This exercise comes from Resli Costabell, who of the most energetic and sparky people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. It’s all about breaking down the barriers when you’ve got a group coming together.
When people arrive for the first meeting, they are handed a sheet of paper with a grid full of tasks (maybe a dozen or so). These can range from simple (‘find out where someone went to school’) through to less simple (‘learn a new dance step from someone’ or ‘find something you have in common with someone’). People have to mill around the room, getting the tasks done, each one with someone new (get people to sign off the sheet). If they finish them all, they start again. The winner is the one with the most. Think of it as bingo, without the sitting down.
It’s easy, it’s fun and it’s a very good way to break the ice: we’ve used it with groups up to one hundred with good effect. Compared to the ‘tour de table’ thing, it makes it much easier to remember people and to get beyond the standard things.