by Madison Howard
Working from home, working remotely, or working in different offices can leave employees feeling out of touch with one another. While an office environment allows for chats by the coffee maker or happy hours outside of the office, it’s easy to forget to connect when virtual. Virtual meeting icebreakers can help teams bond and connect, enabling teams to relate on a personal and social level, prompting talk about projects and deadlines, and serving as great team-building tools.
One of the biggest challenges of a remote world is keeping meeting attendees engaged – whether you’re hosting an internal or external meeting – and icebreakers are one of many digital engagement strategies you can employ to keep your employees or attendees invested in your meetings. Engagement is more than having opportunities for individuals to participate in your meeting or making sure all eyes are on the screen. It’s about making sure everyone in attendance feels like they should be there and that they are also seen. When your meeting attendees feel seen, they not only pay closer attention, they know their presence is appreciated.
What is a Virtual Meeting Icebreaker? A virtual icebreaker is an activity that can warm up a team and help them get to know each other virtually. More fun than a simple introduction, virtual meeting icebreaker games help teams bond and foster connections. Working remotely can leave employees feeling siloed. Icebreakers help to keep your team engaged, even when apart. While a traditional virtual icebreaker activity lasts for 5-10 minutes, they don’t have to. Icebreakers are a tool for bonding. They can be used throughout a meeting, just at the start, or an entire meeting can be devoted to them.
Curious about the best ways to host a virtual meeting? Check out Virtual Meeting Guide.
What to Consider Before Using Virtual Meeting Icebreaker Activities There is such a thing as a bad icebreaker. Every employee is different, and each team is different. Before you settle on an icebreaker to use during a meeting, ask the following:
Is this right for your team?
Is there any part that HR wouldn’t be happy to hear about?
Does it promote inclusivity and diversity?
Is it the kind of activity your coworkers would want to do?
Will it help the team bond?
What is the goal of using an icebreaker, and does the one you chose meet that goal?
18 Fun Icebreakers for Virtual Teams What’s Your Setup? Have employees share a picture of their home office setup. Share best practices about monitors, web cameras, organizational systems, and more. Is anyone in the office an organizational office supply maven? Have them give a brief lesson on their favorite tools and any tricks they’ve picked up, whether it’s a color-coded dry-erase schedule or a unique filing system.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Play a guessing game! Have any of your team members been traveling? Have them share a look out their window and try to guess where they are. Or, have everyone share a photo from a recent vacation and see who can guess where the picture was taken.
Trivia Who doesn’t like a little trivia? Create trivia questions based on office stats, popular tv shows, or just grab a deck of cards from Trivial Pursuit. Break employees into teams and have them compete at the start of every meeting. The winning team can get a prize or just hold bragging rights until someone manages to dethrone them.
Picture Perfect Get everyone to look their best and take a picture of the team! Consider channeling the Brady Bunch or Hollywood Squares and have fun with the pictures. The photos can be shared on social media or internally.
Muted Responses In meetings of more than a handful of people, participants spend most of their time muted on video. Create a series of signals that can be done visually, thumbs-ups, clapping, raising the roof, etc. and their meanings before the meeting starts, then have participants engage throughout with the cues. This will help them focus and give the speaker a little support.
Coffee Break Take a few minutes to chat like you would in the office. Keep the conversation light and learn more about the team on the call. Share your go-to drink and see the wide range of preferences across the team. You could even send employees gift cards for free coffee so they can all have a treat.
Two Truths and a Lie A classic icebreaker, have meeting attendees share two truths and one lie and then have everyone try to guess which is the lie. This is a great way to get to know a little more about the people on your team.
Happy Hour Like a coffee break, but at the end of the day, have a little happy hour. Consider sending cocktail recipes for your team to mix together at the start of the meeting for additional bonding.
Walk-in Music Have the meeting host play a song at the beginning of the meeting. For those that love trivia, make it a challenge! See who can guess the song title and artist the fastest.
Doodles Have long meetings that are note-heavy? Make it a doodle challenge! Have attendees doodle their notes and share them at the end. You’ll be surprised by how creative some people can be, and it’s a great way to engage and help retain information.
Live Polling Start each meeting with a quick poll. It can be as simple as a pulse check to see how members of the team are doing, about what’s going to be covered in the meeting, or something silly.
Guess That Sound Remember when radio stations would play a clip of an obscure sound and make listeners guess what the sound was? It could be a bag of chips opening or a sprinkler, or something even more obscure and specific. Play the game during the meeting by recording a sound of something and seeing if attendees can guess what the sound was. Have hints ready, and keep track of the winners.
Highs and Lows Get the group to share a high and a low from the week, one good thing and one bad thing. This will help them focus on gratitude and bring up challenges that can be solved by the rest of the team.
Kudos Start with positivity. Have the group give kudos about others on the call. It’s always great to hear that someone enjoyed working with you or that they found a great new process from someone else.
Work It Out Kick things off with a 5-10 min stretch break! Or take it up a notch with a quick workout. We sit for most of the day, so a stretch will help keep everyone aligned and loose. A series of squats of jumping jacks can get the team excited and awake.
Mental Health Check If it’s a team meeting, have the team do a show of hands at the start of the meeting to show how they’re feeling. It’s important when virtual to make sure that the team isn’t overworked or overextended. The check could also be anonymous, with everyone messaging an emoji or rating to their manager.
Would You Rather Another classic, play a round of Would You Rather to get the creativity rolling and see where coworkers fall when asked to choose crazy predicaments. You can even make it a challenge to see which side has more votes.
To Binge or Not to Binge It’s an important question when there isn’t much to do besides watch season after season of new television shows or movies. Have the group share their favorite new show or ask if a show is worth watching. Just remember, no spoilers!
21 Virtual Meeting Icebreaker Questions
Where are you from?
What is your favorite food?
Do you have any pets and what kind?
What is one thing you’re really good at?
What is your favorite TV Show?
What is the worst movie you’ve ever seen?
What is your favorite out-of-the-ordinary snack?
If a genie granted you three wishes, what would you wish for?
Are you a cat or dog person?
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
If you could have lunch with anyone, living, dead, or imagined, who would it be?
What is your biggest pet peeve?
What smell can you not stand?
Would you choose to take a vacation in the mountains or by the ocean?
What is the best gift you’ve ever been given?
If you had a billion dollars, how would you spend your days?
What song do you know all the words to?
What is your go-to movie genre?
What do you do to pick yourself up when you’re feeling down?
If you had to read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
What is your favorite way to work out?
Promote Bonding with Virtual Meeting Icebreaker Games Icebreaker activities have the power to teach and engage your team. Think about incorporating some of these icebreaker activities into your virtual meetings to liven things up and keep the team connected, even when far apart.
Madison Howard A graduate of the College of William and Mary, my passion for writing began before I could read, with a nightly verbal diary dictation transcribed by my obliging parents. When I'm not writing, you can find me binge-watching TV shows, baking elaborate desserts, and memorizing pop culture facts.