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Spice things up with these icebreakers for virtual meetings

November 9, 2022 - 15 min read

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What are icebreaker games, and how can they help?

Example virtual icebreakers for work

Spice up your corporate culture

Before the Internet, you didn’t have many options for office structures. Telecommuting was in its infancy in the 70s and 80s, making remote work a rarity. And through the 20th century, you only had two choices for in-person offices: open-concept or cubicles.

Needless to say, things have changed since then. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, remote work blossomed, with 70% of American workers working from home in 2021, solidifying the workstyle’s mainstream status.

Depending on the nature of your job, remote work might be your future. No more heavy traffic on the way to the office, and you have more space to be creative. Plus, you can usually dress how you want, unless you have important Zoom meetings.

But, if you’re a manager, remote work presents several challenges. Lack of in-person interaction between employees means fewer deep relationships and a lack of team cohesiveness.

The increased risk of social isolation can also leave your employees tired and depressed, which is bad for their productivity and overall well-being. A remote workforce also makes it difficult to piece together a strong corporate culture.

You’ll need an assortment of tactics to improve the dynamic among your team. But you can with something simple: icebreakers for virtual meetings. 

This is a simple tool you can easily implement into your Zoom calls. With a bit of effort, you can improve your team culture and have fun while doing it.

 

What are icebreaker games, and how can they help?

Playing a game with your staff might sound childish at first, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of fun now and then — especially if it helps bring your team together.

Icebreakers are designed to do just that. These short activities are meant to help your virtual team members get to know each other and foster great conversation. This builds a foundation for a great corporate culture

You can’t force a team to get along with each other. But short virtual icebreakers can promote cohesion by:

  • Introducing new recruits to the team. Icebreakers are a great way to help a new hire feel included in an established group. Incorporating them through activity can introduce them to other employees and quickly forge meaningful connections.

  • Encouraging communication and teamwork. Giving your staff an artificial challenge will encourage them to talk to each other and work together. This can translate into better collaboration on real work-related projects.

  • Reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness. Icebreakers are designed to be participatory. They encourage staff to stop “watching” the meeting quietly and engage with their colleagues, thus helping them feel connected.

  • Helping everyone relax. Your staff might be concerned about the outcome of this team meeting. Kicking things off or ending them with a game helps diffuse tension before a difficult round of brainstorming and problem-solving.

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Example virtual icebreakers for work

The beauty of these icebreaker games is that you don't need to be physically together. At most, you'll need to share your screen — something you likely already do frequently during online meetings.

Here are some icebreaker activities to spice up your video calls:

1. Two truths and a lie

This is a fun way to help your team get to know each other more. Here’s how it works:

  • Ask a participant to prepare three statements about themselves. There should be two true statements and one lie.

  • For each person’s turn, create a Zoom poll and list each statement as an option.

  • Ask all meeting attendees to vote on which statement they think is a lie.

  • Once everyone has voted, reveal the correct answer.

  • Open the floor to any follow-up questions about these statements.

You can adapt this game to accommodate the functions of your video conferencing software. For example, if you can’t create a poll, you can instead ask the truth-teller to share their screen or send them in the chat so everyone can see the three statements.

2. Virtual trivia

Kicking things off with a virtual question gets people talking — a good warm-up toward discussing any agenda. Here’s how to set up the game:

  • Post a question in the chat or share it on your screen so it’s always visible. If it’s a multiple-choice question, make sure you list the possible answers.

  • Ask the group to discuss the question among themselves.

  • Once they decide on an answer, you can tell them whether they’re correct.

  • You can also ask 10–15 questions and then review all the answers in order instead of individually for efficiency. 

woman-on-a-two-screen-work-video-call-ice-breakers-for-virtual-meetings

For large groups, you can organize the game a bit differently: 

  • Use breakout rooms to create smaller groups, each of which can be a team. 

  • Set a time limit for the teams to discuss the question and choose an answer.

  • Once everyone is back in the main space, ask each team to present their answers to each question.

3. Would you rather…

This fun game is perfect for lightening the mood and introducing some silliness to your meetings. The premise is simple: 

  • Give your team two options and ask them to choose between them. For example, “Would you rather… have the ability to walk through walls or to fly?”

