How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice.
Don’t you feel better now that we’ve gotten that out of the way?
Icebreakers make meetings better by loosening everybody up and getting them into “meeting mode.” Consider the icebreaker meeting warm-up, an exercise you need to avoid awkward cramps throughout a meeting.
Despite persistent cliches, icebreakers for adults do not have to follow any particular format, and they definitely do not have to be lame. You can use pretty much any game or activity you want to break the ice before your meeting, as long as it gets people talking and smiling. (Bonus points for fun icebreakers for meetings that support your cultural values!)
Without further ado…
1. The One-Word Icebreaker
Our friends at Bonusly keep things simple by having everyone describe their current mood in one word. You can have people explain their one-word mood descriptor if you want to add more depth to your icebreaker activities, but you can also just go with the flow and enjoy how cryptic some of the answers can be.
I feel alpaca.
2. Solve a Murder Icebreaker
Cue The Office theme song… Michael Scott enters… “There’s been a murder…”
In all honesty, Michael was actually on to something! Solving a murder mystery can be a great way to break the ice with your team. Check out The Go Game and Team Building Kits for all types of mystery games that are designed for the workplace that help to develop teamwork, communication, and culture building.
Did someone say swag???
Here is a creative idea to try out during your next company meeting that will quickly help to break the ice and get everyone smiling:
- For every person that will attend, order one piece of swag ranging in monetary value
- Throw all of the pieces of swag into a box or bag that you can hold up above their head
- When the event begins, assign everyone a number 1 through… X
- Start with person 1
- That individual proceeds to blindly pick (3 seconds) from the assortment of swag items
- The piece of swag that they pick becomes theirs… for now… Proceed to person 2
- This new individual now picks another item at random and…(this is when the REAL fun happens)… they can then choose to swap swag items with one of the revealed pieces or keep what they’ve selected
- Rinse and repeat until the final person picks the last item and they can keep or swap it
- You go home with what you have in your hand
Side-note: this is also a great feedback mechanism to help you determine which pieces of swag people really want based on how many times they are traded.
These are some of our favorite “swagged” out items at SnackNation for Yankee Swag Swap:
- Water Bottles
- Tech Accessories
- Fitness Gear
- Eco-Friendly Products
- Portable Chargers and Power Banks
- Wireless Chargers
- Lunch Swag
- Happy Hour Accessories
- Winter Accessories
QuizBreaker is a really fun and easy tool that will help your team get to know each other a little more each week through ice breaker quizzes.
When you sign up, each person in your team answers some fun icebreaker questions such as “What’s your favorite TV show of all time”, “Which person alive or dead would most like to invite to dinner” or “Which store would you max out your credit card if you absolutely had to?”. Every week, each team member receives a quiz via email where they have to guess who on the team said which answer!
It’s a simple game that is used by teams big and small all over the world including the likes of Google, Salesforce and Mars Confectionary. It also comes with a free trial.
5. Office Charades Icebreaker
Kick off your meetings by playing a few rounds of charades where the presenters can pick only office-related things. If you’re rusty on your charades skills, here’s a quick refresher:
- Pick a “presenter” to start things off.
- Ask the presenter to think of an office item or activity. They can announce the category, but that’s the last time they can talk.
- Then have the presenter explain the item using only gestures. Any spoken words lead to an immediate disqualification.
- Laugh a lot. All charades manuals agree the game cannot be played without lots of laughter and yelling.
During this icebreaker from the American Management Association, participants choose a brand logo they identify with and explain why. Here’s how to play:
- Hand out name tags and pens.
- Have participants write their names and draw logos they love.
- Have everyone share why they chose their logos. Share in a group, or have everyone share thoughts with their neighbors.
7. Toilet Paper Icebreaker
This idea from Lifehack requires minimal effort and minimal funds. To play, pass a roll of toilet paper around and have everyone rip off how much they would usually use. Everyone will probably think you’re crazy. When the toilet paper makes it all the way around the circle, have everyone count their squares. The number of squares each person took is the number of fun facts they have to reveal about themselves.
Gamestorming recommends kicking off meetings by having everyone make trading cards to represent their personalities.
- Hand out index cards and markers.
- Tell everyone to draw a self-portrait and write their names, their nicknames (real or imaginary), and a fun fact.
- Everyone jumps up and trades cards. People can trade as many times as they want, but they have to read each card they get before they trade.
- After a few minutes, have everyone announce the name on the card they ended up with. People can even ask questions of the card’s owner if they want.
- Let the conversations flow!
9. The Personality Quiz Icebreaker
Make sure everyone has their smartphones. (We doubt this will be a problem.) Send everyone a link to a personality quiz you think they would like. Since there are probably over a million quizzes circulating, we know there will be one to pique your interest. Everyone can take the quiz and then reveal their results to the group. Have everyone explain why they agree or disagree with the results.
