Table of Contents
- What Are Good Icebreaker Questions?
- What is an Icebreaker?
- Virtual Meeting Icebreakers
- Icebreaker #1: Show and Tell
- Icebreaker #2: Meet the Pet (or child, or partner, or plant)
- Icebreaker #3: Phone Photo
- Icebreaker #4: Partner Lunch
- Icebreaker #5: Rotating Questions
- Icebreaker #6: Quiz Time
- Icebreakers You Can Do In Person
- Icebreaker #7: The Candy Game
- Icebreaker #8: The Marshmallow Game
- Icebreaker #9: A Scavenger Hunt
- Icebreaker #10: Two Truths and One Lie
- Icebreaker #11: Paper Airplane Game
- Icebreaker #12: Year of the Coin
- Icebreaker #13: One Common Thing
- Icebreaker #14: Speed Networking
- Icebreaker #15: Pictionary
- How Long Should an Icebreaker Last?
When most people hear the word “ice breaker,” they think of boring, silly, or awkward. In this post, I want to share 15 meeting icebreakers that are:
- easy to do
If you are a meeting planner, team leader, or event organizer (or simply want to make your meetings a little better), you MUST watch this video.
And if you want better meetings, you MUST send this article to your meeting planner. I’m going to convince you to upgrade the age-old icebreaker.
What Are Good Icebreaker Questions?
Icebreaker questions are a fun, easy way to get to know people and lighten the mood. They are similar to icebreaker activities but usually do not require much or any preparation at all. Here are some great icebreaker questions you can ask!
10 Icebreaker Questions to Get to Know People
- What is your proudest accomplishment?
- If you could write a book, what would it be about?
- What is the happiest moment in your life? What made it so special?
- What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done for fun?
- What is the best gift you’ve ever given/received?
- What is your dream job?
- What is something you were known for in college/high school?
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
- Where is one place you’d love to travel to?
- What does your ideal day look like?
10 Fun Icebreaker Questions
- What is your spirit animal?
- Who would win in a fight: a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
- If you were a color, what would it be?
- What superpower would you choose to have? Why?
- What was your favorite television show as a kid?
- If you had a time machine, what time period would you travel to?
- If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
- If you had one wish, what would you wish for?
- If you were stranded on an island, what 3 things would you bring with you?
- What song best describes you?
What is an Icebreaker?
An icebreaker is an activity, event, or game that is designed to break down social barriers, make others feel more comfortable, and facilitate social interaction. Icebreakers are usually performed at the beginning of a meeting or team session and involve a group of people.
After hosting hundreds of meetings every year, from conferences to sales team retreats, one thing I’ve learned is that an icebreaker truly can make or break an event. Here’s the crazy science on this:
- Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton gathered 221 participants and had them form groups of two to four people.
- Then, he asked them to do a campus scavenger hunt where they had to run around taking selfies in front of specific locations.
- They had precisely forty-five minutes to complete the hunt and the winners received a cash prize.
- *There was a catch. Half of the teams were asked to do a pre-scavenger hunt icebreaker together and the other half were simply asked to read an article together. The icebreaker groups had to form a circle, perform a series of rhythmic claps and foot stomps and yell, “Let’s go!”
The results were clear. The teams that did the icebreaker before the scavenger hunt got the most selfies, had the shortest completion times, and reported liking each other more in the post-event survey. This is incredible! A couple of foot stomps, a few claps, and a cliché cheer improved performance, time, AND likability.
Warm-ups and icebreakers can make a difference.
So here’s a list of my favorite icebreakers to avoid having those awkward meetings.
Virtual Meeting Icebreakers
Not all meetings nowadays are in-person. Some are virtual. These fun icebreakers can be performed anytime, anywhere, no matter the distance!
Icebreaker #1: Show and Tell
This is one of my favorite virtual icebreakers. Why? Because it reveals what your teammates really value! Here’s how to perform this icebreaker:
- Ask your remote team members to grab a nearby item (or even send a personal picture through group chat!). This item should be unique to them.
- Share! Take turns sharing your item and the story or personal meeting behind it.
For example, I recently shared in my weekly team meeting a small personal item: a llama doll I received from one of my friends! It was a great way to show to my remote team how I value small gifts from friends, and an easy icebreaker, too! Win-win!
