Leadership Inspirations Facilitator Content
Types of Activities
Know the different types of facilitation activities and the best times to use them with your group
Activities are tools that act as a valuable form of experiential learning. If you’ve ever searched for “teambuilding activities” online, you’ve probably been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of activities that exist. It can be hard to know what you are looking for or where to begin! This ‘paralysis by analysis’ can sometimes lead you to pick an activity that is not appropriate for your group or doesn’t help the group get closer to its goals.
When faced with choosing an activity, it can be helpful to narrow down your options. One of the ways that you can do this is by Activity Type. We classify activities into six different categories for facilitators: Icebreakers, Energizers, Mixers, Games, Bonding Activities, and Experiential Activities. Participants may call any of these ‘teambuilding activities,’ but they are different and have different purposes. It’s important to be precise when choosing an activity so that the activity matches the desired learning outcomes you have for your group. You may find that many activities fall into several of these categories, and that’s okay! These categories are simply meant to be a framework that helps facilitators narrow down options so that you can choose the right activity for you and your group.
TYPES OF ACTIVITIES
Icebreakers are used to break down barriers between people and help people get to know each other. The benefits of icebreakers are that they are low risk for all participants. They are a great way for a group to introduce themselves and interact with one another in an active and engaging way. You can also use icebreakers with established groups as a way to jump start a new meeting or session.
Energizers allow you to manipulate the energy in the room. When used effectively, they can change the energy in the group to be either higher or lower. This means you can take a group’s low energy and make it high for a brainstorming session, or take high energy and bring it down for an important meeting. Energizers are ultimately tools that help to shift the focus of your group so that they are better prepared for whatever it is that you have planned next.
Mixers are used to introduce larger groups of people to each other. They are a combination of icebreakers and energizers. These activities are extra large group events where people are meeting and interacting with one another. You can do these activities with hundreds of people and often the goal is to meet as many people as possible.
Games are competitions with clear winners and losers. You can win a game, but you can’t win any of the other kinds of activities included here. Friendly competition can be a helpful tool for connecting and motivating groups. You do not need to debrief a game or relate a game to any sort of learning outcome, games are just for fun!
Bonding activities are used to deepen relationships between members of a group. The benefits of bonding activities are that they allow group members to form closer relationships with each other and the group as a whole. These activities are typically higher risk for participants and require trust and a safe space for sharing to be effective.
Experiential activities help the group learn a lesson or solve a problem. These activities can be any kind of activity or structured leadership lesson because they are characterized by a debriefing discussion afterwards. Experiential activities require trust and buy-in from group members to be successful and should not be attempted before the group has had a chance to get to know each other through icebreakers or mixers first. The benefits of experiential activities are that they can be completed or ‘solved’ in a variety of ways depending on the group and the instructions given. Different groups can, and often will, participate in the same experiential activity very differently. This means that each group will realize leadership lessons that are unique to them and their own group dynamic. Not all groups will be successful in completing experiential activities, and that’s okay as long as they get to discuss why. The challenges and lessons that come from the activity are key during the exercise and should be explored during a debrief. Really any activity can be used as an experiential activity as long as the facilitator is intentional in their purpose for the activity and the learning outcomes discussed in the debrief.
Once you’ve decided what type of activity you are looking for, you can use the advanced search function on our Activities Database to sort activities by Activity Type. For other considerations on how to choose an activity, check out more useful content like the Group Development Model and Adjusting to Group Size.