Wednesday, January 28, 2015

12+ Icebreakers to start Core Group or other events

More information can be found in Module 5 Core Group and other Volunteers. This module is a free .pdf download when you register at 

Many Mpowerment Projects (MP) find it fun and useful to start off their Core Group meetings with an introduction of each participant and a short, engaging icebreaker game. 

This helps men, especially new participants, feel more comfortable talking during the group and also gets the creative juices flowing for the agenda to follow. In fact, we have noticed that even though a few Core Group members sometimes balk at doing 'corny' exercises, meetings beginning with a team-building exercise often have less conflict and are easier to facilitate than meetings without such exercises. You may even have a Core Group member(s) assigned to come up with a new interactive icebreaker each week. The icebreaker facilitation can be done either by a Coordinator or a Core Group member.

Bottom line: make your meetings fun as well as productive.

RELATED3 easy to remember motivators for joining your Core Group. 

Mpowerment YVR | Vancouver, Canada

Penny for your thoughts?
Needed: A penny for each participant.
Directions: Have each participant take one penny. Have each participant tell a story about something significant about the year on his penny. PS:  It is helpful to have pennies minted after most participants were born.

Take and talk
  • Needed: A roll of toilet paper, or enough small objects in a bowl for each participant to take several of, such as straws, pennies, small rocks, wrapped candies, condoms, etc.
  • Directions: Have each participant take from one to ten sheets of toilet paper off the roll, or one to ten objects out of the bowl. When all of the participants have taken at least one piece of toilet paper or one object, tell them that they now get to tell the group as many things about themselves as pieces of toilet paper or objects they took.
Question of the week
Brainstorm a list of questions. Ask a new question each week. Sample questions:
  • Whom do you admire the most? In what ways does this person inspire you?
  • Do you think the world will be a better or worse place 100 years from now?
  • Is there something you've dreamed of doing for a long time?
  • What is your coming out story?
  • etc. etc., ... the possibilities are endless!
Note that the questions aren’t answerable with one-word responses. Use them to generate discussion in the group.

DENIM | Mpowerment Washington DC
Crossing the stream
Needed: 4-5 “islands”—that is, irregularly cut out pieces of paper, masking tape, and 2 handkerchiefs (one for a blindfold, one to tie someone’s hands together)
  • Directions: everyone is on the same team. the group has to get from one side of the room to the other “across the stream.” they have to cross by walking together across the “islands.” Once the first participant starts walking across, the person behind him has to follow and keep their foot on the island the first person has his foot on at the same time. So if the first participant starts with, for example, his left foot on the first island, and then takes a step and puts his right foot on the second island, then the second participant has to put their foot on the first island before the first participant steps with that foot to the third island, and so on.
  • If anyone takes a step without having two feet on the island, then that island gets taken away!
  • to make it more difficult, one person can be blindfolded, one person can have his hands tied together, one person cannot be spoken to, and one person cannot speak! Participants have to communicate with them in a different way.

RELATED: 2 Easy Group Exercises: Addressing Homophobia

People Scavenger Hunt
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Show and Tell
Directions: Ask participants to tell a story about something they have on object from their pocket like a key chain, or lucky charm, their watch or jewelry, even their clothes. 
Odds and Ends
  • Needed: A bowl or box with enough objects in it for each participant to take one. the assortment of objects should be varied and random: a slinky, a condom, small toys (like cars, action figures, dolls), a dildo, an old cellphone, wristwatch, a rock, a wooden block, a picture frame, a lollipop, koosh ball, odd pen, etc. Just lots of small, odd things with no real connection to each other are good to use.
  • Directions: Have the participants blindly select an object. After everyone has their object, have them make up and tell a short story about it.
  • As a variation, the story can go around the room...the first person starts the story about the slinky, and then the next person works the condom into the story, and then the next person works the toy into the story, etc.
  • If you have a lot of participants, make sure the story flows briskly. You don’t want this to get out of hand and turn into an epic!
ME Plus U | Mpowerment New Orleans LA
Play favorites
  • Ask participants to answer the question:“Who (or what) is your favorite ______________________________, and why?”
  • Suggestions could be their favorite: Childhood food, music star, movie, book, play, poem, cartoon, comic book hero, gay icon, city, place, person, politician, sports star, magazine, piece of clothing, season, possession, memory, etc. the possibilities are endless here!

RELATED: 3 Easy Group Exercises: Sexual identity and gender.

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Personality tests
Needed: Get a copy of the personality test from a magazine like Vogue, Cosmo, Teen People, Miss, or something similar. Photocopy enough for each participant to have their own copy.
Directions: fill out the personality test as per the magazine instructions. Have each participant read his results. As a variation, they can exchange them with someone else to read, or put them in a pile and randomly draw them and read them for each other. 

Two-pair share
Directions: Split the participants into pairs. the Coordinator should join a pair. If
there is an uneven number, the Coordinator can make up part of the pair. Have each person talk about himself to the other participant. Guide the nature of the conversation...invite the participants to ask each other “get to know you” type questions. After 2-3 minutes, switch, so the other person now talks about himself. After 2-3 minutes more, invite the participants back into the group. Have the partners introduce each other to the group and tell about the most interesting things they learned about the other person.

