20 new ice breakers to keep your online meetings fresh
Online meetings are still a way of life for many workers as organisations around the world continue with remote work.
Workers are getting more comfortable and proficient with the technology, yet many are raising concerns about "Zoom fatigue" and the extra pressure that comes with being continuously observable on screen.
Some workplaces are adding to this pressure with online rituals that involve significant additional effort, or that impose a bias on attendees, or that bring elements of office culture to our homes.
In social feeds we've seen a lady in her wedding dress for "Wear something meaningful day", a team of Marvel characters for Superhero day, a lot of virtual Happy Hours, Cheese Fests, Bake Offs, Instaworthy Home Office comparisons and so on.
This type of 'virtual eventing' is not universally welcomed so we've prepared another 20 low threat and low effort ice breakers for your online meetings that will help you to build connection amongst your people without adding significantly to their workload.
The next 20 low threat ice breakers for your online team meetings
Ice breakers for social connection
- Show us your shoes. This idea is courtesy of my twitter friend Christine Locher who assures me there were no Jimmy Choo expectations with her workgroup.
- Mad Hatters. Most will have a hat close to hand with a day or so of notice. If not a paper one or a bit of experimentation with camera filters will do.
- Afternoon Tea at 3. A more inclusive variety of Happy Hour has proven popular with our friends at CIPD. It's a social break during work time to sit back and relax.
- Colour Co-ord. Let it be known in advance and pick a common colour like black, white or blue. For the monochrome types, suggest a digital background
- Merch/Swag Session. Show off your best conference swag since you probably won't be restocking from the conference circuit any time soon
- Spot the difference. We're all pretty familiar with each others' offices and lounge rooms these days. Move or remove and item and see who notices what's changed.
- A fact nobody asked for. "Did you know the average lifespan of a housefly is 28 days?" Share a fact that nobody asked for and invite others to bring their fact to your next meeting
- Bring a bad joke. "Q: Which side of a Chicken has the most feathers?" "A: The outside" ... really there's no further explanation
- Ask me anything. A weekly ice breaker for anxious times when people have a lot on their minds. As a leader, you may have to take questions on notice and find the answers, and for quiet groups, you may need to share the questions that you've been asking of your leaders to get things flowing.
- Countdown Word Game. 60 seconds to make a word from 7 letters. Recognise the most inventive, humourous, unexpected words, not just the longest.
Run this by asking "does anyone have 7 letters, 6 letters, a word we won't know, etc" to avoid embarrassment if someone's not feeling literate today.
- Countdown Numbers Game. 60 seconds to calculate the target number using a supplied set of numbers. Ask who got closest to the target and how, rather than for individual results.
As people get more familiar with the online platforms you're using, you can also use ice breakers to explore features such as whiteboards, chat boxes and polls.
Using ice breakers to grow online dexterity
In the chatbox
- Caption competition. Show a picture and get caption/meme ideas in the chatbox.... come back to them for review at the end of the meeting
- Chat karaoke. Start with a songline and take turns to complete the song line-by-line. With luck, you can finish it with the bonus that no one needs to sing a thing
- Your day in Emoji. ☕️ 📧 📈 📞📞🌵📞 🆘 .... ask if anyone would like to talk through their emoji sequence.
On the whiteboard
- Draw a .... Drawing on a digital canvas is hard to master but you may see some creative techniques if you repeat this icebreaker several times.
As a team you may want to progress from simple shapes to visually representing a concept .. moving on from "Draw a square" for example, to "Draw satisfaction"
- "Never have I ever" when done anonymously can be a fun icebreaker to probe into experiences, biases and mindset.
"Never have I ever ... split the bill on a date .... been to a vegan restaurant .... broken a bone .... dumpster-dived .... rode a motorbike ... "
This icebreaker requires trust. Never should you ever assume you know, or ask, or try to find out which way people answer with this.
- More or Less. Pose questions that can be answered with "More" or "Less" and may help to adapt communication styles for remote work.
"Chat instead of email?", "Video instead of Voice?", "Voice instead of chat?", "Online Group Meetings?", "Feedback?"
- Would you rather ... ? is a similar method of gauging preference. "Meet morning or afternoon?", "Dark or Milk Chocolate", "Have workload pushed or pull when you're ready"?
Wellbeing ice breakers
For some workers, the disruption of being at home, with so many extra demands to juggle is compromising self-care and wellbeing.
Our last 2 suggestions are more demanding for the organiser, to pre-plan and equip the participants or to use up some budget.
- Face pack Friday. Send your team members an all-natural face pack and have your closing meeting of the week replete in cucumber and avo, whilst showing your skin some love. There are lots of delivery options but Lush have a great range for both men and women.
- Self-care scavenger hunt. Set a budget and let your team search online for their self-care item of choice, then organise to buy it for them. Money is tight so don't put the onus on them to expense it. Just grab for the URL from them and a few days later they will get a small reward that's all about them.
What's the big deal with psychological safety and meetings?
We've curated these ice breakers to yield psychological safety for the participants. When your people experience a reward response (even an intrinsic one) at the outset of your meeting, they are likely to be more receptive to learning, and more innovative. Conversely, if the brain perceives a threat or risk the fight or flight response takes over and the analytical centres shut down. Participants arrive to your meeting in an unknown state, hence an effective ice breaker can reset their frame of mind and help create a high performing environment.
Let us know in the comments which ice breakers you are using and how they are working out for you.