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10 Virtual Meeting Ice Breakers and Tools for Better Employee Engagement in 2021

10 Virtual Meeting Ice Breakers and Tools for Better Employee Engagement in 2021

Lawrence Haywood 07 Dec 2021 12 min read

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: your virtual meeting has just started, but you’re met with a grid of silent boxes. Everyone’s shuffling around in their pajamas, unsure of who the Zoom algorithm is going to let speak, meaning that you’re doing all the talking and they’re doing all the apprehensive nodding.

Wow, what you’d give for a huge, digital pickaxe to smash this virtual ice into little frosty pixels. Fear not, these 10 virtual meeting ice breakers are exactly what you need.

Check out below the top 10 virtual meeting ice breakers that can really get your meetings off on the right foot. We’ll also take a look at when, why and how to use them to ensure that your meeting is productive and fun.

Let’s Break the Ice…

Why Use Virtual Meeting Ice Breakers?

People playing AhaSlides quiz over Zoom
Break that ice with ruthless efficiency.

There was once a time when in-person ice breakers were simply deemed ‘a fun way to start a meeting’. They’d typically last about 2 minutes before the meeting was ushered onto 58 minutes of cold, hard business.

Well, times have changed. Warm-up activities such as these have taken on far more prominence as reseach continues to come out about their benefits. And when meetings moved online in 2020, the importance of virtual meeting ice breakers became even clearer.

Let’s take a look at a few…

5 Benefits of Virtual Meeting Ice Breakers

  1. Better engagement – The most well-known benefit of any ice breaker is to help your participants relax before the real meat of the session begins. Encouraging everyone to participate at the start of the meeting sets a precedent for the rest of it. People who are engaged at the start of the meeting are more likely to be engaged throughout. This is crucial in a virtual meeting where it’s super easy to tune out.
  2. Better idea sharing – Not only are your participants more engaged, but they’re more likely to give their best ideas. A big reason why your employees aren’t sharing their best ideas during in-person meetings is because they’re weary of judgement. Online software that allows participant anonymity and that works in conjuction with Zoom can coax the best out of everyone.
  3. Levelling the playing field – Virtual meeting ice breakers give everyone a say. They help to break down the boundaries between different job titles, or in today’s global environment, different cultures. They allow even your quietest participant (the one with his camera off and his microphone muted) to put forward great ideas that will spur engagement for the rest of the meeting.
  4. Encouraging teamwork from afar – Your team may be feeling pretty disconnected from their co-workers if they’ve been out of the office for months. There’s nothing better to stimulate teamwork online than a virtual meeting ice breaker. You can do this through team-based quizzes, activities or open-ended questions, all of which get your staff back to working together.
  5. Giving you a better idea of your team – Some people are more adapted to working from home than others – that’s a fact. Virtual meeting ice breakers give you a chance to gauge the mood in the room and tailor the rest of the meeting accordingly.

When to Use Virtual Meeting Ice Breakers

Man lying on broken ice
Virtual meeting ice breakers leave your team as chill as broken ice.

There are a few scenarios in which virtual meeting ice breakers can reap some of the benefits we just mentioned.

  • At the start of every meeting – Yeah, really, every meeting. The activities of the meeting’s first 5 minutes are just too beneficial not to have every single time your team gets together online.
  • With a new team – Zoom meetings with a bunch of strangers are rightly terrifying. If your team are all going to be working together for a while, you need to smash that ice as quickly and effectively as possible.
  • After a company merger – There’s always animosity in the air when two teams from two different companies are forced into an abrupt partnership. A steady supply of virtual meeting ice breakers throughout your online get-togethers helps to remove suspicion about ‘the other team’ and get everyone on the same page.
  • As a closer – Who says your ice breakers have to start a meeting? Well, actually, they should, but they can also end a few as well. Having a fun ice breaker at the end of a meeting cuts through the business-heavy atmopshere of the previous 55 minutes and gives your staff a reason to sign off feeling positive.

Top 10 Virtual Meeting Ice Breakers

So, here’s our list of the 10 best virtual meeting ice breakers we’ve come across. These are suited differently to whether you’re introducing a team to each other or getting everyone reacquainted, but they’re all absolutely perfect for the online workplace.

💡 You can find many of these activities in the AhaSlides template library. Sign up for free to host each of these from your laptop while your audience respond with their phones!

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Word Cloud Ice Breakers
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Quick Team Building
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Monthly Team Meeting

Ice Breaker #1: Spin the Wheel

As a facilitator for a virtual meeting, sometimes you just want an easy ice breaker that takes the responsibility for leading out of your hands. Well, with a bit of preparation, Spin the Wheel can be the perfect solution.

Create a bunch of activities or questions for your team and assign them to a spinning wheel. Simply spin the wheel for each team member and get them to perform the activity or answer the question that the wheel lands on.

If you’re pretty confident that you know your team, you can go with some reaonably hardcore dares. But we recommend some chill truths related to personal life and work that all of your team are comfortable with.

