Orientation Icebreaker

Try This Engaging Icebreaker from Team Building Expert Troy Stende

Planning and implementing an orientation program can be a huge task with many moving parts. Of course, you want your Orientation Leaders to have the skills and confidence to run engaging icebreakers, to be a more articulate speaker, and to understand how to work with their small groups. Having this type of training could help take your orientation program to the next level!

Most of the tasks involved in creating a successful orientation may be in your wheelhouse, so to speak. It may be a strength of yours. But some of those tasks may not be your favorite. Maybe you don’t feel competent or properly trained. Or maybe it drains your energy and feels like drudgery.

For most people (unless you are a superhero) this is a common thing…great at some things, not so great at others.

For those of you not so great at (or not so excited about) training your OLs, I am here to help. In my 20 years as a full-time speaker/trainer I’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes to train great leaders. All these skills (and more) are covered in my typical 4-hour training.

Below is the full script of an icebreaker I would use in training. The way I work is very experiential. We might do an icebreaker and then I’d step out of the roll to talk about why I did what did, said what I said and behaved the way I behaved. In addition, each leader gets to facilitate twice with immediate feedback. They learn by doing. This accelerates the learning because it’s easy to say you can run an icebreaker after seeing someone do it, but it’s another thing to actually DO it.

Enjoy this icebreaker. It’s work for me beautifully with tens of thousands of students over the past couple decades.



Create groups

The first thing I do is get them into smaller groups- ideally no less then 4 and no more than 12. It’s best if the groups are the same numbers, but depending on the number of people, that can be a difficult thing. My favorite size ranges from 8-10. It’s important to get them into their groups in quick and succinct manor.

Move them to the outside

“With your group, stand in a circle linking elbows. Without disconnecting your arms, shuffle yourselves to the outside of the room so you make a circle of circles. Go!” Get them to spread out; ideally, they are an equal distance from you in the center. “Now count yourselves off, one through how ever many people you have in your group so that everyone has a number.” Give them time to do this. It always amazes me that some groups take about a minute to do this. “Number 5, raise your hand” Look around to make sure every group has someone with a hand up. If they don’t, get them to find out who number 5 is. “Good, everyone has a number, right?”

The set-up

“The game is called, Bring it to me; Here’s how it works: I’ll call out a number. If that is your number, you will be the runner for that round. You’ll come to me in the center and we’ll huddle up and I’ll tell you to bring me something. I might say, ‘Bring me a left shoe’. Then I’ll say ‘break’ and you’ll go back to your group, get a left shoe, and bring it back to me as quickly as you can- while being safe of course. A couple things first. If you’re in the huddle and I ask you to bring me a left shoe, you can’t just take your left shoe off and say ‘Here’s my shoe’. You have to go back to your group to get a shoe. Now, if for some crazy reason, you are the only one in your group who has a left shoe (pause for laughter-people WILL laugh), then you would go back to your group and get a left shoe from yourself and bring it back to me. But you must go back to your group before you bring it to me. “ If the groups aren’t the same size I say; “You’ll notice that some of the groups have different numbers of people. If I call out number 10 and you only have 8, just send someone else. You figure out who it is. Someone will run twice. “

  • Keep them safe “Please be aware that this is not a full contact sport. Be safe and take care of each other. If the only way to win is to knock someone over and step on their face, then just come in second. It will be ok.” “What questions do you have?”

Game on!

Here’s how the game generally flows. I’ll yell out “Runner number 5!” and all the number 5s will rush towards me in the center. This can be a bit crazy the first time. If a group gets overly excited someone can actually crash into you. You might need to remind them to slow down.

I have them gather around me in a huddle and usually I take a knee and repeat, “Don’t go until I say break. Bring me an article of clothing that has red on it”. I repeat this several times while looking around to make sure everyone hears me. Then I yell “Break” and they rush off. When they start coming back to me I tell them to stay until every runner is back with their item. When the last person has come back, I go right into the next number. “Send down runner number 4”.

How you run this transition is the key to the activity. I don’t make this a competitive game by announcing a winner. There is a different, much more competitive version, and generally takes a long time to complete. I don’t do it that way. I’m just looking for people to have fun, get excited, pump up the energy and meet new people. I keep the flow moving fast and move from one item to the next without any fanfare about who’s quickest.


I like to play music during this program. It helps drive the energy. It helps to have someone running the music during the activity by turning the volume up or down depending on if you’re in a huddle or everyone is running crazy.

Here’s a list of items you might use:

1. Article of clothing with red on it

2. Three Cell phones

3. Two Rings

4. Two Earring

5. Bracelet

6. Three Watches

7. Six left shoes (I like to make a comment about how stinky it is in the room)

8. Pocket lint

9. Sweat (this is pretty gross and I only do this with certain groups who are ready for it)

10. Two people carrying one person (Make sure you stress safety. Tell the runner they can be a part of this or not. Only do this one if you think the group is ready for it and can be safe)

11. Two belts that are connected

12. A piece of hair that is not connected to the body

13. Bring everyone to me (This is the last round, and I do it differently. I tell the runner to bring everyone in their group to me and as they are running back to the group, I run off somewhere else– like the stage or end of the room– and stand on a chair, and as they all rush the center of the room I yell, “To me, to me!” and they all rush over to me. Sometimes I run from them and have everyone chase me for a few seconds.) After the last round I have them all give themselves a hand or give high fives all around as they go back to their seats to end on a playful, fun note.


About the Author

A professional keynote speaker and high impact trainer, since 1998, Troy Stende has been helping colleges and universities develop student leaders and increase retention rates. Troy presents unique and dynamic campus programs that include student icebreakers and orientation keynotes; customized programs and retreats for student leaders; and programs for staff, faculty and student advisors.Troy has become an integral part of orientations, retreats, and leadership series on campuses. He has presented in 47 states, including Alaska and Hawaii and presented international as well, having spoken in Singapore, Hong Kong and even Canada. Troy is co-author of; “College Success Secrets: what they don’t teach you in the classroom”. He is dedicated to developing campus leaders and increasing student retention.

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