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 be using the words “icebreakers” and “ice breakers” interchangeably in this guide.
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What Is a Virtual Icebreaker?
Have you heard of the phrase “break the ice”? If so, then you’re already halfway there in understanding what virtual ice breakers are. Virtual icebreakers or online icebreakers are online activities and games that are engaged in by team members in order to get a conversation going and become familiar with each other.
For example: The first meeting of a newly organized team taking place via a teleconferencing platform, and starting 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? 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 take a look at 5 points to show how important 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 have an adverse effect on 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 in order to boost the morale of the group and keep them motivated. This will help them work better, especially 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 get the group excited? 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 know there’ll 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 into a previous organization.
What was it like trying to get familiar with your team members, especially when you had to introduce yourself at your first meeting? What about that feeling of 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/or 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 kinds of communication barriers may come up when employees are told to work from home leading to remote communication.
Online icebreakers can help teams tackle these hindrances to effective remote communication with ease. They could help create an atmosphere of empathy, understanding, and courteousness where everyone bonds easily regardless of the disadvantages that come with the channel of communication.
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 moving on to 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 to 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 which workers may have to tackle before things can go smoothly. Imagine that the first merger online 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 in terms of deadlines, workload, conflicts, crisis, and so on. Sometimes, it’s just better to get to the point when a serious situation or topic calls for it.
You could also avoid “breaking the ice” when a top-level manager or your boss is present 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 totally important. Lastly, team members should be encouraged and not forced (in any way) to participate. This is to ensure that they’re actually giving activity their all.
How to Design Online Icebreakers
The following tips will help you while designing simple and exciting activities that will serve as a virtual icebreakers.
- 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?
- Think about the factors that may hinder each person from participating well in the activity such as communication barriers. Implement solutions after you’re done.
- Timing is a very important factor so consider time zones, workloads, deadlines, comfortable durations, frequency of the activity, etc.
- Ensure that team members are able to use the online platform wherever they are, and that they know how to use it. Consider those that may be camera-shy, in areas that have poor connection, and so on.
- Team members should be given prior information about the game to be played if absolutely necessary. However, there are some activities that would become less exciting if team members aren’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 surely 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 really 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 is a very simple fun game that helps team members know each other better 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 actually being a lie. 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 main topic in contrast to what’s obtainable in the one-word icebreaker game which will be treated later. The leader can use it to explain the benefits of adapting to new developments quickly, decisively, and effectively.
This fast-paced game starts with 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 progress of the story. 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 be done for audio meetings as well if everyone uses an image sharing tool to see each other’s shoes. The meeting 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 kind of 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?” 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.com 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 that they never knew they had.
What Is the One-Word Icebreaker?
One-word (virtual) ice breakers involve providing an opening context into the topic of a meeting for the sake of preparing the participants for a deliberation. This is followed by the division of the group into units that are carefully selected by the leader. The leader will then tell each unit to brainstorm separately in order to arrive at a word which describes a particular subject related to the topic of the meeting.
One-word icebreakers for virtual team meetings act as the perfect mentally stimulating bridges to the discussion on the topic of the meeting. 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 is about to start. Remember we mentioned that each unit was carefully selected? Yes, the leader may decide to have a mix of members he feels are not familiar with each other—for each unit. This is to foster a situation where each team member is familiar 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.
What Are Some Fun Questions to Ask?
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?
What are the Virtual Icebreaker Games?
The following are 5 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
As the saying goes; “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” It’s a good idea for team members to utilize ice breakers online whenever it’s appropriate. Having fun and allowing humor while teleconferencing is good for the nerves and it 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?