As companies and business leaders come up for air in the new post-pandemic working environment, they are witnessing a very different landscape. The pandemic provided a testing ground for the concept of fully remote offices and hybrid workforces. While not all businesses can operate remotely, an increasing number have employees working from home at least part of the time. And some companies have employees from other parts of the world as they recruit talent from outside their immediate geographic area.
In this new world, virtual online meetings are here to stay. While we have gotten used to meeting with our colleagues online, team leaders are looking for ways to ensure those meetings are constructive, inspiring and team-building.
Here’s why you should put a virtual icebreaker on your online meeting agenda
A meeting ice breaker is an activity that will warm up the conversation among participants attending a meeting. The activities can range from simple one-question answers to elaborate team games. With planning and a little preparation, adding a virtual icebreaker to your meeting agenda is a great way to create connections, allow people to know each other better, promote team building and corporate culture, and keep things fun.
We’re here to tell you the do’s and don’ts of virtual icebreakers and give you dozens of ideas for activities to try.
Let’s keep all of your employees looking forward to attending virtual meetings.
The do’s and don’ts of icebreakers for virtual meetings
Let’s set some ground rules and look at best practices.
Do: Read the “virtual” room
The connectedness of your team should dictate the types of icebreakers to use. Some icebreaker activities require colleagues to reveal something personal and if you have a group of strangers, it’s best not to use icebreakers that require “TMI” (too much information) until there are some connections in the group. Rule #1 choose activities that are appropriate for the team.
Do: Have a virtual icebreaker “Plan B”
Being adaptable is important so make sure you have a “Plan B” if an activity is a bust. Pay attention to the overall vibe and participants’ verbal and nonverbal cues to get a feel of how an icebreaker is being received. And don’t be afraid to pivot and stop if an activity is not well received. Being able to adjust is something your team will appreciate and admire. If Plan B doesn’t cut it, there is always a Plan C.
Don’t: Too much of a good thing is still too much
Asking a quick and engaging question before each meeting is a fun and fast way to break the ice. A full-fledged icebreaker activity every time your team meets will probably lead to resentment and be counterproductive. Anytime an icebreaker is fun, innovative, and productive is a win, win, win.
Do: An icebreaker by any other name is perfectly fine
You don’t have to use the term icebreaker. Naming it something else — idea time, connect and inspire, team exploration, brainstorming — may alleviate any eye-rolling and anxiety. Be creative and think out of the box!
Do: Use breakout rooms for large meetings
Effective virtual event and meeting platforms like Everytale include breakout rooms as a feature. These breakout rooms are helpful for large meetings and team icebreakers. Split the team into groups of four to six in smaller breakout rooms to complete the activity. Then return as a group to share results and continue with the meeting. Smaller groups are a great way for people to get to know each other.
Do: Know when to move on
If you were to ask participants what they dislike about icebreakers, some might say that “it’s a waste of valuable time.” Keep icebreakers short or part of a separate get-together where the meeting is for fun and connectivity. If you ask a question, give participants 20 seconds to answer, keep breakout periods to a minimum, and move through the activity quickly.
Don’t: Choose online icebreakers that make your team feel silly
Unless you have a team of gregarious people who are super comfortable showing their silly side, avoid ice breakers that have people move weirdly, make silly faces, create animal noises, or anything else that makes people feel like little children. Save an activity like this for a company party.
Do: Ask for feedback and suggestions
Anytime you can get your team to help in the decision and planning process of a meeting, you will likely have greater buy-in. Encourage participants to develop ideas for virtual icebreakers and connectivity exercises that make the group more cohesive and effective. And ask them for feedback on what did and didn’t work to help you plan your next meeting icebreaker.
Don’t: Use any meeting platform
Online meeting platforms are not all the same. Look for ones that offer tools to create meetings that are innovative, unique, and productive. Do your homework and find a virtual meeting platform that has what you need.
Here are some super COOL icebreaker activities (pun intended, sorry) to get you started
Polls are a great icebreaker idea for meetings
They can be engaging and enjoyable as well as informative. Polls and questionnaires allow you to start valuable discussions in a non-threatening way and invite openness and connection. Some fun examples are:
- On a scale of 1-5 what is your energy level today? Why?
- Which word best describes you?
- What was your favorite thing about this project? The past year? The last week? ?
- Would you rather go here or there?
- Would you rather eat this or that?
- Use the poll to play a trivia game about your company, your industry or just general knowledge.
- Throw out Billboard’s top five songs and get everyone to vote.
- Who do you think deserves recognition?
- What time of day are you most productive?
- What inspires you to work harder?
- What is the favorite part of your role?
Follow up work-related polls with a brief discussion to make good use of the poll results.
Icebreaker questions for virtual meetings
Presenting a fun and interesting icebreaker question at the start of meetings can be an effective and fun way to start a virtual meeting. They are quick and easy, and most everyone enjoys sharing a bit of themselves. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What is the most useful item in your office? In your home?
- What is the most useless item in your office?
- What’s one tv show you hate to admit you watch?
- What’s your favorite app?
- If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
- What song have you been playing on repeat in the last week?
- Who is the most influential person in your life?
- What was your worst vacation nightmare?
- What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
- What is the most interesting place you have been to?
- Who was the most interesting person you have ever met?
- What is your favorite season? Or why do you love the current season?
- What’s the most important quality of a good leader?
- What television show have you binge-watched from start to finish?
- What do you like most about working remotely?
- What do you miss about working in-person/in-office?
- What is your #1 productivity tip?
