I would like to tell you about a technique I use during introductions in a consulting skills training session. I ask people to divide up in pairs with people they do not know. I then ask them to interview the person to get their name, job, and something interesting about the person. Limit the interview to three minutes. Then switch roles. Next the interviewer introduces the person to the group. This exercise practices many basic consulting skills: interviewing, note taking, presentation skills, and we also learn about people. I find this approach really warms a group up and we are ready for some good training.
Another time I may have the people interview each other about what they would like to get out of the session. I also use it for feedback at the end of a group.
Having two people talk to each other about something is a great way to increase the level of participation. When you ask people to talk in pairs about any subject the energy level of the group goes up significantly. I find it particularly useful after a monologue on some subject by the presenter, usually me.