously?