Make meetings more meaningful with ice breakers: these activities challenge team members to connect and collaborate toward a common goal.
Ice breaker games bring a meeting to life quite like nothing else. The right ice breaker games and activities are the perfect mix of playful problem-solving and creative critical thinking; they are the key to facilitating sessions that are enjoyable and engaging for all involved.
While ice breakers are just the tip of the facilitation iceberg, they play a major role in making sure meetings run productively.
Statistics show that the average employee spends a third of their workweek in meetings, with 47% complaining that unproductive meetings result in over 31 hours of wasted time a month.
The best way to reclaim that wasted time? Facilitators should make sure meetings are meaningful from the beginning by using the best ice breakers to kick things off.
In the following article, we’ll discuss:
- How to Break the Ice
- When to Use Ice Breaker Games
- How We Use Ice Breaker Games
- Choosing the Right Ice Breaker Games
- Three Types of Ice Breaker Games
How to Break the Ice
Ice breakers are warm-ups that help inspire creativity and engagement amongst a group. Ice breakers are usually introduced at the beginning or middle of a session and are excellent and effective ways to kick off in-person, hybrid, or virtual meetings.
The best ice breakers allow people to ideate, create, and collaborate without inhibition. No two ice breakers are identical, which gives facilitators the freedom to be as creative and intentional as possible in their choice of activity.
Whether they require physical movement or remote brainstorming, the best ice breakers help build connections, encourage teamwork, and promote positive group dynamics that will carry on throughout the entire meeting.
When to Use Ice Breakers
The best ice breakers take the hard work out of breaking the barriers and de-siloing the workplace. They even the playing field and allow all participants to speak freely with one another.
Consider using ice breakers in the following meeting scenarios:
- Participants are from different backgrounds
- Team members need to bond quickly to work on a common goal
- You’re meeting with a newly formed team
- There are unfamiliar topics to discuss
- Facilitators need to familiarize themselves with their team
The challenges involved in breaking the ice vary based on the people involved. The best ice breakers allow facilitators and team members to highlight the similarities between each other, not accentuate the differences.
How We Use Ice Breakers
The power of the ice breaker lies in its ability to bring people together to achieve a goal. Whether the objective is to pass a ball from one team member to another or to get participants to guess two truths and a lie, critical thinking and playful problem-solving are key elements of the most powerful ice breakers.
At Voltage Control, we use ice breakers to encourage team building, build rapport, and kickstart engagement during hybrid meetings, VR sessions, or in-person gatherings:
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Facilitators can use team-building ice breakers to bridge the gap between the virtual and physical realm as these activities encourage camaraderie amongst all participants. Tools like MURAL and Miro are ideal for introducing ice breakers in a hybrid meeting.
In the world of virtual reality, ice breakers play an important role in creating an environment that feels safe and familiar. As facilitators introduce their team members to new tech and tools, ice breakers help to put everyone at ease.
Facilitators of VR meetings can consider an introductory or team-building ice breaker to address the general curiosity and uncertainty of using unfamiliar technology like AltspaceVR.
Facilitators hosting in-person sessions can use ice breakers to build rapport and encourage engagement
Choosing the Right Ice Breakers
Ice breakers are often used to kick off team-building events, meetings, or training sessions. While there are countless activities and games facilitators can use, it’s important to choose the most appropriate ones.
Well-designed ice breakers always take into account the “ice” or roadblocks that are keeping participants from connecting. The next step is to identify the objectives for the session. This will allow you to choose activities that will best help break the ice and achieve the desired goals.
When choosing an ice breaker, consider questions like:
- How can team members feel a communal sense of purpose?
- How can I create an equal playing field that isn’t dependent on status, jobs, roles, or experience?
- How can I make all participants comfortable with contributing and participating?
Three Types of Ice Breaker Games
Facilitators should select ice breakers that are best suited to their objectives. While there are countless activities to choose from, ice breakers can be broken down into three categories:
- Introductory ice breakers
- Team-building ice breakers
- Topic exploration ice breakers
Introductory Ice Breaker Games
Introductory ice breakers help to facilitate the conversation with newly-formed teams. These ice breakers are ideal for participants that are strangers or are from different departments or industries.
- Problem Solvers
- A problem-solving ice breaker is designed to inspire real problem-solving later on in the session.
- Participants work in small groups and work on a problem scenario. The small group analyzes the problem, prepares their feedback, and presents their solutions to the rest of the team.
- An interview icebreaker helps team members form connections quickly.
- Participants split into groups of two and interview each other to learn as much as they can in a set time. The group then reconvenes and the interviewee introduces the interviewer to the rest of the team.
- Two Truths and a Lie
- True or false encourages team members to start engaging within the group.
- Ask all participants to share three statements about themselves: two facts and one false statement. The rest of the team will vote to choose which is the false statement.
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- The Little Known Fact
- This icebreaker helps to humanize all participants and level any perceived differences like status for future interactions.
- Participants introduce themselves and share their job title, length of service, and little-known facts about themselves.
Team-Building Ice Breaker Games
Team-building ice breakers help accelerate cohesive collaboration for newly formed teams.
- Hopes, Fears, and Expectations
- Hopes, Fears, and Expectations allow team members to discuss expectations, fears, and hope for their work ahead.
- Participants should split into groups of two or three and share their hopes, fears, and expectations. The facilitator will gather the groups’ responses and categorize them.
- Ball Challenge
- The ball challenge icebreaker helps team members achieve shared goals.
- The facilitator will arrange participants in a circle, asking each person to pass the ball around. Whoever currently holds the ball will announce their name as well as the name of the person who will receive the ball next.
- Once each person has held the ball, the next challenge is to pass the ball to all team members as fast as they can as a timer tracks their progress. In the next round, the group will have to beat their previous time. This will force the team to work together to find the most innovative ways to improve their time.
- The Human Web
- The human web icebreaker emphasizes how people in the group depend on each other.
- The facilitator starts the game by holding one end of a ball of yarn and passing it to another participant. The person holding the yarn introduces themselves and their roles and responsibilities. Before passing the yarn to someone else, the team member holding the yarn should explain how they relate to the next person.
- This continues until all participants are introduced. The facilitator closes this icebreaker by pulling on their thread of yarn, highlighting the interdependencies of the team as everyone’s hand moves along with the original piece of yarn.
Topic Exploration Ice Breaker Games
Topic exploration ice breaker games are used to explore topics and potentially re-energize participants during the session.
- Brainstorming helps to motivate participants during a meeting or event.
- This ice breaker changes the pace of a meeting by encouraging quick, creative thinking.
- Burning Questions
- Burning questions gives every participant the chance to ask questions they’d like to hear covered in the session.
- This is an opportunity for facilitators to share the scope of the session and discuss keywords.
- Word Association
- Word association helps participants explore the topic of discussion.
- Facilitators create a list of keywords related to the session and will ask their team what other words come to mind when these keywords are mentioned. Collect each suggestion and cluster them by theme. Use this icebreaker to find other essential items and introduce the scope of the event.
Want to implement new ice breakers in your meetings or training sessions but not sure where to start? At Voltage Control, we can help you take your facilitation to the next level with ice breakers designed to build connections and encourage collaboration. Contact us today for a consultation.