Icebreaker #2: Meet the Pet (or child, or partner, or plant)
This icebreaker idea is super simple, and who doesn’t like pets? It’s best performed for remote teams that are newer and/or as a first-day icebreaker. Here’s how:
- Have your remote team grab their pets or show a picture of them.
- Start the introductions! You can start off with the basics (name, age, where you got him/her), but make sure to throw in one personal/fun story you had with your pet.
Pro tip: If your teammate does not have a pet, ask them to describe their ideal pet. Or meet each other’s kids. Or meet each other’s plants. Feeling funky? Ask them what their spirit animal is!
Icebreaker #3: Phone Photo
Do you want to get to know your team on a more personal note? This icebreaker activity is a great way to break the ice by putting your most embarrassing/awkward/awesome/proud moments up front for the world to see.
- Before the video call starts, send out a team message to find an embarrassing/awkward/proud/awesome/proud photo on their phone and post it in the group chat.
- When the call begins, share the details about your photo! The more ridiculous the photo, the more laughs you’ll get out of this icebreaker.
Everyone has an interesting photo on their phone, so this is a great activity for everyone!
Icebreaker #4: Partner Lunch
Want a fun way to make a meeting more… dare I say… delicious? Enter: the Partner Lunch. This icebreaker requires a bit of prep work with your team, and it’ll be better if you’re in similar time zones.
- Schedule a time where you and your team can video call and eat a meal together.
- Find a partner. Randomly assign partners in your team to talk one-on-one for 10-20 minutes before your group call.
- Talk! Now’s a great time for the partners to get to know each other over lunch. You can even have a list of deep questions to help facilitate discussion.
Icebreaker #5: Rotating Questions
In small groups, you can use great questions to get people to open up.
- Gather a list of icebreaker questions from earlier in the article, or check out my favorite 57 conversation starters you can use.
- Have everyone take turns answering questions. If they don’t like a question, they can choose another to answer!
Icebreaker #6: Quiz Time
One of the funnest icebreaker activities is to take quizzes and compare the results with your team! Here at Science of People, we absolutely LOVE quizzes. We’ve got a ton of quizzes backed with science to help you and your team understand each other:
- How open are you to new experiences? Are you extroverted or more introverted? Are you agreeable? See your traits in our Personality Test!
- Are you good at figuring out nonverbal communication? See if you can spot these cues with the Body Language Quiz.
- Have you ever noticed you date the same kind of person over and over again? That’s because we have specific attachment styles—find out yours in our Attachment Styles Quiz!
- Do you love trivia? You can check out a list of other quizzes on Sporcle.
Icebreakers You Can Do In Person
If you can’t take advantage of icebreakers for virtual meetings, don’t sweat it! Here are some icebreaker ideas you can do in-person. Let’s dive in!
Icebreaker #7: The Candy Game
This is my favorite icebreaker, because you combine easy bonding with the best possible ingredient: sugar! To coordinate this icebreaker:
- Pick your favorite kind of multi-colored candy–a bowl of M&Ms, Starbursts, Skittles or whatever tickles your fancy.
- Next, pass around the bowl and ask people to take as many candy pieces as they like, but NOT to eat them.
- Once the bowl of candy has been passed around, each person has to answer a question for each color they take. For example, you can assign questions such as:
- Red: What’s your favorite book?
- Orange: What’s the best vacation spot you have ever been to?
- Blue: What’s your favorite kind of food?
- Green: What TV show are you addicted to?
- Brown: If you could have any superhero quality, what would it be?
- Yellow: What’s the best part of your work week?
Icebreaker #8: The Marshmallow Game
Another icebreaker based on food? Of course! This icebreaker’s end goal is to build the tallest freestanding structure… out of spaghetti, string, tape, and a marshmallow. And if that wasn’t enough? The marshmallow has to be on top! Here’s how to play:
- Divide your group into teams of four.
- Hand each group these four things: 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow.
- Set a timer for 18 minutes. After the 18 minutes, the team with the tallest standing structure wins!
