Go-to Ice Breaker Questions and Games to Energize Your Team
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Many of us are still working remotely—even part-time. As office life goes back to a level of normalcy, we expect virtual meetings to remain a common part of our work experience. These are great for convenience, but it can be hard to connect across digital lines. To boost engagement, you might be looking for ways to reconnect and collaborate with your co-workers. And that’s when we turn to ice breaker questions.
Ice breakers (either questions, games, or other activities) can help keep things fun and collaborative. Virtual ice breakers take a different shape than those you may be used to at in-person gatherings. We’ve compiled our top tips, best practices, and ideas for connecting virtually with co-workers below.
What are ice breaker questions?
Ice breakers are team-building activities designed to warm up participants and encourage conversation. Though they often take shape as questions, ice breaker games are also popular.
Ice breakers are common during meetings with participants who don’t know each other. However, you can use them at any time to help people get to know each other. There’s always something new to learn about your team members!
Do’s and don’ts for virtual ice breakers
Virtual meetings present some challenges for ice breakers. You can’t rely on body language as much to help orient you. For that reason, it’s a good idea to take extra steps to make sure everyone knows how the activity will work.
The facilitator can start by explaining the activity and the order. Then, have the facilitator model the activity and announce the two people going next. After those two people complete the activity, you can name the next couple. Continue to do so until the activity is complete. That way, people have time to think about their answers and you can keep the flow of the game going.
When it comes to making icebreakers work, there are some definite do’s and don’ts.
What to do when leading your team through ice breaker questions
- Volunteer to go first.
- Split large groups into smaller breakout groups as needed.
- Select a natural point for icebreakers (e.g., at the beginning or end of a meeting or as a transition).
- Encourage feedback. Be a listening ear to suggestions for tweaks to the activity or ideas for the next go-round.
- Start with easy questions or activities to get things going.
- Avoid any activities that could potentially poke fun at someone’s name, culture, beliefs, background, or family.
Things to avoid with ice breaker activities
- Don’t talk about finances, politics, or overly personal matters. Be careful about putting people on the spot with questions that pressure them to reveal things they’d rather not.
- Don’t be overly silly. Sure, you want to keep things fun. But you don’t want to embarrass people. Avoid silly alliterations, animal noises, and crazy motions.
- And don’t take forever. Ice breakers are best when they’re limited to 15 minutes or less.
Best practices for virtual ice breakers
Do’s and don’ts are great for getting started with icebreakers, but you can follow these best practices to take things up a level.
Select a time limit
Know how long your game should last. You can even designate a time-keeper to keep things moving. Generally speaking, 15 minutes is a good time frame.
If you’re using icebreakers at the beginning or end of a meeting, take extra care. You don’t want to miss key activities or keep people late. Remember, people are still recovering from Zoom fatigue. Too much time spent staring at the screen takes the fun out of icebreakers.
Simplicity matters most
Complicated games don’t translate well to a video conferencing format. To get buy-in, keep things simple. You want to spend more time on the activity than on explaining it.
Question and answer sessions are an easy format to start with. They encourage conversation and collaboration and they’re an accessible way for any employee to engage.
Keep some ice breaker questions in your back pocket
There may be some instances where you need icebreakers to pass the time. Maybe you’re waiting on a speaker. Or you want to reenergize participants after a long meeting. As we go through icebreaker questions, save a few of your favorites for these moments.
Lean on technology
These are video conferences , after all. Try breakout rooms, filters, and backgrounds to mix things up. You can also use slideshows, music, and video to add a bit of creativity.
Go beyond Zoom
Virtual icebreakers aren’t only for Zoom. You can use them in Slack channels, Google docs, and online huddles. Icebreaker activities work well in multiple settings. If your team is burned out on Zoom, try incorporating breaks a couple of times a week on the platforms you’re already using.
Ice breaker questions, games, and activities
We’ve arranged some popular icebreakers by activity format. Try giving each one a spin!
- What’s your morning routine?
- How do you avoid distractions at home?
- What’s your favorite beverage in the morning?
- What are your two most-used emojis?
- Have you ever been told you like celebrity? If so, who?
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
- If you were a superhero, what superhero would you be?
- What’s your favorite breakfast food?
- Share a family holiday tradition with us.
- What subject did you like the least in school?
- If you were a baseball player, what would your walkout song be?
- What subject did you most enjoy in school?
Ice breaker games
Two Truths and a Lie: The premise of this classic game is simple. The participant shares two true facts about themselves and one line. The group has to guess which is the truth and which one is a lie. This is a great way to help people get to know each other with a bit of humor.
Scavenger Hunt: Here’s a fun way to integrate this classic game into your next video call. Have each participant list a unique (but not too unique) item that you might find in someone’s home on a post-it note. The facilitator then has each team member hold up the post-its. Collect the post-its and build a list of each item. Each participant goes and looks for these items. Whoever has the most items on the list wins. You can have participants show the items on video or upload a photo if it’s too cumbersome to bring to the screen.
Art Time: This is where interactive smartboards come in handy. Start with a prompt such as your favorite meal or your last vacation. Then have each member of the team draw their answer. You can have participants explain their drawings or ask others to guess.
Storytelling with a Twist: Have you heard of collaborative storytelling? This activity has each participant add another line to a story. This practice works well in small groups. Each person is only allowed to add one sentence to continue the story. The next person has to continue the story and have it make some relative sense. The last person in the group has to add another sentence that concludes the story.
Themed Storytelling: This exercise is similar to collaborative storytelling. It works better with larger groups. Choose a theme such as work-life, food, holidays, etc. Give each group a line to start with. Then have the groups use breakout sessions to each add another to the story. Once each group has finished, have them perform the story in person. You can even have a judge select the best one.
Build-in Recurring Team Building: Team building isn’t a one-time thing. Look for ways to build in recurring moments to foster connections. For example, you may create a bi-weekly huddle in Slack. Send an email or chat to your team with this week’s activity or question. That way, everyone will be ready to participate for five to 10 minutes in the huddle.
Rose and Thorn: The rose and thorn activity gives employees a chance to share their thoughts in an organized way. To model, start by sharing the one challenge or difficulty in your day (the thorn). Then, end with the rose, which is the highlight of your day.
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