Gather your group rather closely around you, as if standing in a small room.
Ask everyone to hold out their left hand as if they were holding their favourite drink.
On “GO” everyone shakes the hands and greets as many people in the room as possible.
Encourage people to use the name of the person they are greeting in the conversation.
For fun, announce your group has 43.5 seconds (or other nominal time) to achieve this task.
Video Transcript for Cocktail Party Ice-Breaker Game presented by Mark Collard
I would like you to imagine this is a standard cocktail party. You are buzzing around, social butterfly like, around all of the different people.
You come up and say, hi how’s it going Greg? You might check what they are drinking. Blah, blah, blah, but then you realise there is someone on the other side of the room you want to go see.
So you have to find a very ‘cocktail party’ fashion way of moving on. Such as, “look we must do lunchtime someday, bye, bye” and off you go.
So find some way of moving around so you can meet and greet every single person in this group in the next 17.2 seconds. Go.
(Group talking as part of Cocktail Party ice-breaker game)
How To Play Narrative
Looking for a quick way to wrap up a ‘get-to-know-you’ session, perhaps reinforce a few names your group may have just learned, or simply cut to a drinks break? This is it.
Invite people to bunch around you, describing the image of palatial surroundings, evening gowns, black ties and cocktails around you. Suggest that each person holds in their left hand (not their right) an imaginary drink, or cocktail if they choose.
Then, on your signal, everyone is encouraged to meet, shake the hands of and greet as many people at the party as possible, in say, 43.5 seconds.
On “GO,” it will sound something like, “OOOOHH, DARLING, SO GOOD TO SEE YOU!. I’M HAVING A FRIGHTFULLY GOOD TIME……”
Chat for a few moments, discuss drinks, recent holidays to the Swiss Alps, and then in typical cocktail party fashion, interrupt the conversation with a “WELL, DORIS, I MUST KEEP MOVING.” Air kiss, kiss (these are not mandatory,) and .”..BYE BYE!”…and off you go to greet another party guest.
Suggest to your group that they should use the other person’s name as often as possible, perhaps ask about the other person’s drink (remember, they are holding on to it,) etc, but not spend too long with any one person.
For a bit of fun, ask someone for the time and see if they spill their drink (looking at their watch!)
When you feel like the heat has started to dissipate from the party, quell the action and ask your group did they notice anything odd about the activity. Someone will usually remark that “There’s nothing in my hand,” which is your cue to say….”LET’S REMEDY THAT SITUATION – LET’S TAKE A BREAK AND HAVE A DRINK…”
Naturally, the nominated 43.5 seconds is not a magic number, simply a time I’ve pulled out of the air, short enough to foster lots of quick greetings and conversations.
To get your group into the spirit of the occasion, demonstrate what a typical ‘cocktail’ party conversation looks and sounds like (adding the requisite get-away line) before you announce “GO.”
In your demonstration, ask a number of people what they are drinking. Always fascinating.
As everyone is doing the same thing at the same time, this exercise provides plenty of ‘safe’ spaces for people to totally ham-up their cocktail party banter, or… not.
Big shout out to the many awesome trainers at Project Adventure during my internship training days, who presented this wonderful cocktail party ice-breaker game many times.
You could integrate Cocktail Party as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships in your group.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Understanding & Expressing Gratitude
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Build Positive Relationships
Demonstrate Cultural Competency
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
The opportunities to engage in multiple episodes of interaction and sharing make this exercise ideal for programs that aim to explore and develop healthy and supportive relationships. For example, you could introduce this ice-breaking exercise for the following purposes:
Observe, study and understand the variety of social cues people demonstrate and express when meeting with others;
Observe how different people navigate different social situations and explore why;
Identify opportunities for responsible decision-making, eg showing respect to all people; and
Discuss the importance and benefits of connecting with other people.
You could also present this exercise as an opportunity to frame a discussion about, for example, what is acceptable or not acceptable when people meet each other for the first time?
Teetotaller: For kids or groups that may not imbibe alcohol, suggest they are holding their favourite (soft) drink.
Food Court: Imagine you are in a swanky Food Hall. Invite people to mingle as they treat themselves to the extraordinary array of fine foods available on people’s food trays.
Unique & highly interactive method of introductions.
Non-threatening method to invite sharing in a group.
Dynamic team-forming strategy controlled by your group.
Useful Framing Ideas
How often have you been stuck in a conversation you wish you could get out of? Do you have a repertoire of ‘get-away’ lines you call on in such situations? Here’s an opportunity to practice this skill, not to mention, have some fun…
The gentle art of conversation is not often taught, or indeed, practised these days. One of the biggest barriers for some people is that they don’t know what to talk about, especially with someone new. However, in most cases, when one or more topics of conversation are suggested (eg your name, the drink you are holding, etc,) the ease at which the conversation occurs increases significantly…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun ice-breaking game:
What did you notice as you mingled with others in the group?
How many of you could remember the drinks other people were holding? Why do you think this occurred, when the focus was on greeting others and exchanging names?
How does the atmosphere of this artificial ‘cocktail party’ differ from the manner in which your group normally interacts?
Fun & Easy ‘Ice-Breaker’ Session
What You Need:
8+ people, 30 mins, ‘Ice-Breaker Question Exchange’ cards (Print+Play) & bunch of soft tossables