25 Get to Know You Conversation Starters
Perfect when your starting at square one.

Animal sounds
  • Needed: Slips of paper with the names of a variety of animals with distinctive sounds. the number of animals you use will depend on the number of participants you have. Animals can include ducks, dogs, cats, frogs, horses, sheep, or snakes.
  • Directions: Have the participants take a slip of paper randomly. After everyone has an animal, tell them to make that animal sound. then tell all the animals to group together in separate parts of the room. One variation could be that one animal can’t make noise and so has to find his group by just listening to the others.
RELATED: How about a Faith and spirituality exercise?

Physical Graph
The goal of this one is to have everyone line up (or form a circle around the room) from the earliest birthday in the year (i.e., Jan. 1) to the latest (i.e., Dec. 31). the trick is that no one can speak during this exercise. Group members have to find creative, non-verbal ways to communicate their birthdays to each other, and then organize themselves without talking!

Ask participants to line up based on different topics:

Youngest - - - - - - - -  Oldest
Early Risers - - - - - - - -  Night Owls
Finish Early - - - - - - - -  Just in Time
Collaborate - - - - - - - -  Work Alone
Extraverted - - - - - - - -  Introverted

HAVEN | Mpowerment Springfield MO
A warm wind blows
  • Needed: enough space and chairs for everyone to be in a big circle facing out (X’s can be taped on the floor, or bits of paper...enough for everyone to stand on – facing out – minus one).
  • Everyone sits down in a chair (or takes a space) except one person who volunteers to start the icebreaker...perhaps the Coordinator?
  • The first person makes a statement that starts with “A warm wind blows for everyone...” and then makes a statement that might apply to all, several, or even just a few people in the room.

“A warm wind blows for everyone...who is wearing jeans!” 

“A warm wind blows for everyone...who owns a bicycle!”

“A warm wind blows for everyone...who loves Beyonce!” 

  • Everyone who fits that description has to get up and run around and find a different seat, or space – but not the one next to the spot they are currently in!
  • The exercise continues for a set amount of time...10-15 minutes is usually sufficient to get peoples’ blood pumping! 
RELATED1 super simple way to recruit new participants: Mpowerment best practices.

Borrow from your favorite board game. 

Borrow from or create your own versions of Outburst, Pictionary or Cranium. If you create your own Icebreaker include LGBT trivia, Condom tips, and/or hot erotic safer sex techniques. 

Mpowerment Training favorites. 
These icebreakers have been successfully used at Mpowerment trainings. We'd love to have you join us. We host trainings throughout the year in different cities. 

RELATED: Join us. Attend the Mpowerment Project training

Zip Zap Zop
Setup: Players stand in a circle.

Play Someone begins by pointing and making eye-contact to another person in the circle and saying "ZIP!" That person then points and makes eye-contact to yet another person and says "ZAP!" That person points to another person and says "ZOP!" This continues, but the words must be said in order: ZIP, ZAP, ZOP. If someone makes a mistake and says a word out of order, that person is out of the game.

Zip Zap Zop - Mpowerment training San Diego CA 2014

Palm trees, Pirates and Charlie's Angels 
Setup: Players stand in a circle, close enough to touch the person next to them without straining.

Play: One person is “it”.

“It” points to a different player and calls out “pirates!”, “palm tree!” or “Charlie’s Angels!” 

  • For “Pirates”: Pretending to be a pirate, the center player stands on one leg, covers one eye with one hand, and salutes with the other. The players on either side paddle the "boat."
  • For “Palm Tree” the person pointed at raises their arms straight up, while the players to the side do a hula dance. 
  • For “Charlie’s Angels” the center person might hold a ‘air gun’. The players to right might do a ‘karate hands’ the person on the left holds a ‘walkie talkie.’

After calling out a position, the group watches to see who the last person is to respond correctly. The slowest person is knocked out of the game. Before that person leaves the circle, they choose a new ‘it’. If everyone responds at the same time, the new “it” is the person in the middle and play continues when they call out “Pirates”, “Palm Tree” or “Charlie’s Angels” to a new “it”. 

Option: The “It’ person stand in them middle of the circle and chooses the next “it” and calls out “elephant, palm tree or Charlie’s Angels” - if the group performs then they become the new “it’

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Commonalities | Mpowerment Training Rochester NY 2014

You may think you know me...but you don't know this!
Setup: Have each participant share with the group two things about themselves that no one else in the room knows. Think of hobbies, celebrities you've met, hidden talents and / or accomplishments. Be sure each person starts by saying "You may think you know me, but you don't know this . . . "

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More information can be found in Module 5 Core Group and other VolunteersThis module is a free .pdf download when you register at 

United Black Element (U-BE) Adaptation of the Mpowerment Project to Young Black MSM.  There are even more exercises in the adaptation manual. The adaptation manual is a free download when you register at


Additional resources.

RELATED: Ultimate guide to team-building activities that don't suck.

