Have you ever rolled your eyes after hearing, “Let’s start the meeting with an icebreaker”? That’s because you’ve probably experienced your fair share of dull Zoom icebreakers that verge on forced fun.
You need strategies for making virtual meetings more engaging, as the sudden shift to remote work has left many employees feeling isolated and disengaged.
But you must avoid kicking off Zoom meetings in ways that make people cringe.
1. Hot Take.
Kick off your Zoom meeting with a silly but controversial question.
Invite two people with opposing views to articulate their stances. Next, invite the rest of the team to vote on who had the more convincing argument.
Here are a few questions that will stir people into debate mode:
- Does the person in a flight’s middle seat get both armrests?
- Is cereal technically soup?
- Is pizza better cut into squares or triangles?
- Should Pluto still be a planet?
- Who should pay for all the damage caused by superheroes?
Don’t swerve into the realm of religion, politics, or money. Offending people will have the exact opposite effect of the icebreaker’s purpose.
2. Deserted Island.
Asks the group to narrow down a list of their survival essentials:
You can keep this general or make it more specific with choices of books, famous people, food, and beverages. There’s a lot of room for creativity here.
This Zoom icebreaker challenges your team to think about what matters most to them. When people let their guard down, they’re more receptive to building relationships with other team members.
3. Virtual Background Showdown.
Invite everyone to set up their Zoom video with a silly, exciting, or creative virtual background, then vote on the best choice.
With the Zoom background feature, you and your team can escape to:
- Natural locations such as tropical islands, forests, and mountains.
- Fantasy locations such as underwater cities, historic moments, and exoplanets.
- Scenes from popular movies or TV shows.
Consider choosing an extreme fictional theme, such as “My Last Day Before Zombie Apocalypse” or “If I Had A Billion Dollars”. Avoid generic watercooler topics like “My Dream Holiday Destination”.
4. Costume Party.
Halloween isn’t the only day of the year for dressing up. Turn your Zoom icebreaker into a costume party, and see how creative your team can get with what they have at home.
Fear not! Team members won’t be expected to part with any money.
The beauty of this icebreaker is that they’re not allowed to use store-bought costumes or purchase any new items to create their ensemble.
Instead, the goal is to assemble an outfit from common household materials. Put a time limit to ensure the icebreaker activity doesn’t become a distraction.
Create a theme that invites individual expression, like “My favourite Netflix character”.
5. Desk Museum.
People’s desks accumulate all kinds of interesting knick-knacks, coffee mugs, and clutter.
(Related: Best Standing Desks For Your Home Office).
Create a slide deck with a pre-made card for each person.
Before the video call, ask them to add a photo of their desk and a “museum placard” with their masterpiece’s name and title.
Show the slides before you jump into the business of the day, and you’re sure to get everyone in good spirits as they get a peek at their coworkers’ setups.
6. Awards Show Announcement.
An awards show will inject some life into your online meetings and company events.
Send out a list of awards that are up for grabs, and let your team vote on the top nominees, then announce the winner in your weekly meetings.
Keep things lighthearted with awards such as:
- Coffee Champion.
- Meme Master.
- Tech Guru.
- Emoji Enthusiast.
- Best Dressed.
Inside jokes or playful jabs can be misconstrued by employees with existing tensions or histories of conflict. Avoid giving ammunition by steering away from awards like “Most Sick Days”, “Least Expensive Shoes,” or “Messiest Desk.”
7. Best In Show.
It’s inevitable that you’ve seen someone’s curious cat tiptoe across the background or heard the barking of an overexcited pup when the delivery driver knocks on someone’s door.
Lean into the fun of working alongside your furry friends by hosting a pet show for your icebreaker Zoom activity.
Those who don’t have pets can be part of the scoring panel, rating pets based on factors like:
- Silliest trick.
- Sweetest eyes.
- Most enthusiastic.
- Goodest boy or girl.
- Best groomed.
Give each individual a few minutes to show off their four-legged companions while the team oohs and ahhs over the parade of paws.
8. Guess Who?
How well does your team know each other? Put that question to the test with a few rounds of Guess Who?