Doing it properly creates engagement through suspense and a fun environment through the activities you create.

How to make it?

A spinner wheel on AhaSlides, one of many virtual ice breaker ideas for meetings.
Write your own truths or dares and assign them at random with the wheel.

As is the theme of this list of virtual meeting ice breakers, you might have already guessed that there’s free software for this.

AhaSlides lets you create up to 10,000 entries on a colourful spinning wheel. Think of that enormous wheel on Wheel of Fortune, but one with more options that doesn’t take a decade to finish a spin.

Start by filling in the entries of the wheel with your activities or questions (or even get participants to write their names in). Then, when it’s meeting time, share your screen on Zoom, call on one of your team members and spin the wheel for them.

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Take AhaSlides for a Spin!

Productive meetings begin here. Try out our employee engagement software for free!

To productive meetings 👉

Ice Breaker #2: Which Image or GIF Describes Your Mood?

This is a quick, fun and visual activity to start with. Give your participants a selection of funny images or GIFs and get them to vote on which one most accurately describes what they’re feeling right now.

Once they’ve decided if they’re feeling more like Arnold Schwarzenegger sipping tea or a collapsed pavlova, they can see the results of their voting in a chart.

This helps to relax your team and eradicate some of the serious, stifling nature of the meeting. Not only that, but it gives you, the facilitator, a chance to gauge the general engagement levels before the juicy brain work starts.

How to make it?

An image choice slide in AhaSlides where participants choose the image-represented mood that best describes how they're feeling.
The image choice slide let’s you see how the room is feeling.

You can easily make this kind of virtual meeting ice breaker via the image choice slide type on AhaSlides. Simply fill out 3 – 10 image options, either by uploading them from your computer or choosing from the integrated image and GIF libraries. In the settings, untick the box labelled ‘this question has correct answer(s)’ and you’re good to go.

Ice Breaker #3: Where Are You From?

Another simple one here. Where Are You From? lets everyone have their say about their hometown or where they’re living right now.

Doing this gives everyone a bit of background knowledge about their co-workers and gives them a chance to connect through common geography (“you’re from Glasgow? I was recently mugged there!”). It’s great for injecting a sense of instant togetherness into your meeting.

How to make it?

A word cloud on AhaSlides to determine where participants are from.
A word cloud slide is a great way to show short-burst answers and see which ones are the most popular.

On AhaSlides, you can choose a word cloud slide type for this ice breaker. After you propose the question, participants will put forward their answers on their devices. The size of the answer shown in the word cloud depends on how many people wrote that answer, giving your team a better sense of where everyone’s coming from.

Ice Breaker #4: How Do You Plan to Engage?

There’s a great way to inject a bit of humour and get some useful information from your participants – asking what they’re going to do to engage in the meeting.

This question is open-ended, so it gives participants a chance to write whatever they want. Answers can be funny, practical or just plain weird, but they all allow new co-workers to get to know each other better.

If freshman nerves are still running high at your company, you can opt to make this question anonymous. That means that your team have free range on writing whatever they want, without the fear of judgement for their input.

How to make it?

How to engage with your team and meeting through virtual meeting ice breakers
An open-ended slide allows for full creative freedom and gives you the option of adding a little time pressure.

This one’s a job for the open-ended slide type. With this, you can pose the question, then choose whether or not to have participants reveal their names and choose an avatar. Select to hide the answers until they’re all in, then choose to reveal them in one large grid or one-by-one.

There’s also the option of setting a time limit on this one and just asking for as many answers as your team can think of within 1 minute.

Ice Breaker #5: Share an Embarrassing Story

Now here’s one you’ll definitely want to make anonymous!

Sharing an embarrassing story is a hilarious approach to removing the rigidity of your meeting. Not only that, but co-workers who have just shared something embarassing with the group are more likely to open up and give out their best ideas later in the session. One study found that this virtual meeting ice breaker can generate 26% more and better ideas.

In an in-person setting, this activity can be painfully awkward if no one steps up or no one laughs at the end of the story. Stick it into anonymous software, however, and all boundaries go out the window.

How to make it?

Challenge your team to give out an embarrassing story for a virtual meeting ice breaker idea
You can reveal your open-ended slides one-by-one for this ice breaker.

Another one for the open-ended slide, here. Just ask the question in the title, remove the ‘name’ field for participants, hide the results, and reveal them one-by-one.

These slides have an answer maximum of 500 characters, so you can be sure that the activity won’t run on forever because Janice from marketing has lived a life of regret.

Ice Breaker #6: Desert Island Inventory

We’ve all wondered what would happen if we’d get stranded on a desert island. Personally, if I could go 3 minutes without searching for a volleyball to paint a face on, I’d basically consider myself Bear Grylls.

In this one, you can ask each member of the team what they would take to a desert island. Afterwards, everyone anonymously votes for their favourite answer.

Answers usually range from genuinely practical to entirely ludicrous, but all of them show brains igniting before the main event of your meeting kicks off.

