No one likes awkward silences.
An awkward silence is, well, not a very pleasant atmosphere. Some people might feel more uncomfortable than others and it can affect how they decide to participate throughout the rest of the meeting.
And that’s what ice breakers are for: they prevent tension from arising in the first place.
Good ice breakers for virtual meetings get people wanting to open up and get involved. It’s also essential for setting up the tone of your meeting.
Then again, you and your audience will have different preferences. In this guide, we’ll look at 30 virtual ice breakers from 5 different categories.
5 Different Types of Ice Breakers for Virtual Meetings
Make your attendees feel more comfortable by winning their trust and you’ll immediately improve the attendee experience.
That said, there are 5 different types of virtual ice breakers that we’ll be going through:
- Casual questions
- Hypothetical questions
- Fun activities
- Group tasks
Ice Breaker Category 1: Introductions
Yourself as well as attendees simply introduce themselves to the group. Though this is mostly applicable to small meetings, there are ways to do this for large conferences.
Introduce yourself with a fun fact
Introduce yourself by sharing your name and a bit about your own professional background. Then, share a fun fact about yourself such as:
- What you like, e.g. a basketball team that you support
- What you dislike, e.g. spicy food
Sharing something personal outside of the meeting agenda helps put attendees at ease by making yourself relatable.
Go around the room
Not literally. I mean going around each attendee and having them introduce themselves. But ideally, they shouldn’t have to think too hard about their introduction, so here’s a few ways to make this easier:
- Set an agenda
- Share relevant information beforehand
- Tell attendees how you’d like them to introduce themselves
This works well for small online gatherings.
Make a joke
Have a few jokes prepared for both the start and the middle of the meeting to create a more friendly atmosphere. These should be appropriate and non-controversial. Cracking a joke every now and then relieves the tension. It also helps keep attendees engaged.
Showing gratitude yourself or giving gratitude prompts helps you create a positive and welcoming environment. This can be a great way to start getting people to open up without being intrusive.
Everyone likes compliments. Why not give compliments as you’re going through the meeting?
And this doesn’t always have to be work-related. It could even be about something casual like something you noticed about their Zoom background. However, keep it appropriate by not commenting on personal factors such as religious and political beliefs.
An emoji introduction is basically getting attendees to make their presence clear by entering an emoji into the chat. This is effective when holding large virtual meetings with hundreds of attendees.
Ice Breaker Category 2: Casual Questions
“How are you?”
Well, that’s one example of a casual question. Except, this isn’t the best thing to ask since it’s pretty generic and doesn’t show any real sign of interest to the other person.
There are other friendly ways to start getting to know someone. The best virtual ice breaker questions, however, are those that are a tad more personalized – take this concept into account especially when planning your event marketing strategy.
Where are you joining us from?
Ask where they’re joining the meeting from. This is a good way to start building a connection as you’re getting to know the other person without prying into their personal lives. Plus, it’s effective for finding mutual interest which could help you earn their trust.
Have any of you watched <movie name>?
Refer to pop culture either to help attendees understand the point you’re trying to make. For example, share your favorite movie. You could also bring this up during your introduction to plant the seed and start connecting with attendees on a slightly more personal level.
How was your weekend?
This question works best on a Monday because this is when it makes the most sense to ask about someone’s weekend. Or let’s say you’re hosting the meeting on a Tuesday – another alternative is to ask how the start of their week is going. Although this won’t immediately break the ice, it cracks by starting a conversation.
Do you have any travel plans this year?
It’s the type of light-hearted question you’d ask a friend. Not only is it super casual and friendly but it also allows other attendees to find a mutual interest with one another. Some sample follow-up questions could be:
- Any particular reason why you want to go there?
- What do you like most about that place?
- Have you been there before?
Where is one place in the world you would like to go?
This is another version of the previous question. Then again, who doesn’t love traveling and exploring new places? This gives you insight into a person’s interests and opens up the door for conversation.
Do you have any passion projects you’re working on?
