Our 6 favourite workshop openers

Yes, we just ALWAYS do an opener (or several) at our workshops.

Even when time is short. We never forgo the warm-up.

Why, you ask?

Because warm-ups help your participants

  • to arrive mentally at the workshop and
  • work well together afterwards. Because they feel comfortable and have already gotten to know the other participants a little.
  • In addition, you can already include a first thematic introduction in the warm-up, if necessary.

This also applies to training sessions and meetings. Even if a meeting only consists of exchanging and passing on information and no group work is scheduled, point 1 still applies: let your participants arrive mentally. Make it a little nicer for them. They will thank you for it.

As always, methods follow goals, not the other way around. Do you want your participants to get to know each other better, or do you want them to dive right into the topic?

It is also important to frame / announce your methods accordingly. This way you avoid critical voices. You can read more about this in our article on Omega Castling.

By the way, all this is part of Forming – the first group dynamic phase according to B.W. Tuckman. It’s a helpful model to get clear about the dynamics in your group, which we have described in detail in several blog articles.

Here are our 6 favourite openers:

1. The constellation

During the constellation, your participants line up in the room according to predefined questions. For example, on an (imaginary) line (” How many kilometers did you travel today? How many years of experience do you have on the topic XY? “) or freely in the room (“I represent Vienna, place yourself in the room approximately where you come from“).

As a facilitator, you then go around the room and ask questions to individual participants, depending on where they are standing. Your participants automatically exchange ideas to find out where they should position themselves and, depending on the question, everyone learns something from each other. You can design the questions individually according to your needs.

2. The ZOOM Roulette

Since we just introduced an on-site technique, here’s something for the online space.

You prepare short questions that your participants answer in 2-3min quick break out sessions, e.g. in pairs. Again, you can easily adapt the questions according to your needs. In 2-3 short rounds your participants can exchange ideas and get to know each other better. Costs less than 10 minutes and brings your participants closer together.

3. Emoji Gallery

If you need to get online really fast: ask your participants questions that they can answer via emoji using the “Reaction” function (e.g. “What do you see when you look out of the window?”, “Which weather emoji best describes your current mood?” etc.) You can also adapt the questions to the topic of your meeting. The exercise works best in gallery view.

If you’re short on time, just comment on the side about what you see. If you have a little time, you can ask 1-2 participants about their choice of emojis.

ein Screenshot von einem ZOOM Meeting, die Teilnehmer haben ihre Videokameras an und manche haben verschiedene Emojis ausgewählt

4. Post-It Statistics

Similarly fast, with a little more feedback possibilities, the Post-It statistic works (also suitable for larger groups and little time).

All participants hold a Post-It on their camera (if necessary, this also works with the thumb) and remove the Post-It if a statement applies to them. For example: ” Who has had more than two cups of coffee today? Who comes from Vienna? ” or if it should fit thematically “Who has had more than 10? Between 5-10? Under 5? ” etc. This gives a nice, colorful picture and the participants a first impression about the other participants.

5. The Joint Poster

In the common poster, commonalities are written in the center of a flip chart for your participants to discover among themselves in a short group exercise. Individual concerns, expectations, hobbies, etc. are noted in individual boxes around the “community circle”.

You can vary this exercise – like most of the others – depending on your goal: do you only want your participants to get to know each other better, or do you also want to ask them about their expectations, expertise, areas of responsibility, etc.

By the way, the common poster can also be implemented online, if you work with an additional tool like PADLET or miro, or if you use the whiteboard function of your video tool.

Personen die um ein Flipchart stehen, 2 Männer 2 Frauen, sie unterhalten sich und lachen

6. Association Exercise with Object

In this exercise, you ask your participants to bring an object that he or she associates with the topic of your workshop, for example. At the beginning, each participant introduces him/herself based on the object. This method is also suitable for introducing participants in a panel discussion.

The association exercise can also be used as a closer. Ask your participants to intuitively grab an object that represents, for example, the most important learning (in training) or the most important TO DO after the workshop. In the plenum, everyone then briefly and succinctly presents their object. And thereby anchor the most important thing of the meeting also physically. Great!

As you can see, there are simply no limits to creativity with this exercise. That’s why we like them so much.

That’s it – our 6 favourite workshop openers. Do you use them in your workshops? What are your favourite openers? Feel free to share them with us in the comments!

We hope you enjoy using these methods! If you need more ideas for your workshops, or even think about external facilitation, feel free to contact us!

All the best,
Your BusinessMind Team