Virtual icebreakers are key to kicking off our EPiC tribe events and the training courses we run. It allows for a connection to be made, gives everyone an opportunity to speak, and creates a fun social interaction. We regularly run snappy, energetic virtual icebreakers with our clients, and encourage them to adopt icebreakers into their own culture. Our culture is focused on the human connection, building on each other’s ideas, and continuously looking at how to deepen our community impact.
When deciding on which virtual icebreaker to use, we consider what would be appropriate for the type of group and the subject of the session. Sometimes we like to throw caution to the wind and try out an icebreaker that may be a little left-field to what the group may be used to. We always ask permission first! Our prerequisite for deciding which icebreaker to use is that it is fun, interactive, and engaging.
If the thought of icebreakers makes you feel awkward or uncomfortable, try thinking of them as warm-ups or even energises. Warming up for a session makes sense right! It loosens you up, easing you into the meeting. Energises are great for getting people fired up for what lies ahead and can pick up the energy when it is feeling a little flat. Pick the name that resonates most for you and your audience.
Purpose of your icebreaker
Interactive and fun virtual icebreakers are a powerful way for people to connect in a workshop before diving into some potentially crunchy topics. This is beneficial whether the group knows each other well, or are coming together for the first time. For teams that are new to working together, introducing an icebreaker at the beginning of a team session is a simple and effective way to start to understand more about one another.
Length of your Icebreaker
Look to keep the icebreaker under 10 minutes. Participants tend to lose interest in virtual icebreakers that are too long. They may feel they are wasting their time by not focusing on the purpose of the session. For all-day events, you can kick off with an icebreaker, and then have another one after lunch to raise energy levels.
Design the icebreaker for your audience
Icebreakers should evoke a feeling of enjoyment and have an element of playfulness. Our good friends at Culture Hero are experts in introducing play! When you are thinking of an icebreaker, consider the type of session and the audience. An icebreaker you do with a team that knows each other well and are going into a planning day, may differ from an icebreaker you do for directors heading into a board meeting. Or maybe not! Understand your audience, and have an appreciation for how you can extend them to try something a little new and different.
Likewise, consider if a virtual icebreaker is even appropriate. Facilitating a half-day leaders meeting on how we manage a major downturn in revenue, may be better suited to kicking off with a round table of introductions, and agreement on the expected outcome.
1. Scavenger hunt
Screen View: Gallery or Speaker
Supplies: List of items, online collaborative space (optional)
Where to use it: A fun one to connect with people on the next level
Mechanics: Create in advance a list of items for the group to find around their house. You can either give the full list to them to find all at once or give one item at a time. The group shares back the items they have scavenged. For a bit of competition, you may timebox how long they have to find items or pick the winner of the most original for each item. The person with the most wins/points overall gets bragging rights. An alternative is to get them to find images or gifs online and upload to a prepared collaborative space.
Exercise: Introduce the scavenger hunt premise of finding items. Explain the instructions, and let them at it! Make sure if it is online items, that everyone knows how, and where to upload images to. When they come back, have them share their item. If it is a large group, select a few people to share their item. A follow-up question maybe if the item has any meaning to them. Declare a winner at the end if you went down the competition route.
If you select the right type of items, this allows people to be quite creative and use problem-solving skills. Use our examples or come up with your own!
Around the house:
- Something someone else made for you
- Book with over 300 words
- Something to do with a movie
- Your most out-there piece of clothing – outerwear!
- Something that rhymes with sat
- A coffee cup with an image or quote on it
- A kitchen appliance
- Something magnetic
- Image of an actor or singer from their hometown
- Gif/meme that best represents your team or organisation’s values
- A photo of your favourite shoes or piece of clothing
- The number one song from the month/year you were born
- An embarrassing or funny photo of yourself
- An image of the most 90s’ (or other era) quintessential item
- Funny catchphrase
- Image/gif of a face made of food
2. Would you Rather
Screen View: Gallery
Where to use it: Making deeper personal connections
Mechanics: Give everyone two visual options – hold up one finger for the first option or two fingers for the second option. If not everyone has a camera available, most video conferencing have reactions such as thumbs up. You could use thumbs up for the first option and clapping (or other) for the second option.
