Online icebreakers or virtual icebreakers help team leaders who have to interact with members remotely. For example, employees who have to work from home due to changes in workplace arrangements brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Note to avoid confusion: We’ll use the words “icebreakers” and “ice breakers” interchangeably in this guide.
What Is a Virtual Icebreaker?
Have you heard of the phrase “break the ice”? If so, then you’re already halfway to understanding virtual ice breakers. Virtual icebreakers or online icebreakers are online activities and games that team members engage in to get a conversation going and become familiar with each other.
For example, the first meeting of a newly organized team takes place via a teleconferencing platform and starts with each member telling others their nicknames. The nickname-telling part is the virtual ice breaker.
Importance of Virtual Team Icebreakers
Do you know that the popular teleconferencing app, Zoom, averages about 300 million daily meeting participants? Of course, there would be many business meetings and work-related communications making up a significant percentage of that number.
Team leaders would have to find a way to make every other participant feel comfortable communicating with others on their first teleconference. Members may not click immediately, and things could get awkward. A solution? Virtual team icebreakers!
Let’s look at 5 points to show how essential icebreakers for virtual team meetings are. They’ve been given below.
- Fostering Team Rapport Online
- Boosting Team Morale and Motivation
- Making Team Meetings More Exciting
- Introducing New Members of the Team in a Jovial Way
- Tackling Communication Barriers Better
1. Fostering Team Rapport Online
It can be difficult to establish rapport via an online channel. You can only see each other through a screen—so it may be hard to understand each other’s ideas, moods, feelings, and whatnot. Icebreakers for virtual meetings can help teams build understanding and harmony in a short time. Communication and cooperativeness will get better and better as time progresses.
2. Boosting Team Morale and Motivation
When team members aren’t confident or enthusiastic while having an online meeting, it will harm their productivity online and offline. Such a situation may be due to boring meetings or meetings devoid of humor or fun.
Leaders can utilize Icebreakers for virtual meetings to boost the morale of the group and keep them motivated. This will help them work better, especially in teams that have to be in constant communication while working.
3. Making Team Meetings More Exciting
Why wouldn’t fun activities such as virtual icebreaker games excite the group? It would be nice to make everyone feel good about communicating with each other by engaging in a fun and amusing activity. Team members would always look forward to the next meeting because they knew there’d never be a dull moment. In turn, this will lead to a boost in morale and motivation.
4. Introducing New Members of the Team in a Jovial Way
The importance of icebreakers for virtual meetings cannot be overemphasized when it comes to introducing new recruits to the group. Remember how you felt when you were newly employed in a previous organization.
What was it like to get familiar with your team members, especially when you had to introduce yourself at your first meeting? What about uneasiness when you were the new boy or girl in class back in high school?
It could have been an easy adaptation for you each time—but new recruits could feel anxious, uncomfortable, and nervous when they’re having their first online meeting with the team. If ice breakers for virtual meetings are used during the introduction, it could go a long way in making them feel at ease.
5. Tackling Communication Barriers Better
The barriers to communication are many in the workplace. Other communication barriers may come up when employees are told to work from home leading to remote communication.
Online icebreakers can help teams easily tackle these hindrances to effective remote communication. In addition, they could help create an atmosphere of empathy, understanding, and courteousness where everyone bonds quickly regardless of the disadvantages of the communication channel.
Appropriate and Inappropriate Time for Virtual Icebreakers
Ice breakers for virtual meetings can be used at the beginning of a teleconference, but there are some instances where they’re crucial. We’ll discuss them before describing inappropriate times for virtual ice breakers.
Example 1: The first meeting of a group of employees that started working/collaborating from home for the first time since they were recruited into the company. Imagine that all the participants lack experience in working/collaborating remotely. What they can do is make use of icebreakers for virtual team meetings in addition to making adjustments to their business processes.
Example 2: Mergers. Whether it’s a departmental merger or a company merger, there can be significant communication barriers that workers may have to tackle before things can go smoothly. For example, imagine that the first online merger meeting involved managers and workers from two different countries. Icebreakers for virtual meetings will be needed in such a case, in addition to Intercultural communication skills.
The thing is, ice breakers online might not be suitable for every remote meeting. You have to think about the situation regarding deadlines, workload, conflicts, crises, and so on. Sometimes, it’s just better to get to the point when a difficult situation or topic calls for it.
You could also avoid “breaking the ice” when a top-level manager or your boss is in the meeting. However, the superior manager may decide to organize an “icebreaking” session. Now that would be nice, wouldn’t it?
Ice breakers might be seen as time-wasting, unnecessary, or patronizing by the rest of the team—so you have to be sure that it’s essential. Lastly, team members should be encouraged and not forced (in any way) to participate. This is to ensure that they’re giving the activity their all.