Passion projects say a lot about a person. It reveals their interests, values, and how they like to spend their time. It’s effective for both speakers and attendees to break the ice since you may have common interests which can spark a conversation. This is also effective for networking sessions.
However, keep the topics related to the meeting’s purpose for more formal events. Use discretion and consider the context before asking about passion projects.
Ice Breaker Category 3: Hypothetical Questions
A hypothetical question puts you in an imagined scenario. These can be unrealistic, funny, and even pretty weird or absurd depending on what you ask.
Now, why ask hypothetical questions? Simple – it’s a friendly way to get to know the preferences and interests of others without being intrusive. Asking these types of questions (however, it must be appropriate to the context of your meeting) helps attendees see you in a more positive light as a fellow human being.
Would you rather X or Y?
- Would you rather go to McDonalds or KFC?
- Would you rather accidentally reply "Love you" instead of "Best regards" in a work email or accidentally call your manager "mom" during a Zoom meeting?
- Would you rather work with a typewriter or a rotary phone?
If you could…
- If you could have a conversation with any fictional character, who would you pick and why?
- If you could work from anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
- If you could swap jobs with any celebrity for a day, who would it be?
- If you could have any other job in the world, what would it be?
What would you do if…
- What would you do if you became the richest person alive?
- What would you do if you caught your boss doing TikTok dances in the office?
- What would you do if you were invisible?
- What would you do if you were tasked with creating a marketing campaign for a wand that existed in the world of Harry Potter?
Never have I ever…
- Never have I ever sent an email wearing PJs in bed
- Never have I ever pretended to be busy at work to avoid doing something I didn't want to do
- Never have I ever made an embarrassing typo
- Never have I ever fallen asleep during editing or filming
- Never have I ever had a video go viral for the wrong reasons
Ice Breaker Category 4: Fun Activities
Fun activities… like games! Or even a simple activity that energizes your audience through interactions. Not only are these enjoyable but it also creates a more relaxed atmosphere.
As a kid, you might’ve managed to get along with others and connect on a deeper level purely by spending time playing video games together. Well, it’s a strategy that still works. The activities listed below can be great solutions for remote teams as well as leadership and executive meetings.
These virtual icebreakers work for both hybrid and online events. Alternatively, use these ice breaker activities to boost employee engagement at a company.
Virtual escape rooms
Escape rooms are a classic. This is a game where you have to solve riddles and puzzles to escape the room you’re put in. Although it’s an activity that usually takes place in a physical setting, it can also be played virtually.
Ask a series of general knowledge questions to participants. This often played in teams and for good reason: it’s an interactive activity that encourages attendees to work together.
Polls give attendees a way to share feedback or input by entering their answers into a provided space.
You might be similar to me. Sometimes, you don’t know when to have your say in the conversation (which often happens naturally in social settings). This makes polls a good solution for people like us.
Bingo is a fun game that’s played with randomly drawn numbers or symbols arranged in a grid pattern. Players mark off the numbers on their bingo cards as they’re called out. The first player to complete a designated pattern such as a straight or diagonal line says “Bingo”, meaning they’ve won.
Easy enough, right?
Bingo is often used as an interactive way to engage attendees and break up the monotony of long meetings. Virtual bingo cards are easy to create and the game can be played either as a side activity or as a planned part of the meeting agenda.
A scavenger hunt is where you’re given a list of items to find. You’re also given clues to help you find those items.
This is a game that normally takes place in-person like how you’d celebrate Easter by doing Easter Egg hunts. However, this can still be placed online except you’d host the game through an online platform.
A bucket list is a list of experiences or life goals you want to accomplish. This usually involves things like traveling to certain places or trying new foods. Sharing bucket lists is a fun way to begin a conversation and start getting to know one another by getting a glimpse into each other’s aspirations.
Two truths and a lie
Two truths and a lie is a classic icebreaker game where each person tells the group three statements about themselves: two of them are true, and one of them is false.
This is an easy game to play and doesn’t require a separate platform like some of the other games listed. It’s a fun way to get to know each other too. Either make this game the agenda for introductions or use it as a side activity to break apart long meetings so that you can retain your attendees’ focus.
