10 Public Speaking Ice Breakers That Actually Work

An icebreaker is an activity in public speaking that is designed to engage the audience and break the ice to get them ready to hear what you’re about to say. However, many of the icebreakers out there that the internet sites recommend are pretty average at best and in most cases downright awkward to use.

So I wanted to compile the list of 10 icebreakers that actually work.

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So what are these 10 icebreakers that actually work?

Now I’m going to break these into two distinct categories:

1) icebreakers for larger groups of people

2) icebreakers for smaller groups of people.

Now I’m going to assume that you’re in a more formal public speaking setting.

When you’re in a more informal, maybe a really small training group, where it is very hands on then these icebreakers might not work as well and you might need something that is more interactive.

But I’m assuming we’re at corporate meeting or a conference,or a church event or something like that Where it’s more formal public speaking engagement. So what are some of the icebreakers that we can use?

Public speaking ice breakers for large groups


Now, I want to say – avoid making really lame,very generalised jokes that don’t have to do with you. Definitely avoid jokes that might offend someone as well!

You don’t want to make a joke at the expense of anyone in the audience, a joke at the expense of the company, or a joke at the expense who’s introduced you, but the joke at the expense of yourself tends to work really well because you’re pointing at yourself so people can just laugh along with that.

Jokes like…

“Before coming here tonight I was discussing my talk with my wife and she said to me: ‘Don’t try to be too charming, too witty or too intellectual, just be yourself.’”

Don’t expect full blown laughter with any of these jokes, but it’s just kind of a teaser, just kind of warms it up.

If you’re at a formal dinner setting, and everyone’s getting the same meal or they have two alternating meals, you can say:

“Don’t you think it’s amazing that 200 of us all came together tonight and we all chose the same meal?”

They’re corny but sometimes they can work.

You could say: “Look, I have a bad feeling about this, I was talking to [whoever introduced you], they said they were going to tell a joke before I spoke but instead they just introduced me.”

So you’re implying you’re the joke.

These are some ideas for a couple of jokes that you can do, obviously one that you come up yourself is probably better.

Tie in the context of the company you work for or the situation you’re in. The more personal and more appropriate to the situation, the better are the jokes going to work.


You want to do a couple of things before when you’re doing raise your hand questions.

Firstly, you want to be positive with your raise your hand questions. Like: “Raise your hands if you want to be happy in life!” “Raise your hand if you want to make a million dollars!”

You don’t want to create negative raise your hand questions, because then you’re going to create a negative environment. So you’re saying: “Raise your hand if you don’t have much to show for the last year!” It’s not going to make people feel very good about themselves.

And when you’re doing raise your hand questions try to ask questions that most people are going to raise their hand to.

The whole idea of the raise your hand questions is to get audience’s engagement, and to get group involvement, so the people on the outskirts who aren’t really getting into your talk feel like they should get into your talk.

So if you open with a raise your hand question to which only person in the room can raise hand to, it’s going to be pretty awkward for that person. But if you ask a question where 9 out of 10 people raise their hand, that one person that doesn’t raise their hand kind of feels awkward because they’re not doing it.

It’s like using positive peer pressure.


So when you get there, just say: “I just want to tell you a story that I think it is very important for my speech today.” Or you go on and tell your story, but you leave the conclusion out and you say: “I’ll get back to that towards the end.”

And so what you’re doing – you’re drawing people in with stories, but you’re not finishing your story so it keeps them engaged.


A lot of people wouldn’t classify this as an icebreaker, but it really is. Get someone to introduce you and talk you up a little bit and get people warmed up for you as you come on to the stage.

Then the audience is anticipating your coming and you don’t need to break the ice as much because it’s already been a little bit broken for you.


I was recently reading Robert Kiyosaki’s book, Retire Young, Retire Rich. And he talks about an investment talk that he did, and he couldn’t think how to open his presentation.

As he was reading the morning paper, he came across a story about a couple who had retired about 10 years early. But he then used that news to tie into his story.

So when you get up on stage and you say: “I’ve read this really interesting article in the paper today,” or “Something really interesting or strange happened to me today.”

We are inclined as a culture to want to be ‘in the know’ so when something is happening in the news and people are talking about it we want to hear what it is.

So that’s a good way to get people engaged – to break some sort of news, whether it’s news that’s happened in your country or on the globe or whether it’s just something new that has happened in your life that’s a bit odd and a bit interesting.


Get the audience to say to the person next to them: “I’m so glad you’re here today.”

So everyone in the audience has to say that. Or tell them to give the person next to you a high five or give the person a handshake or turn around and say hello to the person behind you or in front of you.

So you get people to complete this small menial task that engages them with people around them and just kind of opens them up and gets them a little more engaged in your presentation.


Probably not the best icebreaker in the world but it can work especially if it’s a great quote and if it’s very specific to what you’re going to be talking about. Keep it specific to the context or make it a little bit funny.

So surf the internet and look for some quotes and potentially open with a quote.


So public speaking icebreakers for smaller groups.


Get everyone to introduce themselves in a strange way.

You could say: “I want everyone to go around the room and I want you to introduce yourself, introduce your name, and then tell us what item in the super market you would be?” or “what item in a hardware store you would be?” or “what kind of fruit you would be?” or “what kind of dish you would be?”

Or you could even do something like: “What is your porn star name?” (which is the name of your first pet, and then your last name as your porn star name is the name of the first street you lived in). So use these sorts of funny things, funny ways for people to introduce themselves.


This can work if the group doesn’t know each other at all, but it can also work if the group does each other and so you just say: “Look, this is Bob, and he’s actually a super hero at night, he moonlights as a super hero, and his super power is that he can spit fire,” or you make up whatever it is and people are inspired to use their creativity.


This can be something like you just asking questions to the audience and they have to raise their hands if it’s yes or leave it down if it’s no.

You can have it in such a way that people stand up and if they’re wrong, then they have to sit down.

If you’re at a conference, you can do it based on previous content that they should have heard and remembered. Or you can do it based on anything.

Ice Breakers That Actually Work

So there’s some icebreakers for you – 10 icebreakers that aren’t too awkward.

They aren’t mindblowingly amazing but they do work. They are very effective and I hope that gives you a starting place to look out where you’re going to open up your speech.

12 thoughts on “10 Public Speaking Ice Breakers That Actually Work”

  1. Pingback: A Common Problem Among Scientists: Not Being the Best Presenters – Lesson One – The Early Career Voice

  2. Nicholas Diaz

    I love this! I have a graduation speech next month and will be speaking and am going with number 6! I’ve tweaked it a little bit I know its going to loosen the mood and make us connect more!

  3. thanks so much. this is really helpful for my public speaking speech i have to prepare and give over. i feel a little more confident now.

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