Tip 8 – Get the conversation flowing with digital icebreakers
Whether you have 5 or 500 in your Webinar, breaking the ice by using an activity of some kind generally leads to better engagement and a more successful experience for all.
A little like a warm-up act for a comedian, a good icebreaker can warm up your Webinar audience, ready for your session.
When I first started considering icebreakers, I realised they can not only help participants feel more comfortable but can also be very useful for finding out more about audience at the same time. This can help to improve the hosting of the session and lead to a more effective Webinar.
Traditional, face-to-face icebreakers can be transferred to an online format but which ones will be most effective?
Clearly, different kinds of digital ice-breakers will work for different sizes of audience.
First of all, I would take a look at the tools which are built-into your Webinar software. If you think creatively, these simple tools can provide great icebreakers.
Idea 1 – use built-in polls
For example, polls can be a great way to promote active engagement. They engage the audience in ‘lean-forward’ not ‘lean back’ activity which is what Webinars should be all about. That’s why you have chosen to use a Webinar rather than a one-way communication system like a pre-recorded recorded video.
Polls can also be worded to provide insights into the needs and desires of your audience. For example, you could use some of the following types of poll questions:
- How much experience of my product do you have?
- Are you looking to buy today, this month, next year?
- Are you from technical team, Learning & Development, commercial?
- Is your role management, buyer or an administration?
A quick scan of the results from these polls can help you to tailor the session to the needs of the audience. This is a key hosting skill. It would be counter-productive to carry on with your plans if it turns out to be inappropriate for your audience’s needs or desires.
Plan for how you will tailor event depending on poll feedback
Some poll software gives you the ability to share the results with the audience. Whether you should will depend on your purpose and audience.
This kind of icebreaker is appropriate for any number of participants as the data is easily aggregated to give percentages or fractions of responses but if your Webinar system has the ability to allow all participants to add annotations to a virtual whiteboard it can be even more effective to set up polls in a purely graphic format.
Idea 2 – continuum on a whiteboard
If you prepare a straight line as a continuum from low to high or agree to disagree, you can ask the participants to place their marker along line in the position which makes sense for them to answer your question. The clustering of answers can provide very interesting talking points.
Idea 3 – world map on a whiteboard
Perhaps the simplest and most effective icebreaker I have used with international Webinars is the world map. Participants add their location to a simple outline world map which gives an instant view of the global nature of your Webinar.
Idea 4 – webcam writing and objects
If your Webinar is small and you are all using webcams, ask everyone to write an interesting secret fact about themselves on a card or large piece of paper and hold this up to the webcam. This gives an instant snapshot of all participants and can lead to some fascinating, icebreaking conversation. Alternatively, participants can hold up a mystery object to their webcam which is often even more intriguing:
Idea 5 – guess the Wordle
Wordle.net enables the creation of word clouds from any text. If you convert any document connected with the topic of your Webinar, you can ask the audience to guess what the document is just from the word cloud. The frequency of individual words controls how large they appear in the cloud. Participants can add their guesses to the text chat or, if your audience is small, they can be invited to speak about it.
You’ll be able to come up with lots more ideas and when you do, please add them in the comments below this post, record them via the voicemail widget below or send them in using the contact form.
Choosing the right digital icebreaker for your audience and purpose will certainly lead to a much more successful Webinar as participants will be fired-up and ready to enjoy the content.
Creative Commons image credit: tiswango | Copyright music credit (used by permission): Mike Murphy
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