Boost the Productivity of Your Meetings with These 26 Icebreaker Games
How much does a polar bear weigh?
Enough to break the ice.
Don’t you feel better now that we’ve gotten that out of the way? Icebreakers make meetings better by loosening everybody up and getting them into “meeting mode.” Consider the icebreaker a meeting warm up, an exercise you need to avoid awkward cramps throughout a meeting.
Despite persistent cliches, icebreakers do not have to follow any particular format, and they definitely do not have to be lame. You can use pretty much any game or activity you want to break the ice before your meeting, as long as it gets people talking and smiling. (Bonus points for icebreakers that support your cultural values!)
Here are some of our favorite icebreaker games and activities for meetings.
1. The One-Word Icebreaker
Keep things simple by having everyone describe their current mood in one word. You can have people explain their one-word mood descriptor if you want to add more depth to your icebreaker, but you can also just go with the flow and enjoy how cryptic some of the answers can be.
“I feel alpaca.”
2. The Team-Win Icebreaker
Tori Holbrook, a Content Coordinator at SnackNation, has an easy icebreaker that will have everyone feeling good before a meeting.
“At our team meeting, we start off by going around the circle and calling out a ‘win’ from a team member. We acknowledge something that was far above and beyond their typical responsibilities and thank each other for surpassing expectations. It always feels great to be recognized, and it lifts the energy level in the room right away.”
3. Favorite Knock-Knock Icebreaker
Have everyone tell their favorite knock-knock joke. Cell phone research is absolutely allowed, and laughter is mandatory.
4. Office Charades Icebreaker
Kick off your meetings by playing a few rounds of charades where the presenters can pick only office-related things.
If you’re rusty on your charades skills, here’s a quick refresher:
- Pick a “presenter” to start things off.
- Ask the presenter to think of an office item or activity. They can announce the category, but that’s the last time they can talk.
- Then have the presenter explain the item using only gestures. Any spoken words lead to an immediate disqualification.
- Laugh a lot. All charades manuals agree the game cannot be played without lots of laughter and yelling.
5. Jenga Icebreaker
Jenga is a block-stacking game probably everyone in the world has played at one point or another. You start out with a block tower and people take turns removing blocks (and stacking them on top), while trying to keep the tower standing. The game’s over when the tower crumbles.
Jenga requires strategy and cooperation, plus you can add a powerful communication aspect to the game. Encourage your team to do something frowned upon during most family game nights: give the other teammates advice and pointers. (No one is allowed to get annoyed and roll their eyes.)
If your meeting is large, split people into groups and see who can build the tallest tower.
During this icebreaker from the American Management Association, participants choose a brand logo they identify with and explain why.
Here’s how to play:
- Hand out name tags and pens.
- Have participants write their names and draw logos they love.
- Have everyone share why they chose their logos. Share in a group, or have everyone share thoughts with their neighbors.
7. Toilet Paper Icebreaker
This idea from Lifehack requires minimal effort and minimal funds. To play, pass a roll of toilet paper around and have everyone rip off how much they would usually use.
Everyone will probably think you’re crazy.
When the toilet paper makes it all the way around the circle, have everyone count their squares. The number of squares each person took is the number of fun facts they have to reveal about themselves.
Gamestorming recommends kicking off meetings by having everyone make trading cards to represent their personalities.
- Hand out index cards and markers.
- Tell everyone to draw a self-portrait and write their names, their nicknames (real or imaginary), and a fun fact.
- Everyone jumps up and trades cards. People can trade as many times as they want, but they have to read each card they get before they trade.
- After a few minutes, have everyone announce the name on the card they ended up with. People can even ask questions of the card’s owner if they want.
- Let the conversations flow!
9. The Personality Quiz Icebreaker
Make sure everyone has their smartphones. (We doubt this will be a problem.) Send everyone a link to a personality quiz you think they would like. Since there are probably over a million quizzes circulating, we know there will be one to pique your interest.
Everyone can take the quiz and then reveal their results to the group. Have everyone explain why they agree or disagree with the results.
10. The Boss Q&A Icebreaker
Bring in the head of your department or project and give everyone 15 minutes to ask any questions they have, no holds barred.
This icebreaker gets everyone thinking about the topic of your meeting. It might even clarify some of the issues the meeting aims to solve.
11. The Movie Pitch Icebreaker
Split people into groups and have each group come up with a movie they want to make. Everyone should have a short pitch prepared within 10 minutes. (This film is The Avengers meets My Little Pony.)
Let everyone make their pitch, and then have all meeting attendees vote on which idea deserves “funding.” The winners won’t immediately move to pre-production, but they might get a healthy snack for their creativity.
12. The Problem-Solution Icebreaker
Give everyone about ten minutes to pick out the biggest problems they see in the office and quickly dream up solutions. People can volunteer to pitch their ideas. Encourage creative thinking by declaring the room a safe zone, even if the boss is in the room.
This activity will break the ice, and it might even inspire some projects if someone pitches an idea that resonates with the room.
