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ASK, NOT TELL

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  • David

RAC - Ice Breaker

Updated: Mar 8

  • Course: A 2-day presentation class

  • Date: 12-13 May 08

  • Location: Shanghai, China

  • # of Learners: 7

  • I am feeling: 'Shaken'

This presentation class slot was actually started in Feb but was halted in the middle owing to my daughter’s birth. We have spent around 2 hours together in Feb before I left to the hospital. We arranged a replacement class slot for the learners last Monday.


I felt that I knew the learners quite well. After all, we have already spent around 2 hours together. And I also received a few emails from them asking about my newborn. In addition, the learners are all from the same year of graduation program. In other words, they know each other very well. As such, I decided to go straight into the class content, without running any ice-breaker in the beginning.


I was wrong.


Shortly after I started, I could sense something wrong in the class – a few pairs of sleepy eyes, under-table blackberry / mobile phone in action, lack of response to my questions…. They were not yet ‘turned on’ for the class. Whilst I was facilitating the class, I said to myself that the class could not go on like that. I needed them to stand up, do something and have some laughs. Luckily, I quickly came up with a new activity which can boost their energy but still related to presentation – I asked them to do impromptus presentation of non-work related topics.


I reflected after the class – First, why running ice-breakers in the first place?


Become comfortable – People, especially Asians, are hesitated to express their view in front of strangers. The ice-breakers make the learners more comfortable with each other and the trainer. Specifically, I want them to feel that it is OK to speak up and ask questions.

Make them start thinking about the topic – A good ice-breaker should also be related to the training topic. It makes learners start thinking about the topic. Some call such an ice-breaker an opener.


Catch their attention – Most learners have their mind occupied with some other issues when they join the class. The issues could be the fight with spouses in the morning, children with high fever resting at home, or the coming-up work deadlines.


With these in mind, I understand better why things went wrong in the class last week. They were comfortable with each other and they probably have thought about presentation since the halted class. However, I still need to do something to catch their attention e.g. to draw their mind back from their exciting weekend probably (since the class was on Monday), though it was the 2nd time we met up in class.


PS I said above I was feeling ‘shaken’ for this course. The 7.8mw Sichuan earthquake took place on Day 1 of the class. I really felt the earthquake myself. Whilst a learner was making her presentation, I started to feel dizzy. The others felt the same and we realized that it was earthquake. We then ran (intentionally, but it was too packed in the staircase) to the ground level!! Luckily, the earthquake was minor in Shanghai. However, it was a disaster in the Sichuan province……hope the recovery will take place soon.

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