10. The Boss Q&A Icebreaker
Bring in the head of your department or project and give everyone 15 minutes to ask any questions they have, no holds barred. This icebreaker gets everyone thinking about the topic of your meeting. It might even clarify some of the issues the meeting aims to solve.
11. The Movie Pitch Icebreaker
Another favorite at Bonusly, split people into groups and have each group come up with a movie they want to make. Everyone should have a short pitch prepared within 10 minutes. (This film is The Avengers meets My Little Pony.) Let everyone make their pitch, and then have all meeting attendees vote on which idea deserves “funding.” The winners won’t immediately move to pre-production, but they might get a healthy snack for their creativity.
12. The Problem-Solution Icebreaker
Give everyone about ten minutes to pick out the biggest problems they see in the office and quickly dream up solutions. People can volunteer to pitch their ideas. Encourage creative thinking by declaring the room a safe zone, even if the boss is in the room. These quick ice breaker ideas will break the thickest of ice, and it might even inspire some projects if someone pitches an idea that resonates with the room.
13. Speed “Dating” Icebreaker
Have everyone sit near people they don’t work with. Tell everyone to look to their right and announce that they’ll be spending the next 5 minutes speed networking with the person next to them. The goal: 5 conversations in 5 minutes. Set a timer; every time the buzzer goes off, it’s time for people to find a new conversational partner.
14. The Shoe Icebreaker
This icebreaker from Chron requires zero prep and very little time to complete, but it’s pretty unforgettable. Have everyone leave one shoe by the door. Redistribute the shoes so everyone has one shoe that doesn’t belong to them. Set a timer for five minutes, and tell everyone to find the shoe’s owner and then strike up a 2-minute conversation, preferably about a subject other than shoes.
15. The Marshmallow Challenge
This challenge from Tom Wujec, a business visualization expert, makes the perfect icebreaker and team-building hybrid. Break your meeting attendees into groups of four. Give each group 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string, and one marshmallow. Ask them to build the tallest freestanding structure they can. Sit back and see what happens. Here’s Tom Wujec talking about the team-building virtues of the Marshmallow Challenge:
16. Mindfulness Icebreaker
Meetings can sometimes fail because of what we bring to them, and we’re not talking about notebooks and cell phones. If meeting attendees feel stress, especially about the meeting itself, then tension will dominate the agenda. Reduce stress by opening the meeting with a mindfulness icebreaker. Start with three minutes of silent contemplation, and then have everyone write down what is stressing them out. When everyone finishes writing, tell them to rip up their stress. Put all the scraps together in a bowl on the table.
17. Minefield: The Obstacle Icebreaker
This classic classroom activity from TeachThought makes the perfect meeting icebreaker. Set up “obstacles” around the conference room table. (We recommend something harmless and funny, like squeaky toys.) Now everyone takes turns navigating the obstacles while blindfolded, guided only by the shouts and direction of their teammates.
18. The Props Icebreaker
To conduct this inspirational icebreaker, give everyone five minutes to think of a recent situation where one of their co-workers blew them away with their skills and kindness. (It’s a major plus if the situation involves someone in the meeting!) Now have everyone tell the stories to the rest of the group.
19. Company History Icebreaker
SignUpGenius’s icebreaker helps employees learn some valuable company history. Make a list of ice breaker questions, pop them on the projector, and ask employees if they know the answers. (Individual buzzers could be totally cool if you have any on hand!) Here are some question ideas:
- Mission statement
- Founding year
- Biggest goal
- Founder’s name
- Number of employees
- Biggest competitor
20. The No Smiling Icebreaker
Govloop has a counter-intuitive icebreaker that actually leads to lots of laughter. Tell everyone they can’t smile during the first five minutes of the meeting. You’ll be amazed at how humorous some people become when they’re told not to smile. Get the camera ready to take some silly pictures.
21. The Instagram Icebreaker
To conduct this idea from William Joseph, just give employees a few minutes to scroll through their Instagram photos and pick a snapshot they want to share with the group. They can share the photo and explain why they picked it. This will help some personality shine through, especially if people on your team need to get to know each other. If you were looking for some team icebreakers – this would be the one.
22. The Friendly Debate Icebreaker
Use this student-centric icebreaker idea from the Cult of Pedagogy in your next meeting. Start out by posing a harmless question that prompts people to choose a side. Here are some examples:
- Which food is better: pizza or tacos?
- Would you rather go on a hike or to a movie?
- What skill is more valuable: creativity or logic?
- Which is worse: being bored or being too busy?
Have everyone physically divide into sides—pro pizza to the right; pro taco to the left. Let all the like-minded people discuss the virtues of their position for a while, and then have a representative try to sell the other side of the room. This will give everyone a chance to see things from different perspectives. It will open everyone’s minds for a productive meeting.
23. The Employee-Driven Icebreaker
This icebreaker takes the cake on ease. Have each meeting attendee bring their favorite icebreaker. This “icebreaker” can be a joke, a quote, a phrase, an activity—anything at all. This icebreaker works because it removes the “Why are you making me do this?” factor. Everything employees do will be self-inflicted.
