Pick n Mix: A magnet of an icebreaker

Yesterday we did a workshop on participatory data collection to DevNet participants across New Zealand and the Pacific.  The workshop was designed to be fun and safe and give people working in international development some useful techniques and tips.  One of the techniques we practiced was how to get people to come together and connect at the start of a workshop to remove those awkward silences.  ‘Pick n Mix’ is like a magnet that quickly draws people together to start talking.

Here’s how you do it…

As everyone enters the room invite people to pick one thing out of a container.  We put equal numbers of pens, cocktail umbrellas and chocolate in a large plastic salad bowl.   Choose items that have meaning for your participants e.g. shells, rocks, flowers, fruit, beads would be ideal things to include for Pacific workshops.

Once everyone has selected an item, invite them to find people who have the same item and start a conversation.  Don’t labour it by saying what people must talk about.  Remember the aim of the technique is just to get people talking.

We found that people not only said their name, occupation and where they lived, but they also revealed a little about their personality by saying why they picked the cocktail umbrella over the pen or chocolate (and vice versa).  We also found that people with the same item sat together in the workshop.  This must have been due to the technique’s invisible magnetic field.

Ciao! Sandar and Anna

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