Break the Ice Virtually
We’ve all been there—sitting in a conference room for a meeting, and not a single person is talking. Someone attempts an awkward, “So, how about that weather?” But nobody bites. Now that so many classes, meetings, and even parties are happening on Zoom, it feels like these tense moments are happening every day. When you can easily hit the “mute” button and play around on your computer until you’re called on to speak, what’s the motivation to start talking?
That’s where icebreakers come in. I know, I know. Icebreakers can be corny. But when done right, they’re a great way to make things less awkward, especially in the weird world of virtual meetings.
The key with icebreakers is to make sure they fit the setting. If you’re having a party with friends, you may want to consider some of these happy hour games. But drinking games definitely won’t work for the first day of school or for the kickoff of your new project team at work. For a school event, you can choose games tailored toward kids, and for work events, you’ll want something that will make your coworkers think, but still have fun.
Here are some icebreaker ideas for your next virtual meeting or school event.
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Icebreakers for Virtual Work Meetings
For meetings, you’ll want an activity that’s entertaining, but clean. Many icebreaker games you can buy include risqué questions that’ll get you sent right to HR. If you go this route, make sure to go through any questions ahead of time to make sure there are no unpleasant surprises. And leave Cards Against Humanity for gatherings with just your friends.
When choosing an icebreaker for your meeting, you should also consider how much time you have and how easy it is to adapt the game to your time limit. For example, if this is the first day of training for your new interns, you probably want a longer activity that will help the interns get to know each other. But if you’re just looking to wake up your team for your regular Monday morning check-in, a short game is probably best.
Conversation starters, also known as table topics, are the perfect icebreaker for almost any situation. They give you total flexibility, as you can choose to ask just one question at the beginning of the meeting to kick it off, or go through an entire stack if you’re looking for a game to fill your entire virtual happy hour.
Depending on the type of meeting you’re hosting, you may choose to use different types of conversation starters. Here are some options.
These cards were created specifically for work or school events. Each question is work-appropriate, yet fun. They’re great for in-person events, but can also be used for virtual meetings if one person is in charge of asking the questions or wants to send them to participants ahead of time.
If you’re the manager or team leader, a great way to use these is to print them out, cut them into individual cards, and keep a stack next to your computer. Any time there’s a lull in conversation during your team meetings, or when you want to lighten the mood, pick a card and have each member of your team answer the question!
Virtual conversation starters take your Zoom meeting icebreaker game to the next level. Rather than one person printing cards and asking questions on a call, you can use this Powerpoint (or Google Slides) game! Simply share the presentation like you would any other, and click through the questions. It’s a unique way to spice up a boring video call.
“Find Someone Who” Bingo is an ideal icebreaker for trainings or meetings where everyone’s getting to know each other. It’s a great option for new-employee orientation or to kick off a project team with associates from different departments.
With “Find Someone Who” Bingo, you don’t try to match numbers. Instead, you fill your sheet with people who match the characteristics in each box. It’s a fun way to find out who in your group speaks another language or who has never gotten a speeding ticket. You’ll learn a lot about your coworkers in a short amount of time, and your meeting time will fly by!
To play this game virtually, you can send participants to different break out rooms for a couple minutes at a time, allowing them to ask questions of two or three coworkers at once. You can also make use of Slack or Zoom’s chat feature and encourage participants to ask each other the questions privately until they fill their board or get Bingo.
Find Your Pair is a simple icebreaker game that works well for in-person events, but can be used just as effectively for virtual meetings. In person, the goal of the Find Your Pair activity is to encourage participants to speak with one another until they find the person who has the card that finishes their pair. For example, if you have spaghetti, you’ll look for the person who has the meatball card.
This is a bit more challenging to do over Zoom, when you can’t go up to people individually. Like with “Find Someone Who” Bingo, you can move participants into small breakout rooms until they find their pair, or have them message each other via chat.
You can also use the cards as a way to start off a “coffee chat” activity. Instead of encouraging participants to find each other privately, each person can read their card in turn, finding their pair quickly within the group. They can then break out into a separate chat for a 15 minute “coffee talk” to get to know each other better.
Would You Rather is a classic game where participants must decide what they’d rather do between two choices. This version is HR-approved and family-friendly, but still a ton of fun!
This Would You Rather virtual game is perfect for Zoom meetings. Instead of printing out individual cards, you can pull up the Powerpoint or Google Slide game on your video call, and click through the questions. With bright colors and entertaining (but clean!) questions, participants will be laughing and feeling more comfortable with each other in no time.
While not strictly icebreakers, classic party games can also be a fun way to kick off a virtual meeting. Find out who knows the boss best or compete to see who can unscramble the words first, and start your meeting on a high note.
Virtual Icebreakers For the Classroom and School Events
After months of holding virtual classes, you know how difficult it is to keep kids engaged on Zoom. These activities work both in the physical classroom or online, and can be a fun way to entertain your students when they need an energy boost.
These conversation starters were designed for children, but adults will find them fun, too! With a colorful design and simple questions, your students are sure to have a blast. Young kids’ imaginations are incredible, so you’re guaranteed to laugh along with your students as they answer the questions.
These cards work well to start off a class day, as topic starters for a more advanced ESL classroom, or as prompts for a public speaking class.
This Powerpoint or Google Slides-compatible game can be pulled up on Zoom for virtual class or on your projector in the classroom if you’re in person. The bright, happy design will liven up any class, and will help time fly by.
Scavenger hunts are a classic way to kickstart kids’ thinking while having fun. These two games can be played either in the classroom or during virtual class. Although they look simple, they can be used over and over again, as your students’ surroundings are constantly changing. They’re a great way to help younger students who are learning to read or learning their colors, but can be fun for all ages. Students will love to compete with each other to see who can find all of the items first!
Have Fun With Your Icebreakers
Whatever icebreaker you choose, have fun with it! Encourage participants to put their inhibitions aside and open up for just a few minutes. You’ll be surprised by how much you can learn about each other, and by how much laughter can come from some simple questions. Your next meeting doesn’t have to be so awkward—you just have to break the ice!