Increasing the Meta Impact of Your Energizers


At the IAF Asia conference last week, Grace Tan from Singapore and I co-facilitated a session on meaningful energizers. We were trying to urge facilitators to choose their energizers and ice breakers wisely, not just because it was a favorite thing to do. We recommend you do not use energizers as a “filler” or simply to energize a low energy spot in your agenda. It is true that an activity, well placed, can give the group energy to move to a more complex piece of the agenda. However, can you make your energizers MUCH more powerful by carefully choosing why you are using an energizer, what you do with it and when you do it?

The energizer we demonstrated at the conference is called Flow. You can see instructions for how to conduct it in a previous blog here.

Why I Recommend “Flow”

So have you taken a look?  Whether you read that older blog or not, here are a few other reasons why I find this energizer can have a meta impact on groups:

  • The power of this energizer is in its ability to significantly raise the positive emotional state of the room for prolonged periods of time. If you have people share at least 3-5 flow state activities, it strengthens the internal “engine” of each individual and the entire group.
  • It has enormous applicability because it can be used with very large groups, takes only about 10-15 minutes and uses very few props.
  • Flow can be done with multi-lingual groups.  
  • It can be made work-focused by sharing roles and tasks participants find especially fulfilling on a project team.
  • We find it strengthens a group’s confidence and can sustain them through challenging times.
  • It can provide synergy amongst people who think they have little in common with each other. 

Here are a few photos of what Flow energizer looks like with a large group at our conference. 

Three Recommendations

For every energizer to have the greatest impact possible, Grace and I recommend you determine three things:

1. What are the needs of your group at every point of your agenda?  And, what is their main overall need? Ask yourself: does the group mainly need confidence strengthening? Or, do they need sustaining power for long haul challenges they face? Or, do they need to discover what binds them together at the spirit level so they can trust each other’s judgement and skill sets? Choose all your energizers with these questions in mind.

2. Then assess the: group size;  space you have to work with; cultural, language, physical, visual and hearing abilities, and generational considerations; and time you have to do the activity.

3. Finally review various energizers you know and choose the best fit based on #1 & # 2 above.  

Research and test new energizers if needed. Ensure you test your top choice first with a safe group. This is especially important if the group you are working with must not fail (high risk and/or high stakes).

Try This!

Here is a test for you. Review this case study below. Tell me what your choice of energizer would be for this situation. If you write to me,  I will suggest what I’d use for this case study. 


You are an outside facilitator (i.e., independent from the group). A group asks you to facilitate their topic. You have about 90 minutes to facilitate the process.

You are facilitating the executive team of a small manufacturing company (60 employees) and because of the current economy, their last two months of sales are less than half the average (i.e., gone from 2 million to 1 million in sales). The exec team needs help discussing the situation. They have already agreed that pay cuts are needed.

Your goal is to choose an opening energizer that suits this group.


Bonus – Grace is preparing some follow-up handouts from our IAF Asia conference workshop. If you do the case study exercise, we’ll send you the list of energizers generated by us and workshop participants when it is ready. 

Have fun with your research on energizers. Consider them carefully.  And, please let us know what is an exceptional energizer you use for which situations. 

Here are more photos from our workshop. Thanks to our visual graphic recorder June at

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.


  1. Elise Keith on September 17, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    I’m not that kind of facilitator, but I’d love to see the list of energizes! So here’s one possible idea.
    You could use the Human Map, or Constellation, technique and have the group move about the space to indicate their relative perspective on a series of questions. I’d begin with friendly questions – like arranging themselves by tenure at the firm, whether they’re feeling well-rested and well-fed, maybe their faith in the local sports team to win that year’s championship, etc. Then, I’d start moving the questions closer to the issue. Who feels like they saw this crisis coming? Who feels like they understand the external forces at work? The internal? Who sees a possible upside in this situation?

    • Paul Nunesdea on October 6, 2019 at 4:15 pm

      Great article and lovely tip Elise, thanks for sharing. I am also a bit of an improviser myself and I always extract new learning that then help me to fine tune the next time I am facing similar circumstances.

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