How to improve your ice breaker

We’ve all heard the ice cream introduction. A facilitator asks you to give your name, position, how many years you’ve been with your company and your favorite ice cream flavor.

Try it in Columbus Ohio and you will get some fun answers. There is a food war going on in Ohio between Jenni’s and Graeters.

At Jenni’s, you will find wild flavors like: brambleberry crisp, thai chili, Ohio sweet corn with blackberry conserve, wildberry lavender and cherry lambic. For the holidays you can even get frankincense and almond cake. The experience in the store is great; as soon as you walk in the door, you are offered tastes as you make the tough choice and decide on a premium $3 a scoop treat. It’s the hot trendy spot to hang out.

At Graeters, it’s a little more traditional. It feels like a small town scoop shop. The flavors don’t surprise: black cherry, caramel, strawberry, cookies ’n cream, butter pecan, chocolate and the like. You can have it in any favorite format including a cup, cone, sundae, banana split, shake or malt. So what’s so special? Graeter’s has perfected a traditional French Pot process. This is why the ice cream has an irresistible creaminess.

I learned all about the debate over whether Jenni’s or Graiters was the best ice cream in the world when I opened a training class in Ohio with the ice cream introduction. I then had to try both brands and make up my own mind. Both were great, but I realized the ice cream opener needed to be expanded.

During my next class in Ohio, I added one caveat to the ice breaker. I asked everyone to give their favorite flavor and to share a memory of why that was their favorite. In the land of the ice cream war, all the answers changed.

I heard about making vanilla ice cream with a touch of rum in Grandma’s basement. Two people had great memories of a cone from McDonalds. A discussion on whether to twist or not to twist ensued. Many stories about their children’s experiences with ice cream came out on the table. Someone talked about how they loved mint ice cream their whole life until someone declared that it tasted like mint toothpaste. Since then, they can’t eat it without it reminding them of toothpaste.

We learned more about each other and not a single person ever talked about anything like bacon and maple syrup ice cream. Someone did have to bring up the new Schweddy Balls flavor, but they were huge SNL fans, so we got a good story about Saturday nights in college watching the show with friends and how the flavor reminded them of those days.

The ice breaker took three times as long as usual, but was ten times more valuable. Everyone knew something interesting about each other, which really added to the experiences throughout the day. Try it out the next time you open a meeting.

photo by Katrina Snaps

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