People enjoy learning little-known facts (LKFs) about each other. And people enjoy revealing such facts to their friends, perhaps because it makes them feel like celebrities.
Here are some typical LKFs that participants share about themselves:
- I have a twin sister.
- I always need to know which direction North is.
- I am addicted to soap operas.
- I read one murder mystery each week.
- I always check with my teenage son for answers to highly-technical computer questions.
Here are two opening activities that make use of LKFs:
Distribute index cards to each participant. Ask the participants to write a little-known fact about themselves and keep it hidden from the others.
Divide the participants into two equal-sized groups. Collect the cards from one group (called the confessors) and give them to the other group (called the inquisitioners), one card per participant, with the written side down. Warn the inquisitioners not to read the statement in the card they received.
Ask all participants to stand up. Ask the inquisitioners to hold the index card against their forehead with the written side showing. Make sure that the inquisitioner holding the card is not able to read it, but everyone else can.
Ask the inquisitioners to walk around the room. Tell them to ask different confessors whether the card belongs to them. If a confessor sees her card, he or she mast say "Yes".
Question the confessors. Once the correct confessor is tracked down, the inquisitioner asks a series of Yes/No questions to discover the exact nature of the LKF. The confessor responds truthfully but limits her responses to “Yes” or “No”.
Continue the inquisition. The question and answer session continues until the inquisitioner discovers the LKF. The inquisitoner verifies the guess by reading the statement on the card, places the card on top of his or her head, and walks around the room in search of someone else holding a card on top of her head.
Exchange the cards. Participants with the cards on tops of their heads swap cards with each other (without reading the LKF on the card) and repeat the search-and-question process all over again.
Conclude the session. Announce the end of the first round of this activity after a suitable period of time. Repeat the activity by collecting the original LKF cards form the inquisitioners and giving them to the confessors. Switch the roles of the participants and replay the activity.
Participants: Any number
Time: 20 minutes
Supplies: Index cards
Write a little-known fact. Distribute index cards to each participant. Ask the participant to write a little-known fact about himself in the index card and keep it hidden from the others.
Collect all the cards and set them aside. Ask the participants to stand up, walk around, meeting each other, and share two little known facts about themselves. One of these LKFs should be the one written on the card.
Organize teams. After a few minutes, ask the participants to return to their seats. Organize the participants into teams of four to seven people each. Distribute a random LKF card to each participant in each team.
Specify teamwork. Ask the participants to remove and hide their name tags and then work with their teammates to match each LKF card with the person who wrote it. They should do this by sharing the information they collected earlier during the walkaround session. (Some LKF cards may belong to the members of the team itself, simplifying this task.)
Ask for team reports. After a suitable pause, randomly select one of the teams to present its report. This team should read the LKF cards, one at a time, and identify the writer. The team earns 1 point for locating to the correct writer and 1 more point for giving the correct name of the writer. The team loses 1 point for pointing to an incorrect writer or incorrectly naming the writer. No points are earned or lost if the team confesses its ignorance.
Repeat the procedure with each of the remaining teams. The team with the most scores wins the game.
Usually, icebreakers do not require any debriefing. However, since there is something intriguing about what facts people choose to reveal about themselves, I conduct a quick debrief using these types of questions. Although the questions ask about people in general, they are designed to encourage the participants to reflect on their own individual behaviors:
What facts do people reveal about themselves? What facts do they hide from the others?
Why do people choose to reveal some facts and hide others?
What facts do people reveal to friends, to acquaintances, and to strangers?
Which is easier: to write anonymous statements or to talk about them in a face-to-face situation?
Would some people distort or make up facts about themselves? Why?
How would the types of little known facts vary between extroverts and introverts? Between men and women? Between younger and older people?
Do you think that this icebreaker will produce similar results when used with people from other cultures?