One of the most consistent talking points during the pandemic has been the level of fatigue and burnout people are feeling with all of the Zoom and video-conference meetings they are compelled to participate in now. Which is why the newly coined term zoom icebreakers has entered our lexicon.
Zoom icebreakers is just a term used to describe any exercise or activity that breaks up the intense focus and monotony of video conference calls to help energise, refresh and move the body of participants. In earlier articles, we have discussed the benefits of inviting your teams and meeting participants to connect more meaningfully online. In the same way, these virtual team-building exercises will improve the productivity of your remote teams, Zoom icebreakers also improve the productivity of your meetings.
Zoom Ice-breakers for Large Groups & Virtual Teams
Here’s a list of fun ice-breaking type experiences you can use in your next online team meeting or virtual conference. Most require no props, are simple to understand and will provide ample opportunities for your group to laugh, have fun and interact.
Be sure to click the links (where available) to access all of the step-by-step instructions and video tutorials.
By far the most successful virtual energiser of the lot. Start your meeting with this gem or break it up partway through, the results will be the same. You’ll see a lot of smiles and laughter and a real boost to the energy levels of your group. As the host, you share a story about Mr & Mrs Wright baking a cake and pepper it with may references to the words ‘left ‘ and ‘right.’ It works like this – every time your group hears the word left, they move their bodies to the left of their screen, and vice-versa. You can make up a story, or you can download one from our database.
Using your chat room, invite people who would like to attend your proposed ‘Zoom’ party that they will only be given the password if they bring something suitable. Give an example to illustrate what you mean, such as an apple or a gummy-bear, then open up the chat room (or video channel) to invite suggestions. It’s a brain-teaser, so there is something secret about the item that must first be unlocked to solve the problem. There are many, many ‘keys’ to this fun virtual ice-breaker and, to continue this example, every item must have two same consecutive letters. So you may bring a puppy but not a dog, a beer but not wine. Get it? So much fun.
This is a powerful, yet quick team ice-breaker. As people start to gather, or during the course of your meeting, take a particular interest in the backgrounds of your participants. Spy something interesting, like an animal featured in an obscure paining, or the pink-spine of a book on a shelf, etc. Simply challenge your group to be the first person to find the item and describe where it is located. If this seems too easy, then pose a more cryptic clue such as “the author of this book once lived in the south pole,” for example.
Draw up a long list of attributes which may be relevant to your team or group, or download a sample list of questions from our database. Invite everyone to start by standing up (this on its own can be enough to refresh people) and then start asking the questions on your list. Please sit down if… you did not eat breakfast this morning. A few people may sit down. Then ask Please sit down if… all of your grandparents are alive. The key here is to keep going until only 1 or 2 people are still standing. A longer version woudl entitle people to stand up again if they do not apply to the most recent question/attribute.
As people are gathering for the meeting, I love to pose one or more fun questions to engage my fellow meeting participants, such as ‘Name one place in the world that you would describe as paradise.” Questions like these serve two purposes (a) they invite people to interact and share and (b) it invites people to imagine something wonderful and positive in their life. Ask one or two questions, dive a little deeper if you choose, and 5 minutes have been usefully filled.
Following on from the success of above, I invite people to break away from the focus of their screens and locate something in their office/home/worlp[lace that means something to them, ie something that they care about. Without exception, this exercise elicits some of the most fascinating sharing and really makes the meeting memorable for everyone. For example, just last week I asked people to share a photograph they have hanging somewhere in their space. People keep old photographs for a reason, so you can just imagine who useful this was to break the ice and help my meeting participants get to know one another better.
Here’s another favourite classic conversation icebreaker that I pull out often. Ask your team members or meeting participants to grab a sheet fo paper and a pen. By way of demonstration write your name in the top half and a series of innocuous numbers below it. The key to the numbers is that they should represent something about you, such as 13 – 26 – 199 – 0 – 3 which could mean I have worked here for 13 years, I’m 26 years old, I live at #199 in my street, I have never been married and 3 is my favourite number.
This zany exercise is quick, very playful and will very likely have absolutely no bearing on the topic at hand, but it’ll be worth it. Start with a couple of quirky and dexterous hand and body part stunts and then simply invite the rest of your online crew to share what they know too. There are dozens and dozens of fun tricks to demonstrate, but if you happen to be short for ideas start with clicking your fingers, then on both hands, and whistling through your lips, then your hands, etc. Be sure to check the video for lots of fun ideas to inspire you and your team.
Here’s a fun zoom icebreaker that started out as a lark and has quickly become a crowd favourite. Pull your team away from their screens and move their bodies for about 20-30 seconds. Simply ask them to go to their kitchen and grab one piece of cutlery, but instruct them to NOT show it before you ask when everyone returns. Naturally, your crew will return with either a spoon, knife or fork. When ready, ask for the big reveal and then tally which cutlery type wins. You can stop it there, or dive a little deeper and ask people to return to their kitchen over and over again until everyone returns with the same piece, ie a team challenge of sorts.
This is one of my favourite team-building icebreakers for meetings. Either set up the poll in advance or simply ask the questions, you are inviting individual group members to consider what their preferences are for a series of 5 to 10 scenarios. Each scenario has a positive and a negative, so it’s always a question of balance. For example, would you rather be the star player on a losing team or the benched player on the winning team? Better still, ask people to record their personal preference and then speculate what the majority preference would be for the whole group. Award points for those with the most correct answers.
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