  • Ask a few team members to explain their choice, and open the floor to discussion.

This can lead to surprisingly insightful conversations about seemingly trivial topics. You’ll also learn about your team member’s personal preferences or pet peeves. 

4. Guess who

As the name suggests, this game involves listing facts and asking your team to guess who you’re describing. Use this as an opportunity to get to know one of the meeting attendees:

  • Before the meeting, ask a participant to send you a surprising list of facts. This can include anything from their favorite food to their alma mater or pet’s name.

  • Progressively reveal these facts until the rest of the team can guess who you’re describing.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to single out an employee, you can use a celebrity or other known figure’s biography. Consider this a test of your team’s deduction abilities.

screen-showing-diverse-group-of-workers-on-virtual-meeting-ice-breakers-for-virtual-meetings

5. Virtual scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunts are a staple team-building activity and can make for a fun virtual icebreaker. In person, you might send your team around the office to find an assortment of items. You can do the same thing online but focus on household items. For example, you can give them 15 minutes to find a:

  • Used AAA battery

  • Plastic spatula

  • Banana

  • Speaker wire

  • Printed picture of a celebrity

  • A bike helmet

You can assign points to each item based on rarity — a printed picture of a celebrity might be tougher to find than a bike helmet and therefore is worth more points. 

If you divide everyone into small groups, you can have teams tally their points together. The team with the highest score wins.

6. Show and tell

This activity can be just as fun for adults as for children. Invite team members to present an object that has a personal significance to them, and give them each a few minutes to explain. This can tell you something about their personal beliefs and values and foster deeper relationships in your team.

7. Describe your favorite movie without naming it

As the game’s facilitator, challenge someone to describe their favorite movie without using the title. The rest of the team has to guess. The first person to give the correct answer goes next! This is a great icebreaker for sharpening your team’s communication skills

two-young-workers-laughing-and-looking-at-a-tablet-ice-breakers-for-virtual-meetings

8. Share your bucket list

This activity is more of a conversation starter than a game. Split your team into pairs and ask them to share something from their bucket list. After some time has elapsed, you can ask each person to present their partner’s item to the group. This forces them to practice their active listening and public speaking skills. Plus, they’ll learn what one another finds meaningful. 

9. Charades

Yes, charades can be a virtual team-building activity! Here’s how it works:

  • Make sure everyone’s camera is on.

  • Have someone from the group act out a word. You can have them choose the word themselves or send them one via a private message.

  • For one minute, they can only use their body language, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues to communicate — no speaking allowed!

  • The round ends when someone guesses the correct answer or the timer has elapsed.

This is a great icebreaker idea for pulling people out of their shells and practicing their non-verbal communication.

Spice up your corporate culture

Ice breakers for virtual meetings work best in tandem with other remote team-building activities. Virtual environments like Slack simulate spontaneous conversations typically found in physical office environments. You can also create a peer mentoring initiative where individuals are paired and encouraged to interact on their own.

These tactics can help move your team-building beyond your virtual boardroom, fostering an organic corporate culture.

But games are still great for adding levity to your get-togethers. Paired with other culture-building programs in your organization, they can help build relationships and bring your team closer together.

Mature-businesswomen-speaking-on-a-video-call-ice-breakers-for-virtual-meetings

As you integrate icebreakers into your meetings, here are some extra pro tips to keep in mind:

  • Read the room. Not everyone enjoys icebreakers. Busy, serious, and stressed-out employees may view your games as wasted time. Unless you already have a playful team dynamic or some bandwidth for added activities, you may have to focus on other team-building programs.

  • Don’t use icebreakers every meeting. Even if your games are fun, it’s better to use them sparingly. This will help maintain a sense of novelty, adding spice to your meetings rather than becoming a nuisance.

  • Know when to move on. It’s better to end your activities on a high. If there’s a lull in the conversation and everyone is smiling, start the day’s agenda. Otherwise, your risk stretching the game for too long and wasting time or leading to disengaged employees.

Just because your meetings are virtual, that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun. With these icebreaker tips, you can build a culture that fits you and your team.

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Published November 9, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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