As simple as they can be, a good icebreaker has some long-term perks for any group! There are tons of great icebreakers for both small and large groups, and they can be used for people in any kind of organization. For more info on icebreakers (including what to do when they don’t seem to be working) and some icebreaker ideas to use with your team, keep reading!
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Why should you use group icebreakers?
If you lead a team of two or more people, you should be using icebreakers. According to Wikipedia, icebreakers are meant to help individual members of a group come together and learn how to work as a team. That being said, if you want an efficient and successful team that knows how to work well together, make sure you’ve got some icebreakers on your schedule!
The classic idea of icebreakers is that they’re mainly for groups of people who are new to each other. The truth is, icebreakers are great for both newly formed teams and teams that have known each other for a long time! As the name suggests, they “break the ice” and make room for conversation and relationship-building when a group is getting to know each other, but they can also help build community, facilitate interaction, and grow empathy among teams. These benefits seem simple but they’re necessary when bringing different people together in a working relationship.
Group icebreakers are great for warming your team up for creativity and collaboration. If you’re starting a meeting with an icebreaker, you give your team a chance to loosen up before diving into business. Icebreakers can help your team relax and give them an opportunity for some fun before thinking through tough projects or working together for deadlines!
How to liven up group icebreakers
If you haven’t tried them out yet, icebreakers come with a lot of benefits for your team! But what can you do to make sure your group is interested in participating in whatever game you choose?
- Set the tone early on. Icebreakers are often used at the beginning of a meeting as a warm-up for collaboration and creativity. More than likely, nothing else has happened in your meeting, so this is your chance to set the tone for the activity and what your team can gain from it. Stay light-hearted in conversation, make jokes, and think of this moment as a time to “entertain” your team so they’ll stay engaged.
- Let them decide! Give your team two or three different options of activities that they can choose from. This gives them some responsibility to pick something they’ll actually like and want to make fun.
- Use music or videos. Using media is an easy way to keep people’s attention. You can show a video tutorial of whatever activity you choose or have music playing in the background while you play.
- Make sure it’s fun! Icebreakers are meant to be fun! Understand your team well enough to know what they’re going to find fun and be engaged with from start to finish.
- Bring in an element of surprise. If you can do something a little out of the ordinary for your team, that will automatically liven up your icebreaker. Some things you can do are hand out prizes, invite a guest, or even wear a costume! Icebreakers can even be themed to upcoming holidays.
What do you do when an icebreaker is falling flat?
As much as you can do to liven up an icebreaker, sometimes it just falls flat, and that’s okay. If your team doesn’t seem to be engaged in a game, here are a few things you can do:
- Have a backup game. A lot of icebreaker games need materials that you plan to bring, but there are a handful of games that you can keep in your metaphorical back pocket to pull out if things aren’t going as planned. Have a backup that’s already been tested by your group and has proven successful, or one that’s easy to play and is still a lot of fun. The tough thing might be figuring out how to switch gears to a new activity, but your team will benefit from a game that works!
- Up the ante. If your group seems reluctant to participate in your icebreaker, make it worth their effort! While you shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep, offer bigger prizes or work incentives to reignite a little flame of engagement.
- Transition early. If you can sense that things are really going off track or your team is letting other things distract them from your icebreaker, you can transition to the rest of your meeting a little earlier than expected. If you’re playing a game with a certain amount of rounds, choose to do fewer rounds. Offer the chance for certain people to sit this game out to get through it quicker. Whatever way you choose to transition, don’t be discouraged but see it as a learning opportunity.
Remember, just because one activity didn’t quite hit the mark doesn’t mean that you don’t stop trying! We’ve got plenty of group icebreakers for you to try, so don’t be afraid to mix up the activity for next time.
15 of the Best Group Icebreakers for Any Size Team
No matter how large or small your team is, it’s possible to play a great icebreaker and build them up as a team! Icebreakers work in a variety of settings, too. You can stay indoors in a meeting room or mix things up and go outside. There are even virtual options for icebreakers that you can use for a remote team! Whatever setting you choose or the size of your group, there’s an icebreaker for you. Here are 15 icebreaker activities to get you started!
Icebreakers for Large Groups
A large group can be anywhere from 15 to 100 people. Chances are, you may be managing many of them online, and if that’s the case, check out our guide on how to lead virtual icebreakers for large groups. If you can get a majority of your team or your whole team in a room together, here are some icebreakers that you can use in person!
1. Line Up
Call out a category that can be placed in order (date of birth, height, shoe size, etc.) and give your team 3 minutes to place themselves in order.
2. Ten Things in Common
Split your large group into smaller teams and give them 5 minutes (or less, depending on how large your group is) to find ten things that they have in common.
3. The Human Knot
Everyone in your group must use both hands to grab a random hand in the group. Without letting go of the hands they’re holding, they must untangle themselves.
4. Balloon Stomp
Scatter different color balloons on the ground, making sure you have the same number of balloons in each color. Divide your group into smaller teams and assign them a balloon color. Giving them 2 minutes, they must run around the room popping other teams’ colors and try to protect their own. No hands allowed!
5. Trivia Game
Divide your group into small teams and play trivia! You can find a trivia game online or come up with questions on your own that are related to work or current, cultural things.
Split your team into at least two groups and give one person on the first team a short list of drawing prompts. On a big paper pad, they have to draw each prompt and let their teammates guess what they’re drawing in 60 seconds. Teams take turns at the drawing pad, and the team with the most points after 3 rounds wins! (Alternatively, you can make teams small enough where each person on each team has a turn at the drawing pad.)
7. Mingle Mingle
Call out a category that someone can have a “favorite” in, such as ice cream, color, beach, season, etc. Participants have 30 seconds to find at least three other people who share that favorite. Anyone who does not find three other people is out. Keep the categories going for as long as you can!
Icebreakers for Small Groups
Here are some icebreakers for small groups! These activities are ideal for a team of fewer than 15 people.
8. Never Have I Ever
Sit everyone in a circle and have them hold up five fingers. One at a time, go around the circle and each person says something that they haven’t done (traveled to a different state, gone surfing, etc.). If someone in the circle has done that activity, then they put a finger down.
9. 18 & Under
Each person shares an accomplishment that they had before they turned 18 years old! You might find out some fun facts and hidden skills with this icebreaker.
10. The M&M Game
Put a bag of M&Ms into a bowl and pass the bowl around. Each person takes one M&M (not for eating!). Each color should represent a fun icebreaker question, but don’t tell your team that before they choose their M&M. Have them answer their questions after the bowl has been to everyone.
11. Beach Ball Q&A
On a blown-up beach ball, write questions on each panel. Standing in a circle, have your team throw the beach ball to someone else, and wherever that person’s right thumb lands is the question they must answer.
12. The Memory Game
One at a time, have participants name an item that they would bring to a desert island. As each person names their item, they have to include every other item that has been said before their turn! If they forget an item, they’re out.
13. Two Truths and a Lie
You can play this so each person talks to others individually or one person speaks in front of the whole group! Everyone comes up with three facts about themselves, two being true and one being false. It’s up to the person listening to figure out what the untrue fact is!
14. Tall Tales
Going around in a circle, your team will make up a story line-by-line. The story ends when someone starts their sentence with the word “Suddenly . . . !”
15. Name that Tune
Use a table to tap out the rhythm of a popular song. Have your team members guess each song. The person who gets 5 correct guesses wins!
Time to break the ice!
Now that you’ve got some great icebreaker activities (and know what to do to keep them fun!) it’s time to add them to your next meeting! Remember, whether you have a brand new team or are leading people who have worked together for a long time, icebreakers always come in handy for strengthening your team.
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