|Icebreakers are a crucial part of an organization’s success and should be present in every PTA meeting – whether big or small. They play a critical part in membership retention, volunteer recruitment and leadership development.
Think about why YOU are part of your PTA? What brought you to your first meeting? Did a friend invite you? Did you see a flyer or announcement and curiosity led you there? Did you have an issue at school you wanted resolved? We all have different reasons we attend our first meeting. But then…
Why did you STAY? Why did you keep coming back? If the meetings were boring, people were not friendly, and the content was junk, you may never have returned. However, chances are SOMETHING caught you and kept you coming.
For many people, it’s the connections with others that keep them coming back. Icebreakers give attendees old and new a chance to connect and – even more critical – a reason to come back! They are also not scary (icebreakers NEVER ask deep questions), encourage small talk, and allow introverts a chance to break out of their comfort zone, when they may not have normally done so. (That was me)
Icebreakers are something you put time in to at the beginning, but many not see the rewards until months later. Chances are, your September meeting is full. It’s the beginning of the year, people are excited, and you can harness that energy. But what about February when it is cold, dreary, dark and possibly snowy and icy? What will keep people coming to THAT meeting?
Consistent effective meeting practices (another blog post) are important to that, and icebreakers can be one practice you can employ. They are fun, often take very little prep, and only take 10 minutes or less of a meeting time. From them friendships can form, working relationships appear, and people get comfortable with each other. Bonus: At your February meeting, a new member from the fall may find a person to sit next to that they recognize from a previous icebreaker. They feel comfortable approaching them because the ice has been broken! See how that works?
You need a new chair for the school dance. Who do you ask? A stranger, or a member that has been coming to a few meetings that you’ve gotten to know through icebreakers? If you hadn’t done icebreakers, they could STILL be a stranger in February. And you still don’t have a chair for the dance.
The president of the PTA does not need to be the person that runs the icebreakers. Any member can be responsible – it is an easy task to ask a fellow member to do, and can be a great way to ease someone into a leadership role with a small activity at every meeting.
I’ve listed below four of my favorite PTA meeting icebreakers (Common Corners, Would You Rather?, M&M’s/Skittles’ Game, and Who Am I?) plus an explanation of Enhanced Introductions at the end. Feel free to change anything you’d like – they are just ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
I typically did Common Corners at the Sept and Oct meetings, Would You Rather in November, Enhanced Introductions in January, M&M’s/Skittles in February, Who Am I in March and then by April we celebrated Volunteer Appreciation Month with a meal vs. an icebreaker since ideally we’d know each other quite well by then.
Good luck! I hope you find using icebreakers in your meetings to be effective, fun, and engaging this year and that you see the benefits throughout your term. Feel free to contact me with any questions!
Heather Starks, Minnesota PTA President
Icebreaker Downloads and Video Tutorials
Common CornersCommon Corners is an icebreaker where people get to know each other based on items they have in common. It takes a bit of prep, but is a great way for members to get to know each other, and is easy to do multiple meetings in a row. Allow for 10 minutes minimum to get through 2-3 rounds of questions. People tend to enjoy this one, so plan longer time than you think it will take.
View the Common Corners Instruction Page
Would You Rather?Would You Rather? is a game available in many different forms. This version requires attendees to get up and move and to answer the questions based on where they go in the room, vs. verbally. You then take about 1 minute for people to introduce themselves to one other person that answered the same.
This is a really easy icebreaker as it doesn’t take much prep or material and can be done for as long or short as you have time available. It also can be repeated at a future meeting without repeating topics.
View the Would You Rather? Instruction Page
M&M and SkittlesThis icebreaker uses candy to bring people together! Participants pick different colored candy (M&M’s or Skittles) and based on the color, answer a question about themselves to share with the group.
View the M&M and Skittles Instruction Page
Who Am I?Who Am I? is a guessing game where players don’t know which person/character they have been assigned and have to ask yes/no questions to determine who they are. Best used for groups where people are relatively comfortable with each other – typically used in later part of PTA school year.
View the Who Am I? Instruction Page
Enhanced IntroductionsSometimes, you just don’t have the time to do an icebreaker at every meeting. While most PTA’s can fit an icebreaker in to virtually every meeting, we do acknowledge that it is not always practical. As an alternative, you can do “enhanced introductions” – introductions with a little extra “something” that gives people a chance to connect beyond their name.
View the Enhanced Introductions Instruction Page