Work happens at home now. Since the start of the pandemic, 25% of all professional jobs in North America have gone remote. You probably live half your life on Zoom, Google Meets, Skype, or Microsoft Teams.
When you’re leading virtual meetings, a good icebreaker is a godsend. It’ll lighten the mood, help colleagues and clients get familiar, and make creative ideas flow like water. But on the flipside, an awkward icebreaker will make you feel like the Michael Scott of your company.
That’s why we’ve put together the go-to guide to fun icebreaker games that you need to start your virtual meetings off right. We’ve included icebreakers you can use with small groups of remote employees, ones for total strangers, and everything in between.
Read on—and we’ll help you break the ice like a pro. Here’s what we’ll talk about, in case you want to jump ahead:
- Why are icebreaker games important?
- 14 icebreaker games for virtual meetings
- Three tips for making sure people actually enjoy your icebreakers
Your colleagues, clients and workshop attendees — especially remote workers — have messy offices, kids running around, and are probably rocking pyjamas just outside the frame. They’re not all business, no play—they’re real people. But if you don’t break the ice, you’ll get nothing but formal game faces, all meeting long.
And in many industries, over-formality can be a problem. If your virtual meeting attendees aren’t warmed up, they won’t volunteer ideas, ask questions, or get engaged with what you’re talking about. If you’re a course creator, they might tune out—or worse yet, lose interest in your teaching altogether. You don’t want blank stares coming at you through the monitor.
That’s where icebreakers come in. These fun team-building activities won’t make a dry meeting interesting—but they give you and your guests that crucial starting point for conversation and connection. Here’s how:
They’re great for introductions
Sharing where you went to school, some fun parts of your professional history, or even some of your interests outside work will humanize you. It gives guests a place to jump into the conversation with you, and vice-versa. Knowing and feeling comfortable with your guests can also help calm those nerves.
The key takeaway: striking a balance is key. When picking icebreakers, think about how well you know your audience, and decide how personal is too personal—and how formal is too formal. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Trust your social skills.
They lighten the mood
There’s no warm-up act on Google Meets to get the mood right. It’s just you, your personality and your presentation.
If it’s the first meeting of the day, guests will still be shaking the sleep from their eyes, frantically slamming coffee, and trying to get their bearings. If it’s in the afternoon or evening, they might be bleary-eyed and fatigued from the workday.
The icebreakers you pick can take that pressure off you. You’ll speak first, but then you get to pass the spotlight to guests. Guests will feel more welcome, and afterwards, you’ll have a room full of calm, engaged professionals who’re ready to listen to you. That’s major.
They get people engaged and interested
Paying attention to Zoom calls is harder than paying attention in person. If your camera’s off, your guests could be online shopping in another tab, enjoying their morning coffee, or staring aimlessly into space. In face-to-face meetings, paying attention is hard to fake, but in a virtual meeting, you just can’t know who’s present and who’s not.
Icebreakers get guests out of their heads and make it easier to tune in. In smaller meetings, they get would-be lurkers to turn their cameras on and speak up. In bigger meetings, they prompt attendees to jump into the chatbox and share their thoughts. That’s how you want your meetings to start.
Now let’s dive into some icebreakers you can use for meetings of all sizes:
Best icebreaker games for small groups
This first set of icebreaker games are perfect for groups of 3-12 guests. Each of them is personal, fun, and will help you warp your virtual meeting attendees up for conversation.
1. Two truths and a lie
Two truths and a lie is a classic icebreaker—and great for small virtual meetings. To play, each person in the meeting will take turns saying two true statements and one false statement. The rest of the group have to work together to decide which statement they think is the lie.
Most people know this fun activity, but in case someone doesn’t, you should lead by example. Pick funny, off-kilter truths, like “I can’t roll my r’s” or “I never learned how to swim.” Try not to put your lie last, and make it at least somewhat believable. Nobody’s going to believe you went to outer space, or that your Dad was Obama’s best friend in college.
2. A trip around the world
This icebreaker is super simple, and a great way to get your meeting guests talking about travel (which everyone loves.) To play, you or your event moderator will ask guests to share the place they want to travel to most—or their favorite place they’ve ever traveled.
The game works because it’s simple, fast, and lets your guests open up without getting too personal. Medium-sized groups of 10-12 people can blast through a round in under ten minutes, and you can even use a collaborative whiteboard tool like Miro to let guests pin up their bucket list travel destinations. The sky’s the limit (not the border)!
3. The home office tour
These days, most of us are used to remote work. Encourage your guests who work from home to give a 15-second home office tour, and share what their workspaces look like, chaos and all. Invite them to share a quick fact about the city, state or country they live in, too.
Everyone will feel that much more comfortable with each other, and you’ll break through that professional sheen everyone brings to work. Plus, it’s fun to share how you’re living.
4. The bucket list
Outside work, we’ve all got goals, hopes and dreams. So open the floor up, and encourage your meeting guests to share one or two bucket list items of their own.
You’ll come away knowing more about who they are as people—and they’ll understand you better, too. You never know, you might even share the same bucket list items!
5. Your desert island albums
For this icebreaker, ask everyone to imagine they’re going to be stranded on a desert island. You’ve got a beat-up old Walkman, and you can only choose three albums for the rest of your life. What would they be?
Your friendliest, sunniest teammate might be moshing to heavy metal every time they’re in town. That straight-laced colleague you don’t know well might be a techno fan. And your music taste might surprise people, too!
That’s the joy of music—it opens us all up.
6. The celebrity encounter story
This icebreaker has an instant intrigue factor. Most of us will never be famous. But many of us have encountered someone famous, and those of us who have are dying to tell our stories.
