10 Easy virtual icebreakers

In this COVID-19 era we are all stuck with videoconferencing for meetings, training sessions and even for social gatherings. You might end up in an online meeting with people you never met, don’t know really well or haven’t seen for a while. So, now it is even more important to get to know each other a little bit better, to connect and to start bonding. Using an icebreaker at the start of every meeting will make it easier for the participants to communicate throughout the session and they will feel more comfortable.

Keep it simple

I know there are many lists around with virtual icebreakers. I found that a lot of these icebreakers need additional technology, like a mobile phone or software to upload images. You need to realise that not every participant is mastering sharing screens or feels comfortable in using additional software. The only thing you need for the icebreakers below, on top of limited videoconferencing features, is (maybe) a pen and paper. Therefore, you will be less reliant on technology, with a lower risk of disruption and it helps you with a smooth start of the session.

Keep it private

None of the icebreakers in my list require very personal information. This means, it is up to the participant to choose how much personal information they would like to share in their answers and scribbles. The freedom to share or keep things private, will enhance the feeling of psychological safety in your session.

What’s your goal?

You need to determine what your icebreaker goal is. What would you like to achieve? Do you want to focus on connecting, or would you like to ‘throw’ some content at the attendees to measure their knowledge or skills level? For me, it will depend on the type of session (training, meeting, social), the amount of time available and how much I know about the participants at the start. The list below is solely focusing on connecting. I promise, I will write another list with virtual icebreakers that focus on content soon.

1. Sketch

Required: Pen & paper (post-it notes)
Instructions: Draw a picture that represents you best in 1 minute. Tell us why.
Example: I have drawn a butterfly as I love bright colours, I love honey and I would like to be taken by the wind and see where I end up.

2. Make a wish

Instructions: Finish one of the following questions (the facilitator chooses):
I wish I could have a coffee with …
I wish I could live …
I wish I would no longer …
Example: I wish I could live near a beach as I love the wind in my hair, the sound of the ocean and watching the whales when they migrate.

3. In common

Required: Pen and paper (or write in the chatroom)
Instructions: Find 10 things that you have in common. One of you is the scribe.
Example: You are all working at the same company, all wearing a ring etc.

4. Fabulous facts

Instructions: Send a private message in the chatroom to the facilitator only with a funny, strange or unexpected fact about yourself. Keep it to 1 short sentence.
The facilitator reads them out and the group needs to guess who it is. The person can give a bit more context.
Example: I broke my back in my 13th skydive.

5. Show and tell

Instructions: Show what you are wearing on your feet and tell us why. Do not show the soles of your feet or shoe as it might be offensive.
Example: I am wearing purple bamboo socks because our floor is cold, and I don’t like wearing shoes at home.

6. Time machine

Instructions: Answer this question: If you could step in a time machine: which year would you go, what would you do, and would you stay or come back?
Example: I would go to 1985 and see the band Queen playing live at Live Aid. I would return after the concert.

7. Favourite song

Instructions: Say, sing, or hum the first line of your favourite song. The others will guess the name and/or artist of the song or join in.
Example: “Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” (Prince, Let’s go crazy)

8. Portrait

Required: Pen & paper Instructions: The facilitator will send you to a breakout room in groups of two. Draw a portrait of the other person in your breakout room in 2 minutes. When you are back, show your portrait to others and they will guess who it is. With uneven numbers, the facilitator joins in.

9. One day

Instructions: Answer this question: Who would you like to be for one day and why? Example: I would love to be an animal rescuer on a day that I can release an animal back in the wild.

10. Three words

Instructions: We’re going to tell a story that starts with: “Tomorrow I am going to change the world and I’ll start with….. “. You all add 3 words at the time to this conversation. Example: … making a call.. to Prime Minister … Jacintha Ardern and … ask her to …

Connect away on

With these 10 icebreakers, which you can use without additional technology, you can easily shift gears and try something else as an online facilitator. Just ask the participants to always bring pen and paper to your session. Enjoy the experience!

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