5 Easy Icebreakers for Meetings: Virtual and In-Person

How engaging are your meetings? Are people actively participating? Or are they distraught, uninterested, and generally not very creative?

Sometimes we need a couple of minutes to get into the right mental space when we start a discussion.

Especially, if people are on calls back-to-back all day.

Watch this video if you’d like to learn what easy and fun exercises you can use to set the stage for productive and engaging meetings.

Watch the video or keep reading to learn more about icebreakers for meetings, remote or in-person!

Using icebreakers for meetings to create great culture

Let’s talk about you can use meetings to build better team culture and encourage collaboration.

Meetings are an inevitable part of our work.

Unfortunately, many people spend time in meetings all day and they still don’t get a chance to really get to know their colleagues.

This is especially true if the team is working remotely.

Then there is almost no opportunities to talk about anything but work.

In this video I’d like to share 5 easy icebreakers for meetings that you can use both in person and remotely to encourage creativity and collaboration, build trust, and just have a little minute of respite in the middle of your busy schedule.

Ok, so, the icebreakers!

As I said I want to share five with you.

Number 1: Draw your weekend

That’s a fun and lightweight exercise where you ask the participants to draw something on a specific topic.

You should ask not just to draw an object – that is kind of boring.

But instead, ask to draw an activity.

For example, draw what you did last weekend, or what you are going to do this weekend, or what you like to do in your free time.

The possibilities are endless.

Of course, in person you can just give everyone a sticky note with a pen, or ask them to draw on the whiteboard.

Remotely you can use many different tools that allow you simple drawings. You don’t need anything fancy.

I believe most online whiteboards have a pen feature.

For example, there is one in Miro, in Mural, and even in Google Jamboard. So you have lots of options to try out.

And if you don’t want to or can’t use any special tools, you can just ask people to draw it on a piece of paper and show it to the camera.

Of course, each participant needs to briefly explain what they drew.

Number 2: Pick an item or a photo

One more fun icebreaker that can help your team members learn more about each other outside of work.

Ask each participant to choose an item in their home that is meaningful to them in some way.

This is of course for when your team is working from home and everyone is on camera.

Then ask each person to describe this item and what it means to them: why did they pick it?

If your meeting is in person or people don’t have access to their home, then you can ask to pick a photo on their phone that they would like to share.

Of course, if your team is completely new to each other or they didn’t create rapport yet, you should let them know a bit in advance so that they can prepare and feel less pressured in the moment.

It also helps to start sharing with yourself instead of picking on someone.

What item or what picture would you use?

For example, as I’m sitting at my desk

…well, I’m actually standing…

I have picked my Retrospective Poker cards.

It’s something that I think started ScrumMastered and it is always here on my desk.

Number 3: Word cloud

This one will require you to use some software that can add words to a word cloud as they are created.

The way it works is that you would ask a question that requires a one word answer and let people write down their words into the tool you decided to you.

The question may be as simple as “What feelings have you experienced in the past week?” or something fun and more personal like “What are your hobbies?”.

You can also use this in a workshop or a working agreements discussion and ask something like “What are your five most important values?

Team Agreements Workshop Guide

Run a team working agreements workshop with ease

Use my facilitation guide for a productive and engaging working agreements discussion.

With this exercise you will be able to gauge where the team members are aligned, where do they have the same interests, what can you draw ideas from.

You can initiate a discussion around more popular items.

Now, in terms of what tools you can use, I literally typed “collaborative word cloud” into Google and got a few free options.

For example, PollEverywhere.com

Here I have created a poll and you can actually participate in it while it’s live.

👉 Go to this link to add your answers: https://pollev.com/daryabagina676 – you can also find it below the video.

I’ll share the results in about a week here on YouTube, Instagram or in my newsletter. Subscribe if you are not in my list yet.

Number 4: The guessing game

This is kind of a modified version of the “two truths and a lie”.

The premise is simple: you ask people to write down a truth about them that is not immediately known by others.

Nothing too personal is needed here.

It can be something like “I have two cats” or “I like to build furniture on the weekends”.

This has to be anonymous to work. If you are doing it remotely, make sure that people cannot see who writes what.

Some collaborative tools have an anonymous mode.

For example, if everyone joins Miro without logging into their account, they will appear as anonymous collaborators.

Once everyone has written something about themselves you can mix it up and grab notes one by one reading them out loud.

Then ask the participants – who do you think wrote it and why?

This simple exercise can generate some surprises and spark some interesting discussions.

Regarding “two truths and a lie”. I would not recommend it to use as an ad hoc icebreaker as in reality people need time to think about to come up with some good ideas.

So if you decide to use it in a workshop, ask people to come prepared.

Number 5: Mad tea

I love using this one in my workshops and classes.

I might have been overusing it a little bit, to be honest.

Mad Tea comes from the Liberating Structures ideas which I’ll link in the description if you want to learn more.

To run the Mad Tea exercise you will need to prepare in advance with at least 5 questions for the participants to answer or 5 statements to fill in the blank.

These can be related to a specific topic, or be more personal.

Something like “If you could go on vacation anywhere right now, where would you go and why?

…I’d go to Japan for sure, because it’s awesome.

Anyway….

Once you have your questions ready, split the team into pairs or groups of three and reveal the first question to them.

Give the groups 1 to 2 minutes to answer and discuss.

It’s an extremely short timebox and this is what makes it fun and creates more energy for the rest of the meeting.

You shouldn’t show all the question at once and instead give them out one-by-one and set a new 1-2 minute timer for each one.

If you are running this remotely, you can use features like Zoom breakout rooms and reveal the questions in a collaborative whiteboard everyone has access to on their computer.

That’s usually how I run this exercise in my online classes and workshops.

In conclusion about icebreakers for meetings…

Ok, this sums up the five icebreakers for meetings you can use in person and remotely at the beginning of your meetings to revitalize the conversations and let people get to know each other a bit better.

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About The Author

Hi, my name is Daria Bagina. I’m a Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org and a practicing Scrum Master. I help teams and organizations to get the most out of the Scrum and Agile implementation by sharing my personal stories and practical advice.

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