Large group icebreaker games in a theatre setting is a team building challenge.  You have a lack of space, large numbers, movement is constrained and you can’t form workable sub groups.   

When a client asked for ideas with this “impossible” brief,  it seemed a good idea to create this post to share my thoughts.
Many games emerged from the world of improvisation and will lighten the mood, energise the group and get a laugh.  I’ve chosen games that are simple to execute and brief, and where people don’t need a lot of space to move around.

Introduction Game: Simple instructions Large Group Icebreaker Games. In 60 seconds meet five people around you, tell them your name and two things about you.

[Tip: Use a sound effect every 12 seconds, so people switch. Give people A few seconds to come up with their “two things.” Perhaps model it with an example, so I would say I’m Cate Richards, I’ve been an entrepreneur for 10 years and I live by the beach with my two labradors who love to swim.]

Copy Clapping: This will raise the energy and receptiveness for the next games. Here is a Self explanatory youtube on this with thanks to Mark Collard of Playmeo

[Tip: The facilitator should practice this one in the mirror. Change quickly to keep energy high, obviously in theatre style not all the movements in this video can be tried]

Heads or Tails: Compile a list of quirky facts that could be true or false. Ask everyone to stand, read out the fact, and say hands on heads for true, hands on bottoms for false. Read out the answer, everyone who got it wrong has to sit, everyone who got it right gets to keep playing. Include a couple with surprising answers.

Standing Game Variation on Heads or Tails: These Large Group Icebreaker Games can be aligned to the goals of the group; the best examples might be delegates at an “eco” conference. Everyone stands to begin; you could say “stay standing if you recycled this week”, “stay standing if you came by public transport” etc etc so it gets more difficult and the people left standing are pretty “hard core”.

Idea acknowledgement Lesley Adams, Applied Improvisation Network forum.

Another large group icebreaker game is Back Dancing: People stand back to back with their neighbours (with backs touching) and have to emulate dance styles. Can be done with music. Run through different dance styles such as disco, slow dance, ballet etc

See this youtube video

Mexican Wave:
Always a favourite, especially in a large room. Orchestrate some different Mexican waves, side to side, front to back, edges to centre, two waves simultaneously crossing over, faster and slower.

Human Bingo:
Callout experiences or facts and ask everyone who has the same experience shouts “bingo” – for example; drives a Toyota, has three or more siblings, has two more grandparents alive, has travelled to Japan etc.

Balloon Race:
Give every 2 – 4 people in the back row a balloon. On go, they must blow it up bigger than their head, pass it to the person beside them to tie the knot. Once tied, use all the people down the row to send the balloon safely on its way to the front of the room. For “mayhem”, give everyone in the back row a balloon (obviously they will have to tie it up too).

Oscar Selfie:
Ask all the left handed people in the audience to stand up and take out their phone. Now they have to gather people around them for an “Ellen” selfie at the Oscars. Make sure everyone joins a group and gets in a picture. (You could use something other than left handed people, for eg, people wearing glasses, red heads etc)

[Tip: If you have a big screen show the Ellen selfie on a slide]

Chinese Whispers:
Place a 2 sentence tongue twister in an envelope and tape it to the base of the chairs in the aisles and ask that person to retrieve it.

On “go” they should whisper it to their neighbour to send it down the row. Winning teams keep the same tongue twister. (Both ends of the row should stand and compare what was said – you may need cordless microphones circulating in a large room)

If there are approximately the same number of people in the rows, make it competitive by seeing who gets their correct tongue twister to the facilitator first.

Fortunately / Unfortunately:
An improvised comedy game for pairs, where someone leads out positively with a “fortunately” statement, which is countered by the other person with something unfortunate. Teams generally need a demonstration of these games. After a short time you can change partners.

Chair Yoga: Could be a good one to finish on or coming out of a content segment such as speeches. Initially stay seated and complete some yoga stretches for the chair. Then stand up and complete further movements. Can finish with people turning to left and giving people in front of them a shoulder massage, then turning right for a massage.

[Tip: Note not all audiences will be comfortable with the physical contact of massages]

James Bond Aerobics: (shown best by this video but the sounds and actions could be modified for standing) Play the James Bond theme first

See this youtube video:

Facilitator Tips: 

Prepare, prepare, prepare and ask for help
It is great to have a few slides set up to accelerate the instruction process.
Keep instructions short, simple and clear
Consider the order of Large Group Icebreaker Games and the transitions between activities
You need a microphone and possibly a whistle or some other sounds to help get attention
You could make many of these games competitive by splitting the room in two or four and score some of the activities on a big scoresheet up the front.

Time to Fill? Stage a You Tube Film Festival.

If you have time to fill and have access to projection and sound, ask people to submit their funniest or best 2 minute max You Tube videos. Ask ahead of time, pick the best 10 and you’ll get a heap of laughter.

I hope this gives you some idea for dealing with a large group in a tight space.