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What is your favorite icebreaker (meetings, parties, dates, socials)?
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You know what it’s like to be frozen out. I don’t know anyone who likes it! The awkward times in which you join a new group are among the most difficult for me. As an individual who went through a great deal of bullying, and thus has PTSD and anxiety because of it, you can imagine that it is fraught with FEELINGS. None of them are icy, although we describe it in similar terms. In fact, I sweat and get shaky. Or, rather, I used to. What changed? Well, mainly, things get better.
If I could express anything to anyone going through bullying, I would tell them that it does get better. Nothing is perfect, and it takes a lot of therapy sometimes to come back from the abuse, but you can come back from it. You can’t come back from choosing the final step. So, if you ever felt like things were good at any time in your past and wish you could get back to that feeling again–hang on to that. Please lean in to help (whether that is medical, family, friend, or mentor). Build a great found family and support system around you. You’re worth that!
Today, I still don’t care much for ice breakers. However, my work life has gotten me rather used to being in a room with a lot of people I don’t know very well, if at all. I’ve worked in purchasing offices, university offices, and training offices. They all do the same meetings and they all do conferences, and they’re all frozen at the start. I’ve gone through a lot of team building exercises and ice breakers in my career to get over those climates.
My favorite ice breaker was born in an activity that really helped me come out of the shell that bullying had built around me. These had nothing to do with my career in office work, although I can credit them with giving me the know how! Had I not suffered all those frozen meetings and conferences, endured the awkward face-to-face time, and meals isolated from anyone I knew, I would not have been able to run the meet-and-greets I used to set up online or in-person for my books.
I’ve been working with online meeting spaces a lot longer than COVID, too. When the pandemic hit, I was well-versed in working online and at home. The adjustment came easy. Part of that experience was online meetings. While they weren’t quite the same as FaceTime, Zoom, TEAMS meetings, or WebEx, they gave me the baseline in which to work.
The main point is that this experience brought me into creating my own icebreakers to beat the frozen crickets in the audience. In order to get readers attending the online meet-and-greet excited about the books I presented, I had to get them to have fun. Games and other activities are a big way to do this. You can play trivia, online scavenger hunts, and even book bingo. All of these are essentially ways to break the ice, get attendees excited about you through engaging them. The bonus is the prizes they can be awarded.
What was my favorite? I had a game where I asked participants to use a baby name site to find the meaning of their name. Then go to a Sanskrit site I linked and enter those words to find out what it is in Sanskrit. This wasn’t translating their name but the meaning of it into the language of the duta in my Trailokya Series. For instance, my name means warrior woman. In Sanskrit that is bhaTa nAri.
This, of course, doesn’t work with every book by any means. It was something very specific to my work. Could an author change it to work with their books? I don’t think it would translate unless language and culture is a big thing in your narrative. The uniqueness of this activity is why I liked it so much. You’re welcome to try, if you think you have a spin on that game that would work well for you.
That reminds me: changing up icebreaker activities is an important step to preparing any meeting (or book signing). Ice breakers can easily get stale. I’ve seen them fall awkwardly short of their intended outcome. Sometimes, however, its just the crowd you’re working with. Not everyone can be made to care or get into the moment. We all have minds and hands full every day. It isn’t always so easy to just set that down for a minute and get into a game. Sometimes, they’re just gonna be frozen.
If you have the opportunity to learn how to provide training, along with all the learning techniques out there, I highly recommend it. Doing this has helped my presentation skills immensely, as well as ease those anxious feelings of delivering presentations. If its online, I have no problems doing this. I am still working on the in-person, but I have always had stage fright, and it’s a tough thing to get away from.
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