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 you need to build group rapport quickly.
I wanted to pull together a list of team building icebreakers for meetings that are 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.
Related reading: How to Build Rapport with Remote Team Members
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 a while 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.
- They can also kickstart creative thinking if your team is problem-solving or trying to come up with creative approaches to challenges.
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 – scroll below for the LIST…
15 Team Building Icebreakers for Meetings
1. Take a picture
This is one you’ll want to use for distributed teams.
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.
Another option: Have team members take pictures of their work area instead. They can submit them in advance and this will give them a chance to stage the area or tidy up a bit if they wish.
2. 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.
3. What are you reading?
Ask participants to tell about some of the books they’ve recently read or are currently reading.
By sharing the books you’re reading you tell something about yourself. In addition, you may learn of some great books to add to your own list.
4. Two Truths and A Lie
Have participants share three pieces of information, two of which are true and one is a lie. Participants must guess which statement is the lie.
It can help to have team members give you their submissions in advance. It gives team members more time to come up with more creative answers and you’ll save time in the meeting.
I’ve played this with multiple teams and I always learn interesting things about my peers.
5. Would you rather?
Ask participants “would you rather…” questions for insight into their preferences and personalities. A peer recently led us through a session of this game and it was simple, quick, and lighthearted. Some examples:
- Would you rather give up your computer or your pet?
- Would you rather have to only eat spicy food or sweet food?
- Would you rather go without talking or without electronics for a week?
- Would you rather always have to eat with a fork or a spoon?
- Would you rather give up your computer forever or Tv forever?
- Would you rather forever give up movies or books?
- Would you rather be invisible or be able to read minds?
- Would you rather live in a climate that’s always hot or always cold?
- 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 spend a month a ski lodge or a surf camp?
- Would you rather vacation in the mountains or the beach?
- Would you rather have all green lights as you drive, or never have to stand in line to wait again?
6. What’s Your Favorite Meal?
Have everyone tell what their favorite meal is. It could be something they order out or prepare themselves.
It might even be a memorable meal they had once in their lives. I remember a meal I had out in Mexico City that was the biggest – most delicious – steak I’ve ever had in my life. I was with friends and the place was a bit posh and we had such a fun, memorable meal there together. We still talk about it!
And if people answer with things they prepare themselves, you may even have others asking for recipes!
7. 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?
8. 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.
9. 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!
10. 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.
Have each participant share which three people – living or dead – they’d choose to have with them if they were deserted on an island, and maybe even why.
You’ll have some fun answers like MacGyver or some famous celebrities, and even some practical answers like a boat builder!
12. Life Highlights
Have each participant think about the best moments in their lives. Then have each person share one of these best moments and if they would relive it if they could.
13. What are you most proud of?
Have participants name something they’re proud of? Is it an accomplishment? Perhaps an award they’ve won or something difficult they did?
14. Tell me something I don’t know
Have participants tell the group something that others don’t know about them. This is always fun and you’ll learn suprising things about one another. I’ve learned that peers play in bands, have been in movies, and even one who was a circus performer!
15. Meeting Icebreaker Questions
Come up with a question that you open the meeting with. You can ask them question and then have each attendee answer it in turn.
- 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 famous person, who would you choose and why?
- Name your favorite movie and why you love it.
- What’s your favorite book and why?
- If you could meet any historical figure, who would you choose to meet and why?
- What is your favorite season and why?
- What is your favorite thing you own? Why do you love it?
- 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?
- If you could have any type of animal as a pet, what would you choose?
- If you could have any superpower, what would you choose and why?
One challenge to this approach is each person will be thinking of their answer instead of really listening to others. To avoid this, you can send the question in advance. Each person may feel better prepared with their answers and also better enjoy hearing what others have to share.
Another approach is if you’re all attending the meeting online, you can have attendees type their answers in the chat, and then run through the answers individually.
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.
If you want to run the best meetings possible, get a copy of my book Bad Meetings Happen to Good People: How to Run Meetings That Are Effective, Focused, and Produce Results. Running great meetings showcases your great leadership skills while moving your project forward – a win-win!