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How to Break the Ice in an Online Meeting

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Online meetings have become a regular part of work life for most of us. We know that team building is a crucial component of employee satisfaction. It fosters communication and helps employees get more done. It can sometimes be difficult to get people to warm up and feel comfortable volunteering their thoughts in a virtual environment, however.

 

Virtual ice breakers can help put everyone at ease. When the meeting participants start to get a feel for each others’ personalities and maybe even share some laughs, the awkwardness of speaking to a laptop screen starts to melt away. As a result, the meeting will be more productive, and the participants won’t have to suffer through another meeting that could have been an email.

 

How do you break the ice in a meeting without making matters more uncomfortable, though? Keep these tips and ideas in mind to give yourself a better chance of success.

Ask Compelling Questions

A trusty classic, asking a question is always a solid ice breaker, whether the meeting is in-person or virtual. A thoughtful question gets your coworkers thinking and lets everyone get to know each other a bit. Here are some tips to help get people talking.

General Tips for Ice Breaker Questions

  • Be creative and prepare a question ahead of time
  • Avoid basic “What’s your favorite _____ ?“ types of questions
  • Try to ask a question that will require some explanation with the answer to get participants talking

 

With these in mind, you might try one of these two categories of questions to ask. In both cases, the precise answer is less important than the explanation it should require. “Would you rather?” answers will make other participants wonder why, while bucket list questions should provoke some storytelling. 

“Would You Rather?” Question Ideas

  • Would you rather have perfect pitch or a photographic memory?
  • Would you rather have more money or more time on your hands?
  • Would you rather gain instant fluency in a foreign language or instant fluency in advanced mathematics and physics?
Ice Breaker

Bucket List Question Ideas

  • Which destinations are on your travel bucket list?
  • What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do if you had the time and money?
  • What’s the coolest “bucket list” item you’ve already crossed off?
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Virtual ice breakers can help put everyone at ease.

Play a Game to Add Some Fun

Games are perhaps “riskier” ice breakers for meetings because if they’re not truly fun, they might come off as cheesy. But if you’re breaking the ice in a meeting with people you already know to some extent, especially games are a great way to get people to loosen up and feel comfortable speaking up.  

General Tips for Ice Breaker Games

  • Keep categories/topics lighthearted
  • Pick your game with time constraints in mind
  • Allow meeting participants to sit out if desired

 

Games can always be modified to be as competitive or cooperative as desired. These games are broadly engaging and likely to get some laughs out of the meeting attendees.

Alphabet Categories

This game goes by several names, but the premise is essentially that, given a category at the start of the round, participants take turns volunteering a word that fits that category and starts with the appropriate letter of the alphabet.

 

So if the category was “colors,” the first player might say “amber,” the second player might say “blue,” and so on. 

 

One variation is to make it a memory game in which each player must name all the previous answers in order. There can also be some friendly competition if each participant “scores” a point for each valid answer.

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Unpopular Opinion

Another fun idea for an ice breaker game is to have each meeting participant try to come up with an “unpopular opinion” that’s not genuinely controversial at all but rather sparks a silly debate. 

 

For instance, an unpopular opinion could be that nontraditional pets like reptiles or snakes are superior to cats or dogs. This game can be played quickly if it ends there or extended to have the best “unpopular opinion” win by a vote or even allow a “formal” debate portion.

Trivia

Everyone enjoys a trivia game to break the ice in a meeting. They can be adapted for any kind of information, from facts about the meeting attendees to detailed information as a part of a training. Trivia games can be based on popular trivia game shows of all varieties and sometimes there are free online templates available to make preparation that much easier.

Pose a “Show and Tell” Prompt

“Show and tell” prompts are a unique way to get a glimpse into meeting attendees’ lives and build rapport within the team. They’re also just simply a fun ice breaker. Sharing brings people closer together, even on a virtual call.

General “Show and Tell” Tips for Meetings

  • Make sure your prompt applies to everyone who’ll be present
  • If you’re asking for a photo or an otherwise time-consuming thing, make sure to give everyone advance notice before the meeting
  • Decide in advance if you’ll put together everyone’s responses in a slideshow or similar; prepare if necessary

 

Though show and tell can take multiple forms, photos or items that can otherwise be accessed quickly are the most viable for virtual meetings. 

Photo Ideas for Show and Tell

  • Pets: You can make this a funny ice breaker by asking for photos that show pets in hilarious poses
  • The view from your world, such as your office window or backyard
  • Childhood photo (this could also be a guessing game); however be aware that some may find this prompt more difficult depending on their background

Item Ideas for Show and Tell

  • The most used emoji on your smartphone 
  • The most special item on your desk
  • The weirdest item within reach
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Wrap Up

Whether you choose to break the ice with a question, a game, or show and tell, meeting participants are most likely to respond thoughtfully when they’re prompted thoughtfully, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and pick something that hasn’t been done countless times in countless other meetings. 

 

You’ll be bringing light and fun into your meeting no matter what you pick. Try to relax and have fun with these ice breakers!

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