Icebreakers with a twist

Icebreakers are sometimes overlooked as a non essential, flippant or even embarrassing way to kick off a facilitation or training session.

If these thoughts ever pop into my mind I soon recall the one or two training events I ran where I decided not to use an icebreaker, and how disastrous they were.

Used correctly, icebreakers are a great way for a group to get to know one another, to relax and to get into an optimum mindset for learning.

Here are some of my favourite icebreakers; all with a visual twist.

1. Truth or Lie
A classic icebreaker. Each person calls out two statements about themselves, one is true, one is false. The group have to guess which is which.
Add a visual twist by asking for a volunteer to draw the first person’s two statements on a flip chart or virtual whiteboard. (Once they have finished someone else takes a turn drawing their two statements, and so on.) Guessing can be tracked by drawing True False columns on the page and adding a tick under the column when someone guesses. If done virtually people can add their guesses using Annotation. 
The volunteer has absolutely no idea what the person is going to say, and although at first the thought of drawing on the spot may seem horrifying, in my experience everyone really enjoys this game. The drawings make it a hilarious and memorable experience for everyone.

2. Animal Alphabet Game
Start by drawing an animal beginning with the letter A, again using a flipchart or online whiteboard. Whoever is first to guess what the animal is (if running thison Zoom for example, you can invite people to add their guesses into the chatbox or type them on the screen using annotation – set the annotation function so that names are visible – this makes the process quicker) gets up to draw an animal beginning with B and so on. I have used this with groups of children and adults alike and everyone loves it, despite often getting stuck on N, Y, W…

3. Pictionary
Who doesn’t love Pictionary? Not just for Christmas, it’s also a fun and engaging way to open a session. People take turns drawings words, sayings or topic specific phrases whilst others guess at what is being depicted. What could possibly go wrong?!

Despite some initial resistance, once the games get started everyone will want to have a go.

If you are doing this virtually and have never drawn on a virtual whiteboard before then this is the perfect way to start! It will feel odd to use your mouse or tracker to draw on the screen, and the drawings probably will come out all wobbly and a bit strange looking, and that’s kind of the point 🙂

Bonus tip: Get your creative thinking hat on and consider how you can tie in one or more of the above icebreakers with the content you then discussing.


Have you used any of these icebreakers? Have you got any more ideas for fun icebreakers? I’d love to hear from you. Share your comments in the box below.

So you think you can’t draw?

So you think you can’t draw?

The first time I saw one of my Dad’s drawings was last September. We were visiting my brother’s house and my niece was gently encouraging (i.e. pestering) him to draw on her blackboard.

He drew a tree and a boat. At that moment I realised I had never seen my Dad draw before. It was quite a strange feeling. Much like when you see a friend’s handwriting for the first time, it was a curious insight into his personality, his uniqueness.

This human element, this insight into someone’s personality is one of the key reasons I love hand drawn graphics so much.

You just don’t get that with those stock images you see in many PowerPoint presentations and websites. (My personal bugbear are the photos of  glossy ‘office people’ with big teeth and headsets. Who looks like that? Not many folk in Scotland anyway!)

The human element is just one of many advantages of using hand drawn graphics. Yet despite the multiple benefits people often resist picking up the marker and giving it a go. Why is this?

That’s right, it’s because people believe they can’t draw. They don’t see themselves as artistic.


Do you know what response you would get if you asked a child of 4 whether they think they can draw?

They look at you like you’re mad (I’ve tried it.) ‘Of course!’, is the typical response.

What happens when you ask a child of 7 the same question?

They don’t immediately say yes. It’s often ‘maybe’ or ‘sometimes.’

Is this because a child’s drawing ability has dramatically changed between the ages of 4 and 7?

No, it’s because by the age of 7 early conditioning will have set in. By this age we’ve often been labelled as either ‘good at maths’, ‘sporty’, ‘artistic’, ‘musical’ etc. It often becomes a label for life.

So perhaps you can draw? Perhaps it’s time to revisit your confident 4 year old self.

The truth is if you can draw a line, a circle and a squiggle then you can draw. It’s all about building on key elements.