13. Speed “Dating” Icebreaker
Have everyone sit near people they don’t work with. Tell everyone to look to their right and announce that they’ll be spending the next 5 minutes speed networking with the person next to them. The goal: 5 conversations in 5 minutes. Set a timer; every time the buzzer goes off, it’s time for people to find a new conversational partner.
14. The Shoe Icebreaker
This icebreaker from Chron requires zero prep and very little time to complete, but it’s pretty unforgettable.
Have everyone leave one shoe by the door. Redistribute the shoes so everyone has one shoe that doesn’t belong to them. Set a timer for five minutes, and tell everyone to find the shoe’s owner and then strike up a 2-minute conversation, preferably about a subject other than shoes.
15. The Marshmallow Challenge
This challenge from Tom Wujec, a business visualization expert, makes the perfect icebreaker and team-building hybrid.
Break your meeting attendees into groups of four. Give each group 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string, and one marshmallow. Ask them to build the tallest freestanding structure they can. Sit back and see what happens.
Here’s Tom Wujec talking about the team-building virtues of the Marshmallow Challenge:
16. Mindfulness Icebreaker
Meetings can sometimes fail because of what we bring to them, and we’re not talking about notebooks and cell phones. If meeting attendees feel stress, especially about the meeting itself, then tension will dominate the agenda.
Reduce stress by opening the meeting with a mindfulness icebreaker. Start with three minutes of silent contemplation, and then have everyone write down what is stressing them out. When everyone finishes writing, tell them to rip up their stress. Put all the scraps together in a bowl on the table.
17. Minefield: The Obstacle Icebreaker
This classic classroom activity from TeachThought makes the perfect meeting icebreaker.
Set up “obstacles” around the conference room table. (We recommend something harmless and funny, like squeaky toys.) Now everyone takes turns navigating the obstacles while blindfolded, guided only by the shouts and direction of their teammates.
18. The Props Icebreaker
To conduct this inspirational icebreaker, give everyone five minutes to think of a recent situation where one of their co-workers blew them away with their skills and kindness. (It’s a major plus if the situation involves someone in the meeting!) Now have everyone tell the stories to the rest of the group.
19. Company History Icebreaker
SignUpGenius’s icebreaker helps employees learn some valuable company history. Make a list of questions, pop them on the projector, and ask employees if they know the answers. (Individual buzzers could be totally cool if you have any on hand!)
Here are some question ideas:
- Mission statement
- Founding year
- Biggest goal
- Founder’s name
- Number of employees
- Biggest competitor
20. The No Smiling Icebreaker
Govloop has a counter-intuitive icebreaker that actually leads to lots of laughter. Tell everyone they can’t smile during the first five minutes of the meeting. You’ll be amazed at how humorous some people become when they’re told not to smile.
Get the camera ready to take some silly pictures.
21. The Instagram Icebreaker
To conduct this idea from William Joseph, just give employees a few minutes to scroll through their Instagram photos and pick a snapshot they want to share with the group. They can share the photo and explain why they picked it. This will help some personality shine through, especially if people on your team need to get to know each other.
22. The Friendly Debate Icebreaker
Use this student-centric icebreaker idea from the Cult of Pedagogy in your next meeting.
Start out by posing a harmless question that prompts people to choose a side. Here are some examples:
- Which food is better: pizza or tacos?
- Would you rather go on a hike or to a movie?
- What skill is more valuable: creativity or logic?
- Which is worse: being bored or being too busy?
Have everyone physically divide into sides—pro pizza to the right; pro taco to the left. Let all the like-minded people discuss the virtues of their position for awhile, and then have a representative try to sell the other side of the room.
This will give everyone a chance to see things from different perspectives. It will open everyone’s minds for a productive meeting.
23. The Employee-Driven Icebreaker
This icebreaker takes the cake on ease. Have each meeting attendee bring their favorite icebreaker. This “icebreaker” can be a joke, a quote, a phrase, an activity—anything at all. This icebreaker works because it removes the “Why are you making me do this?” factor. Everything employees do will be self-inflicted.
24. Electric Fence Icebreaker
This icebreaker from Toggl gets employees up and moving as they build an imaginary electric fence and try to cross it without getting “electrocuted.” Make the fence by tying some string between two chairs. They can cross the fence however they like as long as they don’t go under it.
25. Things-in-Common Icebreaker
This FairyGodBoss icebreaker helps teammates get to know each other on a deeper level by discovering what they have in common.
Split people into groups and tell them to find out how many things they have in common. The group who discovers the most things in common wins, so it pays to be persistent and thoughtful. (Physical features and clothing colors do not count!)
Each group will announce what they have in common to the rest of the group. Have everyone else raise their hand if they also have the thing in common.
26. The Inspirational Speaker Icebreaker
Put meeting attendees out of the spotlight and invite an inspirational speaker to break the ice before your meeting. Pick someone with expertise in what your company does or what you’re meeting is about.
Ask the presenter to make the talk super quick so there’s plenty of time for Q&A.
Do you have any favorite icebreakers you want to share? Let us know in the comments below.