Exercise: Ask the whole group one ‘Would you rather….’ statement at a time. Get people to elaborate on why they picked one over the other. Encourage joking around and laughing.
Use our questions or add your own!
- Would you rather only have summer or winter for the rest of your life?
- Would you rather go on a hike or see a movie?
- Would you rather be able to command water or the wind?
- Would you rather never use social media sites and apps again, or never watch another movie or TV show?
- Would you rather have a horrible short-term memory or a horrible long-term memory?
- Would you rather go back to age 5 with everything you know now or know now everything your future self will learn?
- Would you rather speak all languages or be able to speak to all animals?
- Would you rather have spaghetti for hair or crab claws for hands?
- Would you rather be covered in fur or covered in scales?
- Would you rather have one real get-out-of-jail-free card or a key that opens any door?
- Would you rather have all traffic lights you approach be green or never have to stand in line again?
- Would you rather 60 minutes of dubstep (electronic dance music) or a lifetime of only Jazz
- Would you rather give up all drinks except for water or give up eating anything that was cooked in an oven?
- Would you rather have seven fingers on each hand or have seven toes on each foot?
- Would you rather eat only pizza for 1 year or eat no pizza for 1 year?
3. Pass the Word
Screen View: Gallery
Where to use it: Introductions for a new group
Mechanics: Hold an imaginary ball between your hands. Say the first word that pops into your head and the name of someone on the screen. Make the action of throwing the imaginary ball to that person as soon as you say their name. They then say the first word they think of, and the name of someone else on the screen, and throw the imaginary ball. Keeps going.
Alternatively to saying any word that pops into your head, you could give a subject that they need to think of words for. Or even make it about the subject of the session you are about to go into.
Exercise: Introduce the imaginary ball to the group, and the mechanics of the game. Kick it off by holding the imaginary ball between your two hands and saying the first word that pops into your head and the name of someone. Throw the ball to that person, they now do the same thing. For big groups, encourage them to throw to someone that hasn’t been thrown to before. To finish up, get someone to throw the ball to you and wrap it up.
- Agile Terms
- One word movies
4. My Item (and pass the mic)
Screen View: Gallery or Speaker
Where to use it: Introductions for a new group. In particular, a more serious group that should lighten up a little
Mechanics: Everyone finds and shares an item with the group. You can theme it such as most unusual, most sentimental, something from the room they are in. Get someone to kick it off, then ask them to ‘pass the mic’ to someone else. This is a great technique to use during workshops to encourage that everyone has a voice.
Exercise: Ask everyone to find their item. You may timebox this. Ask who would like to share their item first. Ask them to ‘pass the mic’ once they have finished. You can ask questions about their item to find out more. Keep going until everyone has shared.
5. Time Machine
Screen View: Gallery or Speaker
Supplies: online collaborative space (optional)
Where to use it: Introductions for a new group or gaining a deeper understanding of each other
Mechanics: Ask people where they would go if they had a time machine, and have them share with the group. Option: use an online collaborative space, where they add a picture.
Exercise: Ask the group to think about what period in time they would like to visit if they had a time machine. If using an online space, make sure everyone knows how to access and how to add an image to the board. Call on people to share. Can also use ‘pass the mic’. Ask follow up questions around if they would like to visit anyone specifically, or if they would like to stay living in that time.
Any of the virtual icebreakers we have shared will give a boost to how you kick off your session, inviting openness and a big slice of fun. Consider why you are picking a particular icebreaker, how it will support the goal for the session, and how appropriate it is to the group. Above all, make it fun!
- Considering your audience, balance the comfort zone
- Be mindful of the time you have and how long the energizer will take
- Bring the energy!
Want To Learn More?
If you want to learn more about virtual icebreakers and how to turn your virtual workshops and meetings into a great and purposeful experience. Check out our Virtual Facilitator Course.
- Explore the difference between facilitating in-person and online
- Explore a framework to understand 4 key elements to create and facilitate successful online sessions
- Practice the basics of visualisation and how to use it online.
- Practice using a common collaborative toolset
- Work through how to design effective sessions and what that means online
- Troubleshoot Common Challenges