Ice-breakers and energizers for remote meetings

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12 min

Can you remember the last time you’ve joined a new team or attended a conference just by yourself? Most of us feel very similar in these situations - awkward and afraid to make a bad impression. 

According to Psychological Journal, there is nothing wrong with feeling scared to communicate with new people. While one of our biggest concerns is not “looking interesting enough,” in reality, we all feel the same! Study results show that other people like us more than we actually think after the first conversations. 

Fears aside, we often need a push to start a conversation. That’s why ice-breakers and similar activities are so popular during on-site meetings. 

But what about remote meetings? 

Seeing a striking rise in virtual meetings, event organizers have adapted ice-breakers and energizers to work well during remote meetings. Besides the obvious function of connecting people, they can increase your attendees’ attention span and productivity.

Below, we’ve gathered some of the participants’ favorite ice-breakers and energizers that you can try out in your next virtual event!

3 ice-breakers to kick off your remote meetings

What is an ice-breaker? 

Historically, that is how people called ships who could break the channels through the ice. However, the modern definition of this word is completely different - it is rather a metaphor. Ice-breakers are verbal and non-verbal techniques (e.g., jokes or games) that can relieve tension between people who don’t know each other and make stiff social situations more comfortable.

So how do we use ice-breakers for online meetings?

First things first, be prepared for some hesitation from your participants - especially if you’re dealing with a shy crowd. Not to end up with a frustrated audience, you have to choose an ice-breaker carefully. 

Our tip #1 is not to focus on the names: if your meeting has more than 5 participants, it’s useless to play games where you have to memorize something. Ice-breakers are supposed to make your attendees feel relaxed - not under pressure.

Instead of memory games, try to focus on personalities and experiences. The primary role of ice-breakers is to build relationships, and the best ones start from our stories.

Common ground: a game for first meetings

This game is best to learn about each other’s hobbies, interests, and similar activities. 

If you’re hosting an on-site meeting

Invite your team to sit in a circle and choose a moderator from the event organizer’s side in advance to lead the audience in a game. The moderator should prepare a list of random statements, e.g., “I like to binge-watch TV series.” Then, they’ll announce one statement at a time, addressing the participants. If an attendee can relate to the statement, they should raise their hands. All those who raised their hands will form a new circle - the “we have this in common” circle - and discuss the topic announced by the moderator. 

If you’re hosting a virtual meeting

Show your participants how to use the “Raise hand” function on a video-meeting platform. A moderator leads the audience in a game and announces the first statement. All that can relate, raise their virtual hands. Using the “Show all raised hands” function, the moderator chooses a random person and calls them out.

The chosen person has to say something related to the original statement, e.g., “I like to binge-watch TV series. My favorite TV show is Friends.” All who agree with the second statement raise their hands once again. This way, the audience plays until a final statement comes up, or the moderator can set a new statement to begin again. 

Guess who: if your participants already know each other a little bit

This game is best suited for virtual teams or meetings with up to 10 participants. A moderator has to set up an online survey with some general questions (up to 5 questions) and send a questionnaire to all participants before the meeting. 

When the meeting starts, the moderator selects one topic (question) and starts reading answers one by one without naming the respondents. The participants’ task is to guess which person each answer belongs to. 

If the author is guessed correctly, the team wins. If no one guesses the right person, the original owner is the winner.

Bonus: Hard level 

To make this ice-breaker more challenging, tell the players that they can bluff in order to prevent the team members from guessing. This way, the team might be more engaged in the experience and even use some detective skills.

Failure presentations: an ice-breaker for closer teams

This game requires a bit of preparation and shows a more personal and emotional side of the participants. Before the meeting, each team member has to prepare a simple, funny presentation on one of their failures. 

We all tend to share our successes, but failures are a huge part of our lives. This ice-breaker can make us all understand that even the toughest people have their lows. 

Disclaimer: make sure to introduce this task as a fun activity and encourage your employees not to take it too seriously. It will all work out if your team presents their failures in an engaging, simple, and fun way.

It’s no surprise that ice-breakers work effectively for smaller teams. From introducing new members to each other to getting to know your colleagues better, they can improve your team’s communication. 

But what about larger audiences? You don’t have to give up the fun - just use a breakout room function to make the ice-breakers comfortable! 

Why ice-breakers in your mother tongue are more effective

As you see, ice-breakers can become really personal - especially when you get emotional and try to express your deeper thoughts. 

If you are working in an international team or having a multilingual meeting, relationships between people can become stagnant at some point. One of the reasons for that might be the language barrier. But don’t worry, we have a solution for this!

Before we mentioned that remote simultaneous interpretation (RSI) can boost an international teams’ productivity. Remote simultaneous interpreting can also increase the effectiveness of ice-breakers and foster deeper relationships. By using remote simultaneous services, your team members could express their opinions simply and communicate in their native language, which is much easier than speaking in your second language. 

After all, ice-breakers are not the only way to keep your participants alert, comfortable, and cautious. If your meetings are long (or they start early in the morning or late in the evening), you can try another type of activity that can engage your audience - energizers!

3 energizers for virtual meetings to increase engagement

Do you often feel tired after or during remote meetings? You are not alone. Actually, Stanford researchers have titled this condition as “zoom-fatigue”, but similar to zoombombing this term is not limited to the Zoom video-meeting platform and can happen during any virtual meeting. 

In simple words, zoom fatigue is a form of exhaustion. It makes you feel tired and slightly impairs your brain functions.

The reasons behind it are pretty simple: we feel distracted, can’t keep our attention focused, and feel tired from looking at the camera or other speakers for hours.

As a result, our attention span becomes shorter, and engagement drops low. Happily, some energizers can fix the situation! 

What is an energizer?

Though often confused with ice-breakers, energizers generally refer to simple activities that can help increase participants’ alertness. Some energizers can also work as ice-breakers and make interactions with new people easier.

Below are the three energizers we have hand-picked for you to try out:

Physical trivia: for a quick boost of energy

Physical trivia is one of the most simple energizers to boost the attention span. It’s best to host it during a break in the middle of a session. Before the kick-off, a moderator should prepare a list of 20 questions that can be answered with a yes or a no.

During the energizer, a host will ask simple questions such as “Do you have a dog?” or “Does your name start with the letter A?”. 

Instead of answering in words, your audience has to make physical movements. A jump can stand for a yes, and a clap with your hands can be a no.

Physical trivia is an easy energizer which will only take a few minutes but will certainly help your participants feel concentrated again.

Virtual yoga session: to rest and stretch at the same time

We definitely recommend running a yoga session if you have a more extended break. If you’re not a renowned yogi, consider inviting a professional to your virtual event. 

If you can’t find a professional, you can efficiently run a desk yoga session. You can take inspiration from the Harvard Business Review and teach some simple yoga exercises to your participants while working at your table.

This energizer is good for the body and mind - research shows, even a 10-minute session can take away your cognitive load and make you feel relaxed and focused.

Touch (or bring something) blue: to increase cognitive functions

Even though this game is called “Touch blue,” it is not about the color exactly. 

When played on-site, the moderator asks the audience to touch something blue (or color of your choice). The players then check their surroundings, find a blue object, and run to touch it. In a virtual setting, instead of running, the participants have to bring a colorful object and show it on camera. 

You can use any color or material, e.g., “Bring something metallic!”. Forced to think quickly, your participants will refresh their minds after a long session and will be able to learn something about other audience members. 

This article features just a few energizers and ice-breakers you can try out in your event, but the opportunities are endless. The good thing about the virtual world is that it does not limit you, and you can try to adapt your favorite games to a virtual setting. 

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Published on

Oct 15, 2021

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