5 Tips for Icebreaker Questions That Actually Break the Ice (Plus 25 Examples)
Read more to get effective tips on icebreaker questions during any meeting whether it's in person, virtual or hybrid.
“Ok, I’ll start. I’m an Olympic Gold Medalist, I have four dogs all named Terry, and I like the color blue.”
We’ve all been the new hire in a meeting full of strangers forced to come up with two truths and a lie – a game that can spark plenty of laughs, but often ends up taking the entire hour.
Or worse, when a manager asks a halfhearted, “How was everyone’s weekend?” to a group so large, no one bothers to chime in.
There’s a better way to break the ice.
Running meetings virtually with tools like Whereby means you can stay focused on the priorities that matter. So, whether you plan to go back to in-person meetings, keep it virtual, or a hybrid combination of the two, here’s a few tips for more effective icebreakers at your next meeting:
Tip #1: Ask sequential icebreaker questions
The fastest way to get an awkward silence with a big group – whether it’s in person or online – is to ask an open-ended, generic question.
Instead, choose a series of sequential questions that everyone has an answer to and can be done quickly, like sharing name, role, and something like:
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Whether you drink tea, coffee, or something else in the morning?
Your first job, album, or pet?
What you’re currently reading, watching, or listening to?
One word or phrase that describes how you’re feeling today?
These are quick, easy-to-answer questions that remind everyone why they’re in the room, how they fit into the bigger picture, and gives a glimpse into their personality. It may not be the most creative or wacky set of questions (and you can get as creative as you like!), but the goal of an icebreaker is to get your team talking.
One of the most common mistakes we see with icebreakers is trying to do too much. While deep questions about spirit animals and time travel have their place, there’s only so much you can ask at once. If this is the first time your team is getting together or you’re running an event full of strangers, then it’s ok to start with the basics.
Tip #2: Keep it to no more than 5 minutes
Keep your icebreakers short.
Whether you’re hosting a small or large meeting, make sure to set a timer and stick to it. Choose questions that encourage short answers, like “one thing” or “one word” questions:
What’s one thing you did last week that you’re proud of?
What’s one thing you’re looking forward to this week?
What’s one word to describe your work style?
What’s one word that summarizes your weekend?
What’s one thing on your bucket list?
These are all questions you can answer quickly and easily, without thinking too hard.
As you build a meeting agenda, include no more than 5 minutes for icebreakers, no matter the size of your group. That means if you don’t have time for everyone to go around and answer a question, don’t!
If you’re hosting a larger meeting, use Whereby’s Breakout Groups feature to your advantage. With Breakout Groups, hosts can start breakout sessions that split participants into smaller groups that make it easier to have conversations or brainstorm around a specific topic.
You can find Breakout Groups right now by hovering over the ‘People’ button in a Whereby meeting.
Tip #3: Mix up your icebreaker activities
When we think of icebreakers, we usually think of questions. But icebreaker activities don’t have to be static, even in a virtual setting. You don’t have to lean on old standbys like two truths and a lie, either.
Try gameshow-style questions, quizzes, or other games to keep things moving, especially if you’re about to sit in a two hour strategy meeting or all-day conference:
A pop quiz testing company knowledge (or something more fun, like classic video games or sports legends)
A trivia game with multiple choice or True/False questions
Take a short personality quiz and share the results (think about relevant and funny Buzzfeed-style personality quizzes like, “Which Great British Bake Off contestant are you?”)
A timed scavenger hunt around their home or your office
Show and tell with one thing from their desk or cubicle
Questions are a great way to get a meeting started, but they’re not the only way. There are three types of icebreakers you can choose from: sharing, interactive games, and team-building activities. Make sure you include a mix of all three during the week to get people moving physically and mentally.
Tip #4: It’s okay to get silly with icebreakers
Your meeting might be the first of the day and you need to wake everyone up. Or it could be during the mid-afternoon slump, just when everyone is reaching for that next cup of coffee.
Whether you’re discussing your upcoming marketing campaigns for the following quarter, sales performance, or running an agile scrum meeting for developers, it’s okay to get silly with icebreakers. Ask “what if” questions like:
If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be and why?
If you could be on a TV show, which one would you choose?
If humans established a colony on Mars, would you sign up to go?
If you could only eat one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
Either way, icebreakers are designed to shake things up. No matter the topic of your meeting, consider adding an element of creativity and fun. If you can get your team to laugh together, you’ve done something right.
Tip #5: Add structure to keep the meeting flowing
If you’re the host, you have to take the lead – yes, even with things like an icebreaker game.
Instead of asking, “Who wants to go first?” or cold-calling a teammate to answer on the fly, give everyone a chance to think by:
Sending out the questions ahead of time with the meeting agenda
Setting up the structure of answering the questions by going first, designating who goes next, and the person who’s on deck
Each time someone responds, the host should prompt the next attendee to speak
Not only does this give your team a chance to think of their response, it also helps them know when to unmute during a virtual meeting or finish up that last sip of coffee in time to answer. This keeps the meeting flowing naturally, without needing to worry about dead air or overtime.
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