What is the “Who are you?” icebreaker 👀
The “Who are you?” icebreaker forges connections by getting people to share as much as they can about themselves in short breakouts. This activity pushes people beyond their usual answers and encourages sharing at a deeper level.
To do this, participants are paired off into breakouts and asked to answer the question “Who are you?” by using as many signifiers about themselves as they can (e.g. mother, facilitator, pet owner, etc.).
They are then re-paired for a second round, with a catch: they’re not allowed to use any of the same signifiers. This is repeated for a third round before ending with a debrief.
How to run this icebreaker
You can run this icebreaker for complete strangers or for team members who already know each other.
The activity itself takes 12 minutes:
- 2 minutes to explain and provide an example
- 2 minutes for breakout room 1 (+ 30 seconds to return to main room)
- 1 minute to provide new instructions
- 2 minutes for breakout room 2 (+ 30 seconds to return to main room)
- 1 minute to reiterate the instructions
- 2 minutes for breakout room 3 (+ 30 seconds to return to main room)
Then, take 10 minutes to debrief.
Running the activity
- Start by framing the activity. If you’re facilitating a session for a group of strangers, introduce the activity as a way to get to know more about each other and who is in the room. If it is for a team who already knows one another, you can ask them, “How well do you think you actually know each other? This activity will give us a clue!”
- Introduce the instructions: “For this activity, you will be placed in pairs in a breakout room and have one full minute to answer the question ‘Who are you?’ It may sound simple enough, however I want you to think about as many identifiers as you can during that minute that make up who you are.”
- Role-model and provide an example by sharing as many true identifiers about yourself. For example, “I’m a learning experience designer, I’m a book nerd, I’m a foodie, I’m a travel addict, I’m the youngest in my family, I consider myself a citizen of the world, I’m passionate about experiential learning and psychological safety, I’m a loyal friend, I can now proudly call myself a leader although it took me years to do so, etc.”
- Check and see if there are any questions. You can also ask the group to give you a thumbs up or finger wiggle on the screen if the task is clear.
- Launch the breakout rooms with 2 people in a room for 2 minutes. You can also have groups of 3 people, just make sure to adjust the time to 3 minutes so everyone has a minute to share.
- When everyone returns, ask the group, “By a show of hands, who learned something interesting about your partner?” Wait for people to raise their hand and then say, “Now you are going to do this again with a new partner and I will give you the added challenge to not mention anything that you have already shared in the previous breakout room.” You can remind the group that if for some reason they wind up in a pair with the same person, it is an opportunity to get to know each other on a deeper level because none of the identifiers will be the same!
- Mix up the pairs and launch the breakout rooms again.
- When everyone returns, explain that you will launch them into the final round of breakouts. Encourage them to go deeper and share new identifiers that were not previously stated. Remind the group that you know it can be very challenging and to share as much as they can and are willing.
- Once the final breakout has ended, welcome everyone back to the main room and start the debrief process.
- Here are some suggested debriefing questions from the group (feel free to adapt based on your target audience and specific learning objectives):
- How was that activity for you?
- What did you notice about the difference in your identifiers from round 1 to round 3?
- What struck you about some of the responses you heard from your partners?
- What can we learn or take away from this activity?
- (if relevant) How might we foster more connection on a personal level within this team moving forward?
- If you are facilitating this activity for a team that already knows each other, you may want to insist that they can only respond with non-work-related answers.
- If this is for a team who knows each other, you may also want to close out the debrief by asking everyone to share one identifier in the chat that most people on the team are not aware of about them. Then provide time for everyone to read through them so they can all learn about the entire group.
- If you feel it can help the group, you may suggest that when they are feeling really stuck they can share a past identifier used before. You may also want to reiterate that if they wind up in a breakout room with a previous partner, it’s a nudge to get to know each other even more!
Special thanks to Ahmad El Nashar for first introducing Romy to this activity!
About the creator
Romy Alexandra is a Learning Experience Designer and Certified Experiential Learning Trainer.
She is passionate about designing and delivering impactful, experiential workshops that empower individuals to integrate emotional intelligence and experiential learning into their daily lives. Romy is a faculty member at the Institute for Experiential Learning where she leads the course, "Facilitating Experiential Learning Online".
She brings a decade of experience working with clients such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Red Cross, the Peace Corps, The European Youth Parliament, and many more.