RELATED: An epic list of team-building exercises. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

5 easy tips on conducting a successful Venue Based Outreach. Mpowerment best practices

Harry Potter Outreach | SOMOS Mpowerment FL

Why conduct Venue Based Outreach?

  • We can't think of a better way to quickly meet hundreds of young adult gay and bisexual men who need to hear about your Mpowerment Project.  Use Venue Based Outreach to create buzz about Project events and bring your Project positive community exposure
  • In addition, your Project can raise awareness about, eroticizing safer sex, condom use, PrEP as an HIV Prevention option and knowing one's HIV status.

What is Venue Based Outreach?

It's a "Bar Zap". Think of a Flash Mob vs Improv Everywhere vs your local gay bar = Mpowerment Venue Based Outreach. Form a team, dress up, role play, have fun and meet new people while inviting them to your Project's events and handing out condoms.

We've found that dressing in costume while promoting an event generally attracts more attention and is more effective than just wearing Project t-shirts. In addition, it is usually more fun for the Outreach Team to wear costumes. Give an engaging event-promoting performance while distributing invitations during visits to bars, community events, coffeehouses, and other appropriate locations where young adult gay/bi men congregate. 

When scheduling outreach activities, it is important to hold them far enough in advance of your event so that people will be able to attend. Then you can return briefly to the various venues a day or two before the event as a reminder. Sound like fun? Read on. . .

Mario Kart Outreach | The Q Austin Mpowerment TX

RELATED: Developing a publicity plan: Mpowerment Best Practices.

Pro-Tip 1: Foster a positive attitude. 

Fostering a positive, can-do attitude is paramount. One phrase we’ve encouraged Coordinators to use is “fake it until you make it.” In other words, although this may not be your ideal way of doing outreach at the beginning, pretend that it is. You’ll be amazed at how much a negative attitude can stop the fun and creativity of this type of outreach. This form of outreach is a great way to meet other guys and invite them to the Project. Before going out, have Team members practice approaching each other. Have them invent fun opening lines that fit with your themed outreach.

Venue Based Outreach Best Practices | SOMOS Mpowerment Wilton Manors FL

Pro-Tip 2: Make it short and engaging. 

We don’t expect young men to be in themed costumes all night. 

We call these “Bar Zaps” for a reason. In Austin, the Project was able to cover two or three different bars in one night. They would spend 20-30 minutes in each location. Create a buzz and then leave. End the outreach by having guys change out of their costumes, so they can resume whatever they would normally be doing for the rest of the evening.

Soccer Team Outreach "Q Flames" | The Q Austin Mpowerment TX

Pro-Tip 3: Create a confident team. 

Be sure to follow SOMOS Mpowerment Wilton Manors:  FB link: facebook  twitter.

RELATED: 4 easy steps for involving volunteers: Mpowerment Project best practices.

Pro-Tip 4: Bring extra costumes with you. 

In Albuquerque, Coordinators found that many young men who would normally do themed outreach may not be able to make it to Outreach Team meetings. It wasn’t unusual for the Outreach Team to arrive at a bar and have former outreach volunteers run up and want to help out, especially when the outreach theme was sexy and fun. So, for instance, if the outreach theme is about sexy pirates, have some extra pirate hats, mustaches, stripped shirts and other props handy to give to volunteers who want to be sexy pirates at the last minute. This is an easy way to double the size of your Outreach Team on the spot.

SOMOS OC | Mpowerment Orange County CA

RELATED: 8 clever ways to support and supervise volunteers (and avoid burnout).

Pro-Tip 5: Don’t give up. 

Have fun with this form of outreach. Remind yourself that the best form of recruitment is done in person in a friendly and authentic manner. It will take time for an Outreach Team to learn how to support each other. Every themed outreach has lessons to be learned and improved upon. 

The Outreach team planning form (Figure 7.5) and the Outreach Team Evaluation Form (to be completed after each venue based outreach) (Figure 7.6) Are free word.doc downloads that are downloadable when you register at 

Module 7 Formal Outreach - Social Outreach Events and Outreach Team is a free .pdf download when you register at 

Helpful Core Group and Community evaluation to consider via SOMOS Mpowerment Wilton Manors Florida:

Venue Based Outreach Best Practices |  SOMOS Wilton Manors Mpowerment FL

Borrow and improve on these Mpowerment Project inspired Venue Based Outreach performances: 

Olympiad Outreach | Genesis Project, Mpowerment Pocatello ID

Nerds Outreach | SOMOS Mpowerment Wilton Manors FL
Where's Waldo? Outreach | SOMOS Mpowerment FL
Harry Potter Outreach | SOMOS Mpowerment FL

The Q Camp | Camp Counselor Outreach via The Q Austin Mpowerment TX
SOMOS | Mpowerment Orange County CA
Castaways Outreach via the Evolution Project | Mpowerment Atlanta GA
Yes sir! Pride with SOMOS | Mpowerment Wilton Manors FL
The M'Power Rangers 
The Genesis Project Pride Olympiad Outreach | Mpowerment Pocatello ID

We are here for you. Capacity Building Assistance (CBA) services available.

More information can be found in Module 7 Formal Outreach - Social Outreach Events and Outreach Team. This module is a free .pdf download when you register at