Encourage meeting guests to share who the most famous person they’ve ever met was—and how the encounter went. Most celebrities are friendly, but you might get a hilarious, messy story that’ll change the way you see your favorite actor. (And either way, it’ll provide a great bonding moment for your meeting guests.)
Chances are, you’ve never thought about how you’d react to getting a superpower, or which historical figures you’d invite to dinner. That’s the power of hypotheticals: they get us out of our heads and into our imaginations.
Pull together a shortlist of three or four hypotheticals to ask your meeting guests. If you’re feeling brave, Chuck Klosterman’s Hyperthetical Questions are the greatest hypothetical questions of all time.
8. The drop-in virtual happy hour
Happy hour is timeless. If you already know the people you’re meeting with, and want conversation to flow, crack open an afternoon beer or a glass of wine. You’ll find conversation flows even smoother than normal.
We wouldn’t recommend this with total strangers, but with trusted colleagues, it can be a great way to bond virtually. (And if you want to make it extra-special, hire a mixologist to show you and your teammates new cocktails!)
Best icebreaker games for large groups
This next set of icebreaker games can be easily adapted for groups of over 12 guests ( but they work great for small groups, too). If you’ve got a massive, massive group (say, 50 people), encourage meeting guests to participate in the chat as well as on video.
9. Group trivia
Group trivia is truly awesome. We made sure to leave all the corny icebreakers out of this guide, but this might be our favorite. You get to play Alex Trebek, and design a quiz. Your guests get to compete and show off their knowledge. Even when you’re wrong, it’s still fun, because you can see how everyone else voted.
Our personal favorite trivia variants test your knowledge of different pop culture eras, from the 60s through the 10s. Older guests might have tuned out after Kurt Cobain died, and never even heard of Drake. Your younger guests probably know which Paul brother is which—but they might not know why Fleetwood Mac imploded. One way or another, you’ll find out.
What’s more, quiz-creation tools like Kahoot can make designing your own trivia game a piece of cake. You’ll be making this icebreaker part of your meetings and conference calls in no time.
10. 21 questions
Think of an object, person, or place—but don’t tell anyone. Your meeting guests have got twenty-one questions to narrow it down and guess exactly what’s on your mind.
21 questions is a great icebreaker for small groups, but you can adapt it for larger groups too. Just get people to ask icebreaker questions in the comments sections, and keep an eye out for correct guesses.
11. Office charades
Kick off your meeting with a couple of rounds of charades. Give the floor to a central actor, send them a secret message with the word they have to act out, and watch everyone try to guess.
Your guests will feel way more relaxed after they see you pretend to be a snake, or your boss miming their household chores. Now that’s a fun way to start a virtual workshop or meeting.
12. Would you rather?
We’ve all played this childhood classic. But instead of asking people who they have a crush on, get them to vote on work-friendly questions like these ones:
- Would you rather see NSync or the Backstreet Boys live?
- Would you rather have pineapple or potato on pizza?
- Would you rather have a sunny beach house or a remote log cabin?
Ask people to hold up 1 or 2 fingers to cast their votes, or encourage them to vote in the chat. Some questions might be more contentious than you think—and the debate will help get your guests ready for more discussion.
There’s tons of fun questions you can ask. Just be careful to keep it PG—this game can get spicy if you let it go off the rails.
13. My recent photo
Split your group into breakout rooms of approx. 10-12 guests—and give them at least ten minutes. Ask each person to pull up the most recent photo they shared on social media or a recent photo on their phone. (Whatever’s more comfortable.)
As they share their photos, ask them to explain the backstory behind the photo. Even if it’s just a photo of someone’s meal or dog, you’ll get a window into their personal life—and the chance to share what’s going on in yours.
14. Never have I ever
Get the breakout rooms set up again, and turn guests loose for a game of “never have I ever.” This game is quite personal, so we’d recommend it for groups you’ve met before.
You start with five fingers up. Each person in the breakout room takes turns saying things they’ve never done, and you put a finger down every time you’ve had the experience in question. This game is always funny, and there’s a reason it’s a crowd favorite.
Set time expectations
Most people like a quick ice breaker, but they don’t want it to go on for hours. When you’re introducing the game, set a time limit and make sure participants know you’re keeping an eye on the clock.
The participants who like icebreakers will make the most of every second, and the shyer ones won’t sneak quietly out of the meeting to avoid participating.
Give options for participation
Not everyone wants to participate in icebreakers. And even if they do, they might not want to get on that personal level with you—especially if you’re just meeting for the first time.
When you’re starting the icebreaker, make sure to say that participation is optional. Nobody should feel coerced to play—they should choose to, because they’re curious to get to know you and the other meeting guests. Let your wallflowers know they’re not doing anything wrong, and they’ll stick around for the whole meeting.
Steer clear of touchy subjects
When structuring your icebreakers, remember to avoid potentially sensitive subjects, like race, sex, religion and politics. People might have different beliefs, misspeak, or have clashing communication styles, and get off on the wrong foot. We don’t want that for you.
Instead, keep it closer to surface level. Family, friends, interests, passions, and one’s work history are safe small-talk subjects for any crowd. There’s still tons of room to get to know people, but you’re less likely to accidentally run into conflict.
So, what’s next?
Now that you know 14 fun virtual team-building activities for your next video call, meeting or webinar, you might be looking for tools to turn your virtual workshops into online course content. (Especially if you’re an entrepreneur or educator.)
That’s where Thinkific comes in. We make it easy to scale your business by offering self-guided online courses and membership sites. Our easy-to-use course design platform helps coaches, educators, and digital content creators build custom, engaging eLearning experiences—and we even make live lessons easy with our Zoom integration.
Try Thinkific for free and get the course creation and live lesson tools you need to take your business up a notch. (No tech skills required!)