This is a great team-building exercise and also forces your teammates to cooperate with each other. I also recommend giving out a prize to the winning team—stacking uncooked spaghetti is definitely not an easy task! This icebreaker was originally introduced by Tom Wujec, who made a TED talk about it which you can check out here:
Icebreaker #9: A Scavenger Hunt
If you want people to get out of the office, you also can have your icebreaker be a mini scavenger hunt. It can be around town, around the office, or around the building.
Just like in the experiment I explained in the beginning of this article, give small groups a list of locations, and have them take as many selfies as they can in the allotted time. For this one, you should have a prize ready for the winning team!
Icebreaker #10: Two Truths and One Lie
I love the game “Two Truths and One Lie,” because it allows you to get a little more creative with your teams and to have some fun.
- Start by asking each person to come up with two facts about themselves and one believable fib.
- Next, everyone shares their three statements and the group votes or discusses their guess for the lie. For example, here are three statements about me.
- Growing up, my family called me “Sasa” as a nickname.
- I speak Mandarin.
- I have a pet turtle.
Can you guess which is the lie?
I do not have a pet turtle! Yes, my family called me Sasa because my little sisters couldn’t say “Vanessa.” And I lived in China during college. Fun facts, right? This icebreaker is a great way to get to know each other and to have some laughs along the way.
Special Note: If you have introverts in the group, it’s nice to let the group know ahead of time that they should think of two truths and one lie for the meeting. This is helpful for not putting people on the spot.
Icebreaker #11: Paper Airplane Game
I love this icebreaker because it is more hands on.
- Pass out different-colored sheets of paper to each person attending the meeting.
- Then ask everyone to write an interesting fact about themselves on the piece of paper and fold it into a paper airplane.
- Then, everyone launches their paper airplane to somewhere around the room.
- Finally, everyone retrieves one of the paper airplanes, reads the fact, and guesses whose paper airplane they got.
It’s fun to guess, and you learn new things about each other!
Icebreaker #12: Year of the Coin
Have a bowl of coins sitting at home? Perfect! They are great for icebreakers.
- Sort through the bowl to make sure you don’t have any coins that are too old
- Then have everyone pick a coin out of the bowl.
- Go around and ask each person to share something they were doing the year the coin was minted.
This is great for getting to know someone’s past—and to test people’s memories.
Icebreaker #13: One Common Thing
This is a great icebreaker if you want to get people moving around the room.
- Give everyone a list with each person’s name on it.
- Set a timer and have people go around and find one commonality with each person in the room.
The key is, you cannot share the same commonality with anyone else. If everyone in the room works at the same company, that commonality wouldn’t count. This is a way to get people exploring beyond what they already know about each other.
Icebreaker #14: Speed Networking
A speed networking session doesn’t just have to be for networking or new people. It also can be for groups that want to get to know each other. This can even be a group activity for large amounts of people, as long as you have a big open space.
- Ask everyone in the room to find a partner.
- Give everyone a conversation starter to answer and set a timer for two minutes. Each person has one minute to answer.
- After both people have answered and the two-minute timer is up, have them find a new partner and assign them a new conversation starter.
You can do as many rounds as time allows. If you have a small group, you can make sure everyone in the room gets at least one turn with each other.
Icebreaker #15: Pictionary
Last but not least, here is a fun icebreaker game for almost everyone: Pictionary! It’s an amazing game to play at home, so you can even bring it to your meetings as a cool icebreaker activity. If you’ve never played before, Pictionary is basically a word-guessing game where one player chooses a randomly-selected word and draws it, while the other players guess what the word is. Normal Pictionary is played using a physical board and pencils/pens, but you can also go virtual.
Try an online Pictionary game—one website I like to use is skribbl.io! You can even create your own private room and send a unique link so your whole team can join. This fun icebreaker is a great way to showcase your artistic side!
How Long Should an Icebreaker Last?
An icebreaker should not be too long, or it will take time away from the actual meeting. Icebreakers typically last anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. It should last enough time for people to feel comfortable and relaxed enough to easily discuss more important topics later on in the meeting.
These are my favorite icebreakers, and they work for different-sized groups. When thinking about having a successful meeting or retreat, we often think about the basics, such as a strong agenda, a yummy lunch, and planning. These are all good strategies, but don’t forget about the professional warm-up. A good icebreaker can break the tension, break the awkwardness and, of course, break the ice.
To your success,
P.S. Here are some more ideas for icebreakers in case you need them!