You’ll need everyone to send you three fun facts about themselves that don’t mention their name, position, or other personal information. Then, after sharing the three facts, it’s up to the group to match the coworker to the facts.
You can play “Guess Who?” in many ways, so feel free to switch things up by using baby pictures, favourite songs, or first jobs.
The person who the fact is about should be inconspicuous while trying to throw the rest of the team off their scent.
9. Two Truths And A Lie.
Have each team member take turns sharing two truths and a lie, and have the rest of the team decide which lie.
- I once went on a date with Mr. Bean’s daughter.
- I can speak four languages fluently.
- I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro when I was 16.
The best examples are those that are fairly surprising and yet believable. Anything too outlandish will be immediately obvious. For example, if someone were to suggest they can communicate with squirrels through interpretive dance…
10. Take A Picture Of Your View.
Sharing a picture of each person’s view offers the rest of the team a glimpse into where they live.
This classic icebreaker sparks conversations and common interests.
Some people live in urban, suburban areas, while others prefer rural and coastal life.
Be mindful that not everyone has a picturesque view.
In this case, ask them to share an image of something iconic about where they live, for example, a restaurant over a century old, a statue commemorating a famous person, or the most recent national news article.
11. Show Off Your Favourite Mug.
Everyone has a favourite mug. And a mug is more than just a vessel for containing hot drinks.
Mugs have sentimental value and remind their owners of certain events or times in their lives. There’s often a story behind a person’s favourite mug.
Maybe they bought it on their first holiday, or maybe it was a personalised gift to say thank you. It could be a novelty mug of their favourite movie.
This is a non-intrusive way to introduce participants to each other without delving too deeply into personal topics.
12. Use The “This Or That” Question Generator.
“This or that” questions reveal a lot about people’s preferences, and people will defend their choices to the death (metaphorically speaking, of course).
Ask questions like:
- Apple or Android?
- Appetisers or desserts?
- Online shopping or high-street stores?
Or, if you want to inject a bit of humour, use a question generator to ask would-you-rather questions:
- Would you rather only whisper or shout everything you say?
- Would you rather have hands that are twice the size of your head or feet that are half the size of your hands?
- Would you rather have perpetually messy bed hair or constant food stuck in your teeth?
13. Common Threads.
Split people up into pairs and ask them to find common threads. This encourages open, unstructured discussion in a lighthearted way.
Be specific about the topics you choose to avoid invasive and personal questions. Ask the breakout pairs to identify:
- Five movies they’ve both seen.
- Three places they’ve both been.
- A sport they both play or watch.
This can also be played as a group, but each additional person in a group makes it more difficult to find people who all share the same interests. Smaller groups are best.
14. Slido Active Polls.
Slido is an interactive Q&A polling platform perfect for live and virtual meetings.
Using a Slido poll, everyone can partake in a meeting using live surveys. You can ask people what they think or feel about certain subjects and get their feedback in real-time.
Aside from its practical business purposes, it can be used as an excellent icebreaker activity, such as “draw your mood” using the Zoom whiteboard feature.
Not only that, but the polling feature enhances other fun icebreaker games in this list.
For example, when playing Guess Who, you can provide a list of multiple-choice options, allowing voters to easily select their guess. You can also see analytics such as the percentage of people who selected the answers.
15. Rank Your Favourites.
Asking a pair of employees to rank their favourites on a particular list and then discuss their choices is a great way of revealing their preferences.
Providing a predetermined list takes the pressure of thinking too long about fabricating a perfect response.
For example, rank these Christmas movies from a must-watch to the most passable one:
- The Grinch.
- Home Alone.
- The Polar Express.
- Miracle On 34th Street.
Pick a subject that has broad appeal. If you ask team members to rank their all-time favourite ice hockey players, you’ll be faced with vacant stares.
16. Coffee Time.
How about an icebreaker with no gimmicks? Organise breakout rooms with minimal structure, with the only structure being a designated time of five to ten minutes.