- What is your favorite book?
The following icebreaker activities come from Fujoli an organization that focuses on team building via fun and play. Here are activities they suggest:
Exercises for the mind
1. Have participants sit with their eyes closed and absorb themselves in their environment. Ask them to focus on all five senses. What do they see, smell, taste, hear and feel?
2. Now have them touch something nearby, like their sweater or their computer mouse, and again, look at it, feel it, experience it.
3. Finally have them discuss how they feel after the exercise. Many participants feel more relaxed, connected, happier, and mindful.
Get creative with your opening icebreaker activity
Engaging in creative activities is a great way to lower stress, improve mood, and inspire productivity. Try one of these icebreakers to encourage your team to get their creative juices flowing:
- Have colleagues draw and share how they are feeling/doing.
- Have colleagues draw a picture of their favorite thing or place.
- Encourage participants to share a photo of a creative project they are working on — their cooking, gardening or artistic endeavors.
- If your online meeting platform has a virtual whiteboard or place to do visual brainstorming, use it to play a game of Pictionary.
Share photos and selfies
Today taking and sharing photos is easy. Use them as a virtual icebreaker to connect your team.
- Share a silly face photo (ask if you can use photos for social media)
- Favorite pet photo
- Photo of their desk and then guess whose it is
- Share a photo of your next vacation spot or dream location
Competitions can be great icebreakers. Have a contest to start your meeting. Here are some ideas:
- First person to find these five items.
- Find five yellow things.
- Have each person play the first part of their favorite song. The person who names the tune gets the point, and the team member with the most points gets a prize.
- Do a group competition.
Have teachable moments
- Take turns each week or month having one colleague teach the group something they are good at or passionate about.
Have a scavenger hunt
Send your team on a virtual scavenger hunt for items.
- Find: a paperclip, a fly swatter, a knick-knack from a vacation — the possibilities are endless.
- Find the strangest thing in your home.
- Share your favorite item in your home.
Use games as virtual ice breakers
Since we were children, playing has helped us connect with others. It also fires the neurotransmitters and connects synapses in our brains. Play also releases endorphins that enhance our mood and well-being. And let’s not forget that playing helps us to be more innovative and imaginative, so it stands to reason we should be doing it in our meetings!
1. Name that Sound
- One person turns their webcam off. They make, create, or share an unusual sound (the dishwasher, a cat purring, etc.). The others have to guess.
2. Count to 20
- One person starts counting and someone else has to say the next number. Make a rule that the same person can’t say more than one number in consecutive order. For example, I can say “one” and “three” but I can’t say “two.”
- The team has to start over if two people say a number at the same time.
- The key is to observe who is going to talk next (no hand signals or verbal clues). It all has to be nonverbal cues.
- Keep starting over until you get to 20.
3. Most Interesting Fact
- Each person sends the meeting leader an interesting fact about themselves that no one knows.
- Post a slide of numbered facts, and the team has to write down who they think matches with each fact.
- Describe a situation like being deserted on an island, in the desert, on a mountain.
- Each team member has to describe an essential item and one luxury item they would take with them.
- Or play a team version, where everyone or each team has to decide what they are going to take — one essential and one luxury item each.
Whatcha wearing? (Hey, keep it clean people!)
For Halloween, dress up for your virtual meetings.
Is anyone wearing pajamas? If they are, send them a prize!
Play the “This or That” game
Ask meeting participants to quickly choose between this or that:
- Dog or cat
- Fall or spring
- Hot or cold
- New York Pizza or Chicago Pizza
- Red or white
- Tacos or pizza
- Ocean or mountains
- Chocolate or wine
- Beer or martini
- City or country
- Road trip or cruise
It’s Friday and 5 o’clock somewhere
There are some fun icebreakers to end the workweek and get some valuable feedback.
Grab a beverage of your choice and join your team online to discuss the highs and lows of the working week. Take notes on significant items that went well and make a note of what needs to be addressed in the following week.
This activity is a good one for helping to bring your team closer together. It helps each person to see what they have in common with others.
- Each person says something they love to do —cooking, gardening, hiking, sleeping — the possibilities are endless.
- Everyone who loves the same thing raises their hands.
Share your strengths
Everyone on the team has strengths that are a little different than the other. This icebreaker takes a bit longer, but it can help your team to determine who should be doing what and how you can capitalize on one another’s strengths.
- Have everyone take one of these character strength tests High5 or Quizterra before the meeting.
- Have everyone share their top three strengths.
- Then have each person share how they could use their #1 strength on a project or with others.
Getting together and not having a meeting can be a great ice breaker. Try one of these to encourage connectivity and give your team a much-needed social event.
- Host a virtual coffee break and invite everyone to relax in a favorite spot with a cup of joe and link up and talk
- Have a virtual wine tasting — pick three wines, have everyone try the same wine at the same time, and discuss them.
- Virtual happy hour BYOB, of course!
Virtual meetings are here to stay, and there are many positives to build on. They allow us to be connected to people across the globe, and to meet conveniently anytime and anywhere. They encourage flexible schedules and promote a better work/life balance. But, because they are everyday occurrences for many, team leaders need to find ways to keep them innovative.
Inspiring and engaging meetings improve productivity and support innovation. Including a virtual icebreaker can help make those essential online meetings more stimulating, dynamic, constructive, and FUN. We hope you will add an icebreaker to your next virtual meeting.
Utilizing an easy-to-use and comprehensive virtual meeting platform like Everytale with polling options and breakout rooms is a great way to start!