Icebreakers, Energizers and Thematic Activities

Credits CC Last Updated 2017-12

A practical, and growing, guide of interactive exercises digital security trainers can use during their events to keep energy high, discussion flowing, and participants comfortable.

Why use Icebreakers, Energizers and Thematic Activities?

Including interactive exercises such as these as part of training sessions can be a powerful teaching tool - whereas all people learn differently, in addition to cultural and regional differences, making your workshops fun and interactive is an effective training approach for most participants.

These are exercises that facilitators and trainers can employ to encourage participants to be more relaxed with each other, become (re-) energised and engaged, and to help break up the pace of the day. There are 3 main types of interactive exercises that are used frequently during digital security trainings:


As the name implies, Icebreakers are meant to “break the ice” and are usually fun “getting to know you” games and activities - they also help participants get to know their commonalities and differences in a fun way. Participants who are relaxed with each other and their trainer(s) learn better. When you have participants who are less inhibited and more comfortable in the training space, you can expect to have a training that has maximum participation and interactivity.


Trainers can help break up the pace of the day with fun interactive sessions called Energizers. Energizers are especially useful after lunch or long periods of sitting, when the group energy is frequently at its lowest and/or participants can seem to be the most disengaged. Energizers are also useful when the group, trainer included, simply needs a fun break from training sessions.

Thematic Activities

More customised activities relevant to specific training topics are known as Thematic Activities. Most often, these will be the activities used in the Activity and Discussion from the ADIDS methodology; however, these can also be exercises not tied to a specific ADIDS topic. These can be compelling “A-ha!” moments for participants, especially when using a well-designed activity to illuminate complex technical concepts or systems. In some cases, Thematic Activities can also be used at the end of a training session as review exercises for participants.

Things to Consider for Trainings

Before building certain exercises into your training plan, selecting specific exercises on the spot during a training, or designing and adapting new exercises for later use, remember to always take the following considerations into account:

Mobility of Participants

You may have participants who are not as capable of mobility as the rest. You will need to choose and/or design Icebreakers and Energizers that will not exclude trainees with mobility problems from participating.

Cultural Differences

In many instances, you will have to work with participants who have different cultural backgrounds. An activity that works for a training with all-male participants from Indonesia may not be ideal for a mixed-gender group from the same country. Likewise, an activity that worked well with a group of women from Western Europe might not work so well when you take it to another group of women from Latin America.

Personal and Physical Space

Try to avoid activities that require participants to touch each other - there are a few exceptions to this, but they tend to be different kinds of workshops. Even if you’re a few days into the training and participants have bonded well, respect the fact that you are still unlikely to know if there is a participant who feels uncomfortable with touch. (For some additional insight, please see The Psychosocial Underpinnings of Security Trainings resource.

Language Barriers

Especially in international or regional workshops, not everyone will necessarily be native speakers of one language. Across the board, trainers should use exercises requiring as few instructions as possible - this is especially useful in this instance. Exercises with uncomplicated instructions can be repeated in multiple languages or dialects if necessary, either by the trainer if they are able or by working with a willing participant to translate.