How to make it?

A ‘brainstorm’ slide is perfect for the job.

Create a brainstorm slide with your question at the top. When you’re presenting, you take the slide through 3 stages:

  1. Submission – Everyone submits one (or multiple if you wish) answers to your question.
  2. Voting – Everyone votes for a handful of answers they like.
  3. Result – You reveal the one with the most votes!

Ice Breaker #7: Pop Quiz!

How about a quick bit of trivia to get those neurons firing before your meeting? A live quiz is possibly the best way to get all of your participants engaged and laughing in a way that the 40th Zoom meeting this month simply can’t on its own.

Not only that, but it’s a great leveller for your participants. The quiet mouse and the loudmouth both have equal say in a quiz, and may even be working together on the same team.

How to make it?

People playing AhaSlides quiz over Zoom
There are 4 types of quiz slide on AhaSlides, as well as a leaderboard slide at the end.

We’ve seen some truly brilliant Zoom quizzes come out of AhaSlides.

Choose from any of the 4 types of quiz slide (pick answer, pick image, type answer, match pairs) to create any type of quiz for a team with diverse interests. An image quiz may be great for geography lovers, while a sound quiz would definitely appeal to music nuts.

Ice-Smashing Free Quiz Templates!

Save heaps of time with free quiz templates. Click an image below and sign up for free with AhaSlides.

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Harry Potter Quiz
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General Knowledge Quiz
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Name that Song Quiz

Ice Breaker #8: You Nailed It!

If you prefer to step away from competition and opt for something altogether more wholesome, try You Nailed It!

This is a simple activity in which your team gives praise to a team member who has been crushing it recently. They don’t have to get into the specifics of what that person has been doing so well, they just have to mention them by name.

This can be a huge boost of confidence for those mentioned team members. Also, it gives them an elevated appreciation for the team that recognises their good work.

How to make it?

You Nailed It slide to show worker appreciation on AhaSlides

When you’re after quick-fire ice breakers for a virtual meeting, a word cloud slide is the way to go. Simply ask the question and hide the answers to stop people jumping on the bandwagon. Once the answers are in, a few team memers’ names will stand out amongst the crowd of the results page.

If you want to be more inclusive of the team’s efforts, you can up the number of answers that each member gives. Upping the requirement to 5 answer entries means that members can mention who’s nailed it from each department of the company.

Ice Breaker #9: Pitch a Movie

Everyone’s got some weird movie idea that they’ve held onto in case they match with film exec on Tinder. Everyone, right?

Well, if not, Pitch a Movie is their chance to come up with one and try and secure funding for it.

This activity gives each of your team members 5 minutes to come up with an outlandish movie idea. When called upon, they’ll pitch their ideas one-by-one to the group, who afterwards will vote on which one deserves funding.

Pitch a Movie gives total creative freedom to your team and confidence in presenting ideas, which can be invaluable for the meeting that follows.

How to make it?

Gather some crazy ideas with one of the best virtual meeting ice breakers for free-thinking and presenting.
For percentage-based answers, a multiple choice slide in a bar, donut or pie chart works best.

As your team are rattling off their wild film ideas, you can fill in a multiple choice slide with their film titles as the options.

Choose to present the voting results as a percentage of total answers in a bar, donut or pie chart format. Make sure to hide the results and limit participants to one choice only.

Ice Breaker #10: Grill the Gaffer

If you’re staring at this title perplexed, allow us to elaborate:

  • Grill: To question someone intensely.
  • Gaffer: The boss.

In the end, the title is about as simple as the activity. It’s similar to a reverse version of share an embarassing story, but with more self-inflicted scrutiny.

Essentially you, as the facilitator, are in the hot seat for this one. Your team can ask you anything they want, either anonymously or not, and you have to answer some uncomfortable truths.

This is one of the best levellers in virtual meeting ice breakers. You may not fully realise, as the facilitator or boss, how nervous your team is about answering your questions. Grill the Gaffer gives them the control, gives them creative freedom and helps them to see you as a human with whom they can talk.

How to make it?

Grill the gaffer is a great virtual meeting ice breaker to level the playing field between the boss and employees
The Q&A slide collects written answers for you to respond to over Zoom.

AhaSlides’ Q&A slide is perfect for this one. Just encourage your team to type in any question they want before you answer them over the video call.

Questions can be submitted by anyone in the audience and there’s no limit to how many they can ask. You can also turn on the ‘anonymous questions’ feature to allow your team full creativity and freedom.

The All-In-One Tool for Virtual Meeting Ice Breakers

There you have it, 10 of the best virtual meeting ice breakers for you to try from tomorrow.

As an interactive presentation tool trusted by over 100,000 users from 185 countries, AhaSlides can be your gateway to more inclusive, more productive meetings.

Create your account for free with a max meeting audience of 7, or click the button below and type the reference code AHAICEBREAKERS2021 at checkout for 15% off any plan!

Use this reference code when you checkout: AHAXMAS21