“Let’s be honest, how many of you actually use Facebook? Give me a raise of hands.”
That’s a classic example of getting attendees to put their hands up.
This shows people that there are others similar to them. Even if many people don’t raise their hands for whatever question you asked, they can at least be reassured that they’re similar to another person (or yourself).
Ice Breaker Category 5: Group Tasks
Group tasks create an opportunity for team bonding as well as getting people to tap into their creative juices. It can also lighten up the mood and it certainly helps with creating a more inclusive remote meeting.
Ask a topic question and then put people into groups via breakout rooms. Have them discuss the topic so that they can share their answer with everyone else. To make things easier, assign people their roles and make it clear what needs to be done so that no one’s just sitting around and waiting in silence.
Brainstorming sessions are where you share ideas together. The only difference here compared to the previous strategy is that everyone participates in one room as opposed to putting people into smaller groups and sending them off into different breakout rooms.
Our backs might start to ache after sitting down for a while in an online meeting. So, doing a quick stretch can be a good way to take a short break. Plus, it’s a good way to break the tension.
Take the lead by starting with yourself. Here’s how this might go:
“Alright, almost there! Before we move onto the next section, we’ll do a 2-minute stretch since we’ve got a few ways left to go...”
Group feedback sessions can make other attendees feel more comfortable participating and sharing their own work.
Rather than choosing a guinea pig though, you could start with your own or a pre-selected piece of work to critique together. This helps ensure that no one feels uncomfortable with sharing their own work to the rest of the group.
Ask attendees what they’ve found the most useful or intriguing about the meeting. See if there’s anything that they find interesting that they’d like to share.
Put an image on the screen and have everyone describe it with one word. This can either be a work-related activity or a side task that’s relevant to the meeting. Or another option is to ask fun questions using this framework.
Here’s a few examples:
- How would you describe your career in one word?
- How would you describe company X with one word?
Tips to Help You Break the Ice in Virtual Meetings
One of the most effective ways to win your attendees’ participation is to give them clear openings. Try not to make them have to work for it and put lots of effort in otherwise they’re less likely to engage.
Have everyone turn their webcams on to humanize the experience. Seeing each other’s faces makes the virtual meeting feel more like an in-person gathering, which can encourage engagement and overall participation.
It also allows you to read the room better by looking at facial expressions and body language.
Use the Right Ice Breaker Techniques
Ask the right questions and select the right ice breaker strategies based on your audience and the nature of your online meeting.
For instance, you probably wouldn’t do a virtual scavenger hunt in a meeting full of strangers as opposed to a meeting with your team. When you’re hosting a meeting with complete strangers where people don’t know each other, you might use a different fun ice breaker activity like two truths and a lie.
Pay Close Attention to Attendees
Being a good listener allows you to create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. People who feel heard and understood are more likely to engage in the meeting. Not only does this lead to a more productive session, it also leads to a positive attendee experience. Moreover, it helps you pick up on subtle cues on how an attendee is doing.
Interactive features are king, e.g. polls and DM chat. This makes it super easy for your audience to get involved. No matter what their personality types are (including introverts), the right features will give each attendee a clear opportunity to participate.
Either look for dedicated software or use a virtual event platform to manage your online meetings.
Setting up a pre-registration page allows you to establish the meeting agenda so attendees know what to expect. Another bonus is that you can collect information on each attendee so that you’re more prepared for the meeting.
Speakers have a crucial role to play as they have a significant impact on the attendee experience.
Delivering content in a way that’s informative yet entertaining usually requires experience unless you’re a natural. But if you’re still not quite there, it can be worth looking into speaker directories to find a passionate expert in your industry to lead your meeting or event.
Use These Virtual Ice Breakers to Make Your Next Online Meetings More Engaging
The ideal social environment is one that feels natural and welcoming – you don’t feel forced nor do you feel like you’re the odd one out. This type of atmosphere is important if you want to win the active participation of attendees or team members for whatever online event it is that you’re hosting.
And these ice breakers for virtual meetings that we’ve discussed will help you do just that.