Do you occasionally notice your training students falling asleep? Well, guess what—their batteries are running out of juice! Whether it’s the need for an afternoon siesta or the dry material you’re presenting, they’re fading fast. What do you do? Do you give them another break? Before resorting to that, try one of these alternatives:

  • Icebreakers
  • Group energizers
  • Skill builders/knowledge builders

Plug these rejuvenators into your schedule as needed, and your class will be running like the Energizer bunny.

General rules of thumb
In every class, there are many different personalities. Your students have varied experiences and backgrounds. Make sure you inventory the characteristics of your audience and choose activities that are appropriate for them. It’s wise to have an assortment of activities prepared so that you can use one that suits your audience. Obviously, you can do a lot more with a group that’s fun-loving and not easily embarrassed than you can with a very serious group. Be cautious of activities that may be somehow controversial or make someone uncomfortable. Choose activities that lead the participants to a new level of skill, trust, or just plain fun.

When selecting an activity, don’t forget to take into consideration the group size. You may need to break up larger groups for the sake of time and organization. You should also set time limits for every activity—and stick to them. If you don’t, the class will run with the activity, and you won’t have time to finish the true topic of the class.

Icebreakers allow your students to become acquainted with each other. Generally icebreakers are best used before you begin a topical presentation. Here are two that I’ve often used, which seem to work for all types of personalities.

What’s your favorite animal?
I use this activity with introductions. Each participant tells the group what his or her favorite domestic and wild animals are and why. Then I tell them:

  • Their favorite domestic animals are supposed to represent the traits and characteristics they possess now.
  • Their favorite wild animals are supposed to represent the traits and characteristics they would most like to possess.

Name game
I typically use the name game as part of the individual introductions. It’s an easy way to remember people’s names and to learn, in some cases, a little bit about them. Each student should pick a word that best describes himself or herself and starts with the first letter of his or her name.


As an extra, I ask students to write their description and name on a place card. Be sure to stress the fact that they need to keep it clean. People do come up with dirty names for themselves, believe it or not. Funny, yes, but the professional training classroom isn’t the place for it.

Group energizers
Group energizers are designed to help invigorate your students by mixing participants and building team cohesion. Group energizers are best done with groups that have had some time to connect with each other. Here are two energizers I’ve used in the past:

This is a communication activity in which you promote teamwork and allow the members of the group to get to know each other better. Split the group up into teams, and give each team enough paper to document their responses. Instruct the group to discover the following:

  • Three commonalties that the entire team shares
  • One individuality per team member—a quality each person doesn’t share with the rest of the team (advise them not to choose something obvious)

For example, everyone in the group likes coffee, movies, and Nintendo 64. Sally likes Linux, but no one else in the group does. Paul likes iMacs, but he’s alone in that. Give the groups a specified amount of time to perform the activity. When the time is up, have each group present its findings to the other groups.

Check-in/check-out is a good way to start the morning or kick off the post-lunch session. It helps the group focus on the class and gets rid of the “outside things” going on in their lives. All you need is a ball or some other object that can be thrown around the room without hurting anyone. A Koosh ball or Nerf ball is highly recommended.

Checking in can be done with any topic. Using a topic that is related to the class, perhaps something from a previous lesson, helps to focus students on the material while still being actively engaging. To check in, the participant takes the ball, tells the class something related to the topic you’ve chosen, and finishes by saying “Checking in.” The participant then passes the object on to the next person.

Checking out occurs at the end of the class day. Participants pass the object around. As each participant receives it, they must tell the class something they learned that day and close by saying “Checking out.”

Skill builders/knowledge builders
Skill builders, also known as knowledge builders, are designed to enhance the participants’ knowledge of the material being covered. You can create any of the following games and make the rules yourself or have the class create the rules as a team.

  • Jeopardy
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Jumbled words
  • Tic-tac-toe
  • A trivia quiz
  • A quiz on the course material

When I conduct these games, I always have a basket of candy available to pass out to the winners. It’s inexpensive and gives them an incentive to win.

These suggestions will help you promote a charged and dynamic group when their batteries are running low. When you return to the subject matter at hand, these methods will help your audience stay revved up and ready to learn.
What types of activities do you use to energize your class? If you have some activities you’d like to share, then send us an e-mail or post a comment for your peers.