How to Design Online Icebreakers
The following tips will help you design simple and exciting activities that will serve as a virtual icebreaker.
- Think about the goals and objectives you want to achieve with the game. For example: Is it about introducing a new member or boosting team spirit?
- Consider the factors that may hinder each person from participating well in the activity, such as communication barriers. Then, implement solutions after you’re done.
- Timing is a very important factor so consider time zones, workloads, deadlines, comfortable duration, frequency of the activity, etc.
- Ensure those team members can use the online platform wherever they are and know how to use it. For example, consider those that may be camera-shy, in areas with poor connection, and so on.
- Team members should be given prior information about the game to be played if absolutely necessary. However, some activities would become less exciting if team members weren’t caught by surprise.
Watch this YouTube video to learn more about designing virtual icebreakers:
Virtual Icebreaker Examples
Below are the 5 top fun online icebreakers we’ve curated for you. You’ll indeed find one or more of them useful in various situations.
1. The Social Question
This helps teams to communicate better, get familiar with each other, and bond faster. Things can get lively during this fun activity.
It’s a straightforward game. Just ask each participant any interesting social question. For example: What’s your favorite music genre and artist?
2. Two Truths and a Lie
This straightforward, fun game that helps team members know each other better than just the social question game. It also gives them a mental warm-up just before the main topic of the meeting.
Each participant should be asked to state three supposed “facts” about themselves, with one being a lie. Then, others will be asked to guess which of the statements is false. It’s as simple as that!
3. Three Words
This helps team members warm-up for the main topic of the meeting in a fun way. The game won’t be related to the central issue in contrast to what’s obtainable in the one-word icebreaker game, which will be treated later. Instead, the leader can use it to explain the benefits of adapting to new developments quickly, decisively, and effectively.
This fast-paced game starts by asking participants to choose a topic they want to tell a story about. Participants will then be asked to contribute three words each to the story’s progress. After that, everyone will take immediate turns whether or not the words make sense.
4. Take a Picture of Your Shoes
This idea originated from Lucid Meetings, an online meeting solutions company. It’s not as straightforward as the previously explained games, but it can be as exciting.
Each participant will take a picture of their shoes and upload it before the teleconference starts. It can also be done for audio meetings if everyone uses an image-sharing tool to see each other’s shoes. Then, the conference will begin with each participant describing their shoes and why they chose them.
5. The Time Machine
The time machine can be an entertaining activity depending on the questions that will be asked. What’s great about it is that the participants can be asked an unlimited number of questions based on time travel.
Each participant can start like this: “If you were able to travel through time, ‘when’ would you go to?” Then, other questions related to the answer given will follow. Examples have been presented below.
- Why that time?
- Would you return to the present?
Best Ways to Bring Remote Workers Together
We’ll recommend two Teachable courses that are related to remote work and virtual collaboration here. See them below.
Description: Students will learn how to find remote work and attain success in their chosen careers while working remotely.
Description: Students will learn how to recognize and develop online teamwork skills they never knew.
One-word (virtual) ice breakers provide an opening context into the topic of a meeting to prepare the participants for a deliberation. The group’s division follows this into units that the leader carefully selects. The leader will then tell each unit to brainstorm separately to arrive at a word that describes a particular subject related to the meeting topic.
One-word icebreakers for virtual team meetings act as the perfect mentally stimulating bridge to the discussion on the meeting topic. The transition will be smooth (without interruption) since what’s being described by the units is related to the meeting’s topic.
Participants of each unit would have bonded a little by the time the main discussion of the meeting was about to start. Remember we mentioned that each team was carefully selected? Yes, the leader may have a mix of members he feels are not familiar with each other—for each unit. This fosters a situation where each team member is friendly with everyone else in the meeting.
For example: In a meeting that involved a one-word virtual ice breaker at the beginning, the leader told the newly formed units (for the game) to deliberate separately on a suitable word to describe how they feel about the “culture of health” in the organization. The topic for the meeting was worksite wellness.
The following are fun questions that can serve as ice breakers online:
– What weird things do you do regularly?
– What’s your quirky talent?
– What does your home workspace look like?
– What superpower would you like to have?
The following are five virtual icebreaker games you can play with your fellow workers during a remote meeting for the sake of improving communication and bonding:
– Among Us!
– Drawful 2
– Fact Bucket
– Killer Queen
The saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Therefore, it’s a good idea for team members to utilize ice breakers online whenever appropriate—having fun and allowing humor. At the same time, teleconferencing is good for the nerves and adds life to creative planning, brainstorming, or task execution sessions.
Hopefully, the virtual ice breaker examples (especially the virtual icebreaker games) given in this guide will prove to be the game changers for your teleconferences. How about thinking of taking any or both of those Teachable.com courses recommended earlier?