Virtual Icebreakers to Use in Remote Meetings

You Can Continue to Build the Team Working From Home

Woman in front of a device screen in video conference for work
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Are you looking for virtual icebreakers that you can use with your team at a time when employees are likely to avoid the office? During periods of stress like the coronavirus pandemic, employees want to work from home and telework with their virtual teams. This is completely understandable when, alternatively, they could increase their risk of catching the disease and spreading it by going to work.

 In fact, this pandemic is making employers rethink the amount of time that employees spend in the office. So, moving forward, it’s likely that these virtual icebreakers will serve you well over time. With the continuing acceleration of the capability of technology, you can expect to have colleagues working remotely from all over the country—if not the world—as the battle for specific talents, skills, and experience escalates.

Virtual Icebreakers Help Build Relationships

As much as staying connected to conduct business is critical during this unprecedented time, so are the relationships that you build with your team and other coworkers. This is not a time for business as usual and you need to give serious consideration to helping each other stay focused, happy, and productive. Virtual icebreakers will help.

Virtual icebreakers for remote meetings help you maintain a sense of cohesion with your group. They add laughter to an otherwise potentially scary experience.They bring increased feelings of alignment to your employees, and they will help you combat loneliness as everyone works remotely.

If you are looking for an icebreaker that you can use in a Zoom, Webex, GoToMeeting, Skype or Google Hangouts meeting or even via text or smartphone, these recommended virtual icebreakers and team building activities require little to no preparation. They engage employees rapidly to encourage comfort in virtual communication. Why not try these virtual icebreakers to kick off your remote meetings?

The Best One-Word Icebreaker

This icebreaker is easy to develop and customize for any team building session, training class, or meeting. In fact, it’s one of the easiest, most effective opportunities you have to break the ice in your current remote situation. The best one-word icebreaker is updated to include ideas for the COVID-19 crisis, so while you are working remotely in isolation, why not try out a version that fits your situation?

Ask People to Share a Funny or Embarrassing Story

When facilitating introductions or breaking the ice initially in a meeting, help participants get to know each other by sharing a brief fun fact or a funny story. You can also ask your virtual participants to share an embarrassing story. Researchers have discovered that an embarrassing story would help people drop their inhibitions and become more creative. According to the Harvard Business Review, one study found that workers who shared an embarrassing story about themselves with their team produced 26% more ideas spanning 15% more use categories in brainstorming sessions than workers who didn't tell the stories. 

Fun Icebreaker Questions

Dark times call out for moments of shared laughter with coworkers. Nothing works better to generate laughter than virtual fun and humorous icebreakers. They make employees feel closer to each other as they share laughter even in a remote meeting. You’ll want to try several or generate your own virtual icebreakers based on your knowledge and comfort level with your work climate and culture.

A Favorite Team Building Icebreaker for Meetings

This icebreaker is good for virtual meetings because it takes only a small amount of time, while producing great results for your team-building goals. For this virtual icebreaker, divide your team members into groups of four or five and ask the meeting participants to find 10 things they have in common with every other person in their group.

 And, you’ll also need to require that the commonalities they identify must have nothing to do with their work or body parts (for example, we all work at Stillwater, we all have a mouth.) When the groups share their 10 with the other groups, expect that employees will look for commonalities and the virtual icebreaker will generate laughter, comfort, and common ground.

Ask Attendees to Use the Chat Feature of Your Remote Software 

You can increase participation and get feedback by asking your team to enter responses into a chat to create a virtual icebreaker. Ask a question like, "What do you think is the most important aspect of our customer service?" and ask everyone to quickly go to their chat and enter a one-to-five-word answer. By doing this exercise, you will not only know your team members are still there, but you will have engaged them and received useful feedback.

You can use any question to make this virtual icebreaker both helpful and a comfortable way to kickstart the conversation at the beginning of a meeting. Additional questions you can employ include:

  • What is your best tip for successfully working remotely?
  • What is the most significant value our company holds dear?
  • What have you liked most about working remotely?
  • What have you disliked most about working remotely?
  • Describe the best feature of your remote office.

The Five of Anything Icebreaker for Team Building

When you are working remotely, you are looking for quick, simple ways to bring employees together. You want to use icebreakers that draw a successful contribution from every participant. The Five of Anything Icebreaker fits the bill nicely. Ask your participants to name five of anything that they like or dislike. Make the choices universal so that every employee may have experienced them.

For example, ask the employees to name their five favorite vegetables, five favorite flowers, or five favorite restaurants. Everyone has an opinion once you give them a few minutes to think and write down their answers. Then, ask them to share with their colleagues. The sharing generates discussion and people get to know each other better.

Icebreaker Questions for Meetings at Work

If you want a quick icebreaker that will allow your participants to segue right into the topic of the meeting, the appropriate questions will help them focus. These icebreaker questions can get people started thinking about the topic while they simultaneously break the ice at the beginning of a meeting. A sample question for a meeting about marketing is, “How can you use social media for marketing more effectively?” You can also ask more general questions like, “What’s rocking your world today?

Your Favorites: An Icebreaker to Use With Any Topic 

Virtual icebreakers are useful for team-building when you set them up to make anyone participating right. With icebreakers about any topic, the employee retains control of what he or she wants to share with the group. Consequently, your participants feel safe. This type of icebreaker provides the interaction and the warmup that you seek for your participants.

You may use any topic that is unrelated to religion, politics, sex, or any potentially polarizing or controversial topic. For example, ask employees to share their favorite city, food, fruit, flower, museum, vacation, book, movie, animal, or bird. You get the drift. Virtually any topic works.

Or, on the flip side, you can choose to focus on the participants’ least favorite food, vegetable, city, movie, book, ice cream flavor, and so forth. Your employees’ favorites and least favorites are limited only by your imagination.

The Bottom Line

Virtual icebreakers are a great way to warm up the conversation of participants in a meeting, a training, a class, or team building session. Because your participants will need to work together on an array of projects and problems, virtual icebreakers help bring out the best in the team and foster a sense of connection in the process.

Article Sources

  1. Harvard Business Review. “Research: For Better Brainstorming, Tell an Embarrassing Story.” Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.