The Art of the Virtual Icebreaker

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The Art of the Virtual Icebreaker

 

What do you think of when we say “virtual icebreaker”? Awkward disclosures of personal information? A total waste of time? An introvert’s worst nightmare? Virtual icebreakers often get a bad rap – and sometimes rightfully so – but when they’re done well, they can provide the conversational catalyst needed to spice up any virtual meeting. 

Virtual icebreakers are an art form. They require creativity and good taste. And like any masterpiece, the beauty of the icebreaker is highly subjective. (Let’s be honest, you probably can’t please everyone.) So, how do you strike that perfect balance between exciting, but not over-the-line? Spontaneous, yet organized? Funny, but in good taste? We’re here to break it down for you. With our help, you’ll be the Van Gogh of the virtual icebreaker in no time. 

Earliest use – a little dose of history

Historically, the term “break the ice” referred to the literal act of ships breaking arctic ice to explore unknown waters or forging a path for others to follow. While the term has evolved to its current meaning — a conversation starter — the usage basically means the same thing: to start or forge something new. Such is a virtual icebreaker — forging a new relationship through conversation. Isn’t history fun?

 

Let’s get this party started.

A virtual icebreaker doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as requiring guests to answer a question before entering the room. 

While the icebreaker method itself is simple, the icebreaker question shouldn’t be. Have you ever started a virtual meeting with a round of “state your name and where you’re from”? You can almost hear the collective groan around the room. A trite icebreaker question can really suck the energy out of a meeting quickly. Instead, consider some more intriguing alternatives, like:

  • If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

  • What’s your spirit animal? (Whale shark, by the way.)

  • How long would you last in a zombie apocalypse?

Once all responses are collected, have everyone explain his or her response one by one or play a guessing game, where other guests try to guess whose response is whose. 

Not only will an interesting icebreaker question kickstart some fascinating conversation, but it can also help build trust, camaraderie, and confidence among participants who may not otherwise speak up. 

Need help setting up your icebreaker question on Wonder? Check out our help article here

 

A few more virtual icebreaker ideas:

  1. Solve a riddle. Before a group video call, ask guests to present their favorite riddle using the icebreaker question. Break attendees into circles with a different riddle for each group to solve. Allow guests to venture into other circles where they think they’ll be most useful. 

  2. Would you rather? As a slight variation to the open-ended icebreaker question, ask guests a “would you rather” question before they enter the room, such as “Would you rather talk like Yoda or breathe like Darth Vader for the rest of your life?”. Upon entry, ask guests to elaborate on their reasoning. 

  3. Virtual scavenger hunt. For this icebreaker question, ask guests to name one everyday household item. Once everyone is on the call, share the list of common household items for guests to collect. The first person to make it back to the virtual room with all the scavenger hunt items in hand wins. 

  4. Virtual desk tour. Before entering the room, ask guests to name the most interesting item on their desk or within their sight. Once on the video call, ask guests to channel their inner tour guides by giving 60-second tours of their workspace and immediate surroundings. It sounds simple, but the conversations and personal information that can arise from this simple exercise can be quite fascinating. 

  5. Trivia. To prep guests for this activity, ask a starter trivia question using the icebreaker question so participants can start flexing their trivia muscles. Anyone who gets the trivia question right, gets a prize. Then, break guests into groups and read a list of trivia questions aloud for each group to answer. Each correct answer earns the group one point. The group with the most points at the end of the game also wins a prize. (The group with the least points still probably had fun.)  

Learn how to create breakout groups (aka: circles) on Wonder here

 

Go forth and break that ice.

A fun icebreaker activity can change your guests’ mindsets from “ugh, not another icebreaker” to “huh, that was kinda entertaining.” Bye bye boring, ol’ surface-level conversations, and hello detailed breakdown of zombie apocalypse survival scenarios! 

Conversation: started.

Team Wonder

Psst... Have any other fun virtual games to share? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below! 

A fun question! Any!


Thanks for the lovely ideas, really bizarre questions do the trick… that’s something I experienced many times.


These are wonderful ideas for ice breakers. Thanks for sharing.


I like to use this icebreaker:

Choose one: Coffee, Tea, Cake, Pretzel

After that, groups can be easily formed: Coffee and cake meet in group 1, tea and pretzels in group 2. In a further round, drinks and food can then result in groups in each case. Questions can also be asked such as: "Who doesn't like pretzels? This often breaks also hierarchies. Because the boss and the employee are both disliked pretzels 🙂 but on a funny way


@erikW - now you’ve caught my curiosity - any examples of bizarre questions that have worked well for you?


@Nico - that’s an incredibly creative way to break down social barriers and hierarchies, leveling the playing field and getting people to connect. In virtual, we often come across the problem of building comfort and engagement. I think your idea is a great option to kick off a welcoming atmosphere.


Virtual icebreakers can be a huge it or a swing and a miss. I’m always looking for new creative ways to engage my members. Thanks!


Nice summary! I often like to allow icebreakers to be active and passive...some people don’t like to share verbally in an event...so I encourage them to create some icebreaker content (e.g. a chat, a Miro sticky note, etc.) and let them choose whether to talk about it or not.


My experience is that ice-breakers are particularly effective if they relate to the counterfactual.

To give you an example. 

Say you have a conference of people where everybody has (sort of) the same job. Now, let us ask people about what would be their ‘dream-job’. So this opens a totally new perspective on people and opens more intense discussions. 

Hope this helps. 

Bernd 


nice ideas! I will use them for my next meetings on wonder.me!


I would also try to think about how the icebreaker questions can generate interesting answers that might spark discussion. For example, I have used, “What’s a song that never gets old for you?” Usually people will list a classic song that most people have heard of, and it will say a lot about their personality and preferences quite quickly. If they list a song that people haven’t heard of, even better!


I asked a group to show us something which was important to them - but not related to the subject we were studying together.   They really got into it - we had all sorts, from a Harp to an amazing (almost finished) oil painting and the kite bit for kitesurfing 


I always ask the question during the demos: ‘As it’s name implies, what does an icebreaker question do? It breaks what?”

The answers are always creative:

The ice

Legs, but the ice is slippery

Silence 

Gives everyone something to talk about

Do we have any other creative responses to this question?! 🤔


@Beixi I use a fun poll to break the ice. My latest go to is “Who is your favorite Batman?”. I use Mentimeter for this poll but I am thinking about using Wonder. I do not think it would be hard. Create a room area for the choices like “Val Kilmer” or “George Clooney”. Let the team move to the area of their favorite Batman and discuss why. Then bring them back to the center area to have a spokesman give the why. 

Of interest. Christian Bale seems to be the current favorite and almost no one knows who Adam West was! :)


I’M BATMAN! 🦇🧔

Sorry, @steve.paladino, I had to do it 🤦‍♂️ Just picture me alone in my room laughing right now 😅

You’re absolutely correct with naming the room areas the batman actors! And, you know what? I know who Adam West is! But only because he was on Big Bang Theory. 🙈