It’s simply an opportunity to grab a hot drink and get to know someone else in the business. When team members share their stories and listen to others, they develop an appreciation of the wider business – and it’s also a chance to connect with others operating at different levels.
Team members who get on can pick up their conversation offline to connect about cross-functional opportunities.
17. Name That Sound.
For this guessing game, the meeting host must share screens and select the window corresponding to the media player they’ll be using to play the sound clips.
Play each sound clip one by one.
Participants can use the Zoom chat or raise their hands to indicate they want to guess, or the game host can call on participants to submit their answers.
You can stick to a theme or a mix of the following:
- Song intros.
- Movie soundtracks.
- Animal noises.
- Famous movie quotes.
- Abstract mystery sounds.
It’s more interactive than your typical trivia game or quiz – games that we’ve all played countless times before.
18. Rock, Paper, Scissors Knockout Tournament.
The classic game of Rock, Paper, Scissors brings out the competitive streak in people – even the quiet ones!
After each round, have the meeting participants report back to the host in the chat to declare the winner.
Use breakout groups for the preliminary rounds, and when things heat up in the quarters, semis, and final, have everyone spectate to build up the tension.
A tournament will take between five and 10 minutes to administer.
A fun game of “Fortunately/Unfortunately” starts with the team leader putting forward a basic sentence.
Then, in turn, each team member contributes to the story. The only rule is that each contribution should begin with the word “fortunately” or “unfortunately.”
Here’s an example:
- You: I was doing the dishes.
- Employee 1: Fortunately, I’m about finished with this task.
- Employee 2: Unfortunately, I can hear a voice drifting up from the waste pipe.
- Employee 3: Fortunately, it’s the superb singing voice of my pet spider, Spindleshanks.
- Employee 4: Unfortunately, he’s going through puberty and his angelic voice has now broken.
- Employee 5: Fortunately, his voice is now as deep and seductive as Barry White’s.
The story can go on indefinitely.
20. Pick A Dream Holiday.
Split the group up into pairs and ask everyone to share their dream holiday destination, who they’d take with them, and why it’s their dream.
People light up when thinking about their favourite places, which engages them for the activities or meetings to come.
21. Virtual Bingo.
Virtual bingo is a great icebreaker for large teams, but you’ll need to put in a fair amount of prep before commencing.
First, put together four or five bingo cards with around twenty different statements (five rows of five statements).
For example, one row could be to identify a team member who:
- Has more than four siblings.
- Cycles to work.
- Doesn’t drink coffee.
- Has visited Tokyo.
- Was suspended from school.
Check out this list for more inspiration.
Once you’ve written your cards, split the group up into teams, and let the game commence! After playing this team-building exercise, you’ll have learnt some surprising facts about your colleagues.
Remember, small groups will struggle to complete their bingo cards, so ensure there are a minimum of five team members in each breakout room.
Icebreaker Or Timewaster?
There is a very specific business purpose for ice breakers: to encourage team bonding or promote participation in meetings.
So while gamification at work can distract workers from the more unpleasant aspects of a work environment, it’s important that activities don’t detract from workplace productivity.
Does Susan from Accounts Receivables really need to break the ice with Mason in IT? Will synergies ever be unlocked as a result of their paths crossing?
Also, while many activities in this guide require each audience member to share their stories and findings with the wider team, many are uncomfortable at the prospect of doing so.
That’s not everyone’s idea of fun!
Your ability to read the room and select willing participants will go a long way in making things less awkward for the introverts in your team.
Instead of putting team members on the spot in your ice breaker Zoom activities, ask if anyone would like to share their answers.
Encourage Team Members With Zoom Icebreakers.
With the move to work-from-home, Zoom meetings have become the new norm for many. Even offices that have returned to in-person work are operating on hybrid models as remote teams take advantage of flexible schedules.
Adding casual experiences like fun Zoom icebreakers quells digital fatigue and encourages team building and a more personable company culture.
Just be sure to keep things lighthearted. Delving too deeply into people’s personal lives is a big no-no. If you keep it simple and fun, the team will let their guard down. Try out one of the Zoom icebreaker games in your next meeting!