24. Electric Fence Icebreaker
This icebreaker from Toggl gets employees up and moving as they build an imaginary electric fence and try to cross it without getting “electrocuted.” Make the fence by tying some string between two chairs. They can cross the fence however they like as long as they don’t go under it.
25. Things-in-Common Icebreaker
This FairyGodBoss icebreaker helps teammates get to know each other on a deeper level by discovering what they have in common. Split people into groups and tell them to find out how many things they have in common. The group who discovers the most things in common wins, so it pays to be persistent and thoughtful. (Physical features and clothing colors do not count!) Each group will announce what they have in common to the rest of the group. Have everyone else raise their hand if they also have the thing in common.
26. The Inspirational Speaker Icebreaker
Put meeting attendees out of the spotlight and invite an inspirational speaker to break the ice before your meeting. Pick someone with expertise in what your company does or what you’re meeting is about. Ask the presenter to make the talk super quick so there’s plenty of time for Q&A.
Bonus #1 Conflict Resolution Role Play
Most people, especially in work environments, avoid conflict like the plague. That’s amazing right? Why shouldn’t we all just get along? Because just “getting along” isn’t that simple all the time. And if most people eschew conflict, then most people probably don’t know how to deal with it, or more importantly, resolve it, when it does come up. This role-playing ice breaker deals out some conflict-resolution takeaways, and it also captures everyone’s attention and get them invigorated for your meeting. Why? Because this exercise involves drama, and there are few things people find more compelling than that. Start by selecting your conflict premise. You can make up your own based on your personal office experiences or use/borrow some of these for inspiration. Keep things simple by sticking to just two “characters.”
- Adam confronts Mimi, angry that she got the promotion he wanted.
- Agatha asks Martin why he shot down an idea they’d discussed many times before during an all-hands meeting.
- Andre asks Tim why he didn’t get a raise this year.
- Lena tells Mary she finds her recent work inadequate.
Create your discussion questions. These are the questions you’ll discuss as a group after the role-play skit is complete. Design questions that make people examine the success of the characters’ conflict resolution efforts and explore how things could have been handled differently. For example:
- How do you think each person felt after this exchange?
- What would you have said if you were Mimi?
- How do you imagine these two will behave around each other when they meet again?
When it’s meeting time, ask for 2 volunteers to play the characters. Tell them your premise and set a timer for 5 minutes. Make sure they know they can behave however they want and say anything they want. People will get the most from this activity if it’s truly organic and open-ended. After the skit, set a timer for 10 minutes and pose your discussion questions with the group.
Bonus #2 Play a Round of Spyfall
Spyfall is a role-playing and guessing game rolled into one. You can play it on phones or computers, and you don’t need any materials to get started. Game summary: The interface assigns each player an identity. One person is the “spy.” All the non-spies are in the same location (their identity assignments tell them what this location is). The spy’s identity assignment includes no location.
- The objective for the non-spies is to guess who is the spy.
- The objective for the spy is to guess everyone else’s location.
To play, everyone asks each other thoughtful questions until someone has enough clues to wager a guess. Spyfall makes a perfect icebreaker because it gets people thinking critically, talking to each other, and also getting unprecedented insight into how their coworkers’ minds work. It’s also incredibly fun. (Most games last less than 15 minutes.)
Bonus #3 Thought Experiment Icebreaker
Warm up everyone’s active thinking muscles before your big meeting with a thought experiment icebreaker. Thought experiments prep people to challenge assumptions and status quos and to think outside the box. This icebreaker will be especially helpful before a brainstorming session. The Thiagi Group has a toolkit that will help you get started with some meeting-appropriate, quick thought experiments that get participants considering the work competencies and skills they value most in themselves.
Bonus #4 The Artsy Icebreaker
Prep your meeting table with art supplies. At the very least, provide 2 sheets of paper and 1 pencil for everyone. But if you think your team will be into it, then go ahead and go crazy with colored pencils, paint, glue, dry noodles, and anything else you can stick on paper. Give everyone a prompt to avoid creative block. We love Artwork Achieve’s prompt, “Illustrate a cause or current event that you are passionate about.” Allow 10 minutes for creating and 10 minutes for sharing and discussing.
Bonus #5 Peek Into Each Other’s Home Office/Workspace
An icebreaker for distributed teams, the good folks at Time Doctor recommend an exercise that encourages team members to open their home offices/workspaces to one another virtually. Each team member will make a short video showing off their home office/workspace and some of their favorite things. This activity allows team members to get to know one another on a more personal level and can lead to feelings of welcomeness and friendship. This activity may be better suited for small teams, but it’s undoubtedly a great way to get the personal feel going. Another way to do this is by allowing one team member to show off their home office/workspace at the beginning of each week’s work meeting.
Do you have any favorite fun icebreakers you want to share? Let us know in the comments below.