In the summer of 2003, I attended a train-the-trainer session. It was my first formal opportunity to learn how to “be” a trainer—and my first day on a new job. I was attempting to break into a new career path. I had somehow convinced my new company’s management that I would be a good trainer (even though I had never been properly educated).
I still remember the trainer’s advice that we begin each training class by standing next to the first row of seats and patiently waiting until all of the participants’ eyes focused on us. Then, we were to introduce ourselves and welcome the participants to the class. It worked like a charm—when I did it correctly.
Over the next few years, I learned something about myself as a trainer: I am never comfortable with opening a class. Indeed, I’m usually unsure of what to say first. It seems that over time, I would have developed a customary opening, but I never did. This may be because I like to think that one of the charming aspects of my training sessions are my “off-the-cuff” interactions with participants. A canned opening just never made its way into my bag of training tricks. So despite the fact that by most accounts I am a good trainer, I have never been comfortable breaking the ice.
Fast forward to the summer of 2011 to when I was teaching a graduate class about how to facilitate adult groups. I spent a good bit of time in that course discussing ice breakers and how to open an adult group process or meeting. Yet, I was still uncomfortable doing it myself.
In fact, opening a class proved a stumbling block just three days ago when I was teaching one of my undergraduate classes. I started the class three minutes late because I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to be my first words. Ironically, near the end of the class, I taught them the “two truths, one lie” ice breaker as a tool for getting to know their group members for the class project.
And so it is with my first contribution to ASTD’s Higher Education Blog—breaking the ice is hard.
This is my first blog post and I am not sure what to write. Essentially, how should I break the ice with readers? I finally decided to do just as I do with my classes: just jump in and hope that I don’t embarrass myself with the first tentative thoughts that leave my lips (or fingers, as is the case in typing this post).
These days, my class openings typically run along the lives of, “So, how was your weekend?” or “How is everyone tonight?” My students rarely answer me after I utter my first words. However, by the time I ask them again in a louder (more assertive) voice, with a big smile on my face, the ice has not only been broken, but I’m ready to string together coherent sentences on my quest to make them love HRD as much as I do.
“So, blog readers, how is everyone doing today?” :) (Consider the ice broken.)