What are your favorite icebreaker games? And are they useful or just plain awkward? If get-to-know-you activities usually send you bolting for the door, then hold tight – maybe you just haven’t found the right one yet. I tried and tested six methods suitable for in-person and virtual settings. Can these games actually get group conversation flowing, people connecting, and everyone warmed up nicely? Here’s what I found out.
Icebreaker 1: This Is How I’m Feeling, Objectively
This is a great option for groups when you’re short on time and need to increase camaraderie fast. It can also be useful for "stand-up" status meetings that need a bit of a boost. All you have to do is describe the mood you’re in using an object, and then give your reasoning. For example, if you’re in a great mood that day, you might choose to use words such as “sunshine” or “puppies.” If you’re in a less-than-stellar mood, you could use “clouds” or “blobfish.” This is especially great for meetings with problem-solving goals, as it helps get the creative juices flowing. Want to mix it up? Set a theme, such as types of food or well-known brands.
BEST FOR: A quick win to ease the room and get creative juices flowing.
Icebreaker 2: Question Ball
This in-person group warm-up may harken back to middle school for some. But hey, if it can engage a bunch of self-conscious pre-teens, just think of what it can do for adults. All you need is a beach ball, a marker, and a number of creative icebreaker questions to write on the ball. It's thrown to each group member, who then answers the question written under or closest to where their right index finger landed on the ball. Some example questions are "What is your dream vacation destination?" or "What food could you live on if it was the only thing you could eat?" The more creative the questions, the more creative the answers will be.
BEST FOR: Getting the brain going and loosening up the group, both mentally and physically.
Icebreaker 3: Two Truths and a Lie
Two Truths and a Lie is a classic icebreaker that lets everyone get to know each other fast. As the name implies, group members get a few minutes to think of two things that actually describe themselves, as well as one that doesn’t. Then, each person tells the rest of the group their picks and the team tries to determine which is a lie.
This gets participants talking and learning memorable, if quirky, things about about each other.
An example trio of claims could be: I have an extensive collection of stamps, I have seen [insert famous music artist] live in concert 10 times, and I am an opera singer. Often, the best factoids are a bit strange and go just beyond what people believe could be possible. This gets participants talking and learning memorable, if quirky, things about about each other. Never underestimate the power of these early impressions, which can pop back up at random moments. Who knows, they just might be the antidote to your next awkward elevator ride: Instead of standing ute and avoiding eye contact, one person might say, "Oh, you’re that person who’s never broken a bone!" Odds are, easy conversation will flow from there.
BEST FOR: Learning about your co-workers and building bonds.
Icebreaker 4: This or That
This traditionally in-person game gets people moving, which can be a huge plus if your group has been sitting for a long period or is in a bit of an after-lunch slump. The icebreaker moderator will ask participants to choose between two options that are usually opposites (chocolate or vanilla, sweet or savory, etc.), then designates which answer corresponds with which section of the room. Everyone then moves to the section that reflects with their choices. Often, participants find at least one person whose answers mostly match their own, offering an easy opportunity to bond.
BEST FOR: An after-lunch activity to boost energy levels, allowing the group to intersperse and mingle.
Icebreaker 5: Stranded!
This icebreaker is a classic for a reason. Each person tells the group the five things they would want to have with them if they were stranded on a desert island. You can tell a lot about a person by the items they choose. Some people will go practical with their answers, opting for matches or a first-aid kit. Others might go sentimental by choosing a favorite blanket knitted by grandma or a family photo album. Pro tip: You may want to outlaw cell phones to avoid overlapping answers and encourage creativity.
BEST FOR: Gaining some crucial personal insights into your team members.
Icebreaker 6: My Learning Goals
This game is as simple as going around the room (or video call) to ask people a skill they’re interested in developing. Do they want to take up Spanish? Learn how to code? Maybe they want to bake the perfect soufflé. You set the parameters: These goals can be career-related only, or go beyond work. Besides helping colleagues get to know each other, this game can help leaders glean insights into what motivates individual employees.
BEST FOR: Understanding the team’s motivations, passions, and goals for the future.
Ready to mingle (and help others do the same)? Use the games above as described or modify them to match your crew’s goals or general vibe. You might just be pleasantly surprised by what turns up.
Want more ways to strengthen teams and lighten up your working day? Try these 9 Ways to Boost Employee Morale.
Photo: Getty Images