I’ll be the first to admit that when someone uses the word “icebreaker,” I cringe. The idea of it usually puts me off. But there are times when an activity is needed to help build group rapport quickly. So I wanted to take on the challenge of pulling together a list of team building icebreakers for meetings and see if I could find several that seemed tolerable, or maybe even fun. I realize this is completely subjective, and you might not agree, but hopefully there are a few here that you can use in those situations when you need one.
Benefits of Using Team Building Icebreakers for Meetings
- Icebreakers help teams bond and build rapport more quickly.
- They can help teams relax and prompt creativity.
- They can help team members start building trust.
- You can facilitate connections among team members that would likely take longer to happen, or might not happen at all otherwise.
- For meetings with remote teams, having an activity that allows the team to bond a bit can help facilitate rapport across teams that don’t have opportunities to see each other face-to-face.
When to use Team Building Icebreakers for Meetings
Icebreakers can work well if you’re in any of the following situations:
- Bringing together a team that will be working together for awhile and not everyone knows each other. An icebreaker will help the team bond and build trust.
- Bringing together a team that needs to work well together quickly. An icebreaker can help folks relax and get to know one another better.
- Bringing together two existing teams that worked together independently, but not together. Icebreaker activities can facilitate merging the teams.
- Adding new team members to an existing team with established relationships. Icebreakers can help new team members bond with the team and feel more welcome.
When Not to Use Team Building Icebreakers for Meetings
Not every meeting needs icebreaker activities. In fact, there are times when it’s best not to use one. Situations such as the following would not warrant an icebreaker activity:
- If your team already knows each other and works together repeatedly.
- If your team is meeting to address an urgent situation or crisis. In this situation, it’s time to get down to business and focus on the problem at hand.
- If you are meeting with high-level executives for a formal business meeting, you likely need to stay focused on the meeting topic and not spend time on icebreakers. Executives will have tight schedules and the time is better spent focusing on the business at hand.
Now on to the list…
15 Team Building Icebreakers for Meetings
Best for Remote / Distributed Teams
- Reply All. Ask a question to the group via email, asking them to reply all, so that everyone sees the answers. My favorite question suggested was “if you could take a vacation anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?” As the meeting starts, you might give attendees the opportunity to explain their choices. Source: Samantha McDuffee at Teambonding
- Opening Chit Chat. Allow time at the beginning of conference calls for a bit of chit-chat to allow teams a chance to get to know each other some. Use video conferencing if possible for an even more personal experience. I know – this isn’t really a structured activity, but it does give the team some time to relax and get more comfortable with each other. Source: Samantha McDuffee at Teambonding
- Take a picture. Ask participants to take a picture of an object in their work area. You’ll get various types of items, such as toys or maybe even family photos. This can spark interesting conversation and provide insight. Alternatively, you could ask team members to take a picture of the view out their window. As a result, you’ll get insight into the variety of locations and settings of the group. Source: Lucid Meetings Blog, Chris Higgins
Good for All Teams:
- What’s on your reading list? Ask participants to tell about some of the books they have recently read or are currently reading. By sharing the books you are reading you tell something about yourself. In addition, you may learn of some great books to add to your own list. Source: Joitske Hulsebosch
- Two Lies and A Truth. Have participants share three pieces of information, two of which are lies and one is true. Participants must guess which statement is the true one. The person who has fooled the most team members wins. Source: Joitske Hulsebosch
- Would you rather? Ask participants “would you rather…” questions for insight into their preferences and personalities. This game was provided by Tempedia, where you can find a long list of questions for this game. Some examples:
- Would you rather be able to stop time or fly?
- Would you rather give up your computer forever or Tv forever?
- Would you rather be a deep sea diver or an astronaut?
- Would you rather be invisible or be able to read minds?
- Would you rather give up your computer or your pet?
- Would you rather go to an amusement park or a family reunion?
- Would you rather live without music or live without T.V.?
- Would you rather own a ski lodge or a surf camp?
- “What’s Your Favorite Meal?” Have participants tell what their favorite meal is. It could be something they order out or prepare themselves. You’ll likely have an engaging discussion about several suggestions, and even recipe requests. Source: Lucid Meetings Blog, Chris Higgins
- Gifts and Hooks. The concept is that each person has strengths that they bring to the group (gifts) and also various experiences that they need to stay engaged (hooks). Ask each to share, and then at the end, ask the following questions:
- What does this tell us about our team?
- What do we need to keep in mind as we move forward?
This will help the team get to know one another, and provide additional value too. Source: Michael Wilkinson, CMF, Leadership Strategies, Inc.
- Time Machine. Ask participants to share where they’d go if they could climb aboard a time machine. Which time period would they visit and why? Would they want to stay? Source: Deb Peterson at About Education
- Your Worst Job. Have each person tell the group what the worst job they’ve ever had was. You’ll get insight and likely sympathy for team members. In addition, this can spur fun and lively conversation. Source: Kevin Johnston at Chron
- Who Is It? Ask each player to write a fact about themselves that others don’t yet know on a notecard. The facilitator collects the cards and either passes them out to be read aloud individually by each team member or reads them aloud herself. As you get to each card, the team must guess which participant wrote the fact. To play the game remotely, have the team members email a fact about themselves, and the facilitator will read each while the team guesses. I first played this at a team offsite, and we had great fun with it!
- Simple Lead-Ins. Have each participant share one piece of information that they hope to get from the meeting or group sessions. Additionally, you can have participants tell about a successful strategy they’ve used. As a result, you’ll have a better understanding of team expectations and learn about successful approaches. I’ve used this one successfully in training sessions and workshops.
- Marooned. Have each participant share which three people they’d choose to have with them if deserted on an island, and perhaps why. These people could be living or dead. Source: Ryan Rosado at Govloop
- Life Highlights. Have each participant think about the best moments in their lives. Then have each team member share one of these best moments and if they would relive it if they could. Source: Icebreaker Ideas
- “Meeting Icebreaker Questions.” Also from Icebreaker Ideas, a long list of questions that team members or meeting attendees can take turns answering. They can all answer the same question or mix it up. Some possible questions:
- If you could be an animal, what animal would you be and why?
- If you could live anywhere, where would you live and why?
- If you could be friends with a celebrity, who would you choose and why?
- If you could choose to remain one age until you die, which age would you choose and why?
- What is your favorite movie and why?
- If you could meet any historical figure, who would you choose to meet and why?
- Is your favorite season spring, summer, fall, or winter? Why?
- What is the favorite material object that you own? Why is it your favorite?
- If you could buy anything and price was no object, what would you buy and why?
- If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go and why?
Hopefully among this list of team building icebreakers for meetings you’ve found several that appeal to you. If so, let me know your favorite. If you have others that you’ve used and loved, let me know in the comments.
Other related posts you might like:
Download this list – Have them handy when you need them to keep it easy and fun!
And for Extra Big Help with running great meetings, download my Step-by-Step Quickstart Guide to running great meetings: How to Run Meetings Like a Pro