After all research has shown that a drawing only needs 30% of reality for it to be recognisable.

Kinda takes the pressure off!

So it really doesn’t matter if your house is a square with a triangle on top, or your stick man looks like he’s had one too many. People will get it. That’s the main thing. It doesn’t have to be perfect to get the message across.

Graphics isn’t art. In fact people with a background in art often struggle with graphics because it is so quick, so simple, so in the moment. There is no room for egos when you’re working live with a group of people. Thank goodness for that.


At the end of every graphics course I run I ask the delegates for some feedback. At the back of my office door I stick up all my favourite comments. This is currently number one:

Found out I can draw!

Join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics in Edinburgh on September 5th 2017 and discover what you can do.

Five fun ways to build visual thinking into your everyday activity

The best way to use visuals and graphics is to enhance the work you are already doing. This way graphics don’t become an extra item on your to-do list, rather they make the to-do list just a bit more interesting…

1. Invest in an unlined notebook.
Whether you’re a fan of A4, A5 or the tiny A6 choose a notebook that is line free. It’s much easier to get into the habit of drawing graphics when presented with a fresh clean white page.

2. Ditch the biros.
Biros tend to suffer the same fate as socks and teaspoons – they disappear into an unknown vortex never to reappear. So why not bring some colour into your life and opt for a fine nib set of markers such as Berol Fine Tip? Don’t be surprised when people ask for a copy of your notes at the end of a meeting.

3. On the phone? Make visual notes.
The next time you’re on the phone to someone use a combination of text and graphics to jot down what they say (with the aid of your unlined notebook and fine tip pens). It’s fascinating to look at afterwards, especially when it brings home the fact that yes, your sister did spend the last 35 minutes waxing lyrical about her latest squeeze.

4. Pimp your to-do list.
We all use to-do lists. They tend to be long, tedious and without end. Inject a bit of interest by adding a graphic to each item on your to-do list. This is also a great way to remember what actually needs to be done!

5. Design a template for an action plan.
Whether or not you take minutes at a meeting more often than not there will be an action plan at the end. Why not design a graphic template for this that you can reuse over and over again? Far more interesting than just another list…

My last tip is to share what you’ve created with your networks. Take a photo of your visual notes and share it on Twitter or LinkedIn. The positive feedback you receive will encourage you to keep going.

Good luck!

Want more tips? Join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics open course on September 5th. Sign up here.

In the market for markers? Here’s a 20% discount

This post was initially emailed to my subscribers on December 3rd, 2015.

I’ve spoken about markers before, and for some time Berol were my absolute favourite. That was until I discovered Neuland NoOne….

Not only are these gems chisel tipped and non-permanent, they come in a giddily satisfying range of colours and they are refillable.

Impressed? You should be.

And if your excitement hasn’t yet reached fever pitch then how about a 20% discount?

I’ve negotiated a deal with Pinpoint Facilitation (the only suppliers of Neuland markers in the UK) whereby you, my lucky subscriber, can avail of a 20% discount by using the code:


when you buy regular sized markers online at

or CMF20Big1

when you buy super chunky markers online at

P.S. The discount is available until the exchange rate changes or Neuland increase their prices (Apologies I haven’t been able to Pinpoint a specific date…)

Good news! 50% funding extended for Scottish businesses

This post was initially emailed to my subscribers on Friday 26th June 2015.

I don’t know about you but since the 1st of April I’ve been checking the Skills Development Scotland website to see if the Flexible Training Opportunities (FTO) training fund was going to be extended for 2015-2016.

And now – at last – I can reveal that it is!

The FTO fund allows employers to reclaim 50% of the cost of training.

However there are some changes to the fund this year, most notably:

  • An increase in the maximum amount payable for one training opportunity to £1000.
  • Introducing a minimum cost threshold for training of £200.
  • Reducing the maximum level of payment a company can receive to £3000.

You can get the full lowdown and make your application online via this link.

If you are interested in using FTO towards the cost of Collected Works services, namely:
– graphic facilitation (strategic visioning etc.)
– training including graphic facilitation training
do let me know and I can assist with the form filling.

It’s good news all round!

Happy Friday,