Whether it’s a short introductory icebreaker or a team-building activity, icebreakers, bonding breakouts and trust exercises have become commonplace at meetings and events. Yet these kinds of activities are often missing in virtual meetings. TeamBonding says that 65 percent of remote employees report they have never had a team-building session.
As we find ourselves relying on virtual events to stay connected more than ever, why incorporate connection-building icebreakers? It might make inviting 50 people into your living room by logging into that Zoom call a little less awkward.
Here are ideas to get you started.
Don’t Cut the Chit Chat
To begin, it’s important to remember to start your meeting with informal chat. Your clients or colleagues are used to saying good morning when they walk into the office or chatting about their weekend over a cup of coffee. For a smaller meeting with people who know each other, talk about how everyone is staying busy at home. If you have too many participants for that, maybe just ask where everyone is calling in from. It can be fun to see how far apart some people are.
For a more organized social chat at the beginning of your virtual meeting, ask participants to think of a one-word answer that describes a particular topic. When the meeting starts, have everyone say or type out their answer and compare notes. The topic can be sent out with the meeting invitation, so participants come prepared with a talking point to fill the time it takes for everyone to log in. Here are two topic ideas to get you started: “the most important part of our business is…” and “my favorite part of working from home has been…”
A perennially popular Smart Meetings article on icebreakers was originally written for traditional meetings, but it can easily be adapted to virtual events. For example, we suggested that if you want to stay on topic in your meeting, have everyone write down what they hope to get out of the session, then compare notes. This can be done virtually by having participants hold their hand-written goals up to the screen or type them into a live chat box. Either way, this exercise gives everyone a common starting point for the session. Bonus: You’ll know what to focus on during the meeting.
“Speed meeting” is another way participants can quickly get to know each other. The meeting equivalent of speed dating, this time-effective bonding experience has participants do a private chat with another group member for two minutes. Dividing participants up into pairs also means you avoid any confusing group conversations, where people accidentally talk over each other or forget to turn mute off.
If you have a little more time and want to simulate a breakout activity, try hosting a short trivia game. Ask questions and have participants write down their answers. At the end of the round, read off the answers and choose a winner. You can also download a template from Conceptboard that might make things easier. Smart tip: Keep the questions on brand for competitive learning or marketing.
Free Advice and Inspired Sources
For another quick bonding activity, try asking participants to share their best piece of advice. Especially now, what could be more relevant than best practices for staying focused and motivated? Speaking of motivation, having attendees add stickers to their nametags that represent what inspires them is a great conversation starter at in-person events. In virtual meetings, ask participants to use emojis in a chat box to represent these inspirations. Sometimes just guessing what the emoji represents is an icebreaking game in itself!