Icebreakers for Online Meetings That Introverts Will Love | Beth's Blog

Icebreakers for Online Meetings That Introverts Will Love

Instructional Design

In my work as a trainer and facilitator, I make workshops and master classes as interactive as possible, incorporating peer discussion, movement, and creativity. I feel this makes a better learning experience. The same goes for in-person meetings.

However, these days so many of my meetings take place online, typically on Zoom, and interactivity can be a challenge. But it isn’t impossible, if you follow best practices for virtual facilitation for meetings.

One design important instructional principle for trainings and meetings, whether online or face-to-face, is to start off with a fun way to ease into the work. These activities are called icebreakers. Bear in mind that some people, especially introverts, hate them so you have to design them so they are less awkward.

One of my favorite icebreakers in face-to-face workshops is called the Human Chart or SpectraGram created by Allen Gunn from Aspiration. You have a couple of provocative questions related to the topic you will be discussing or training on and have people line up as to whether they agree or disagree.

The next step is to facilitate a discussion.  It is useful method for getting participants to express a point of view, engage in debate, listen to others and respond in how by be influenced by someone’s point of view in the room.  And, not everyone has to participate in the discussion, so those who are introverted feel comfortable.

My colleague, Dirk Slater, has written about how he applies Gunner’s techniques in his own technology/activist trainings.   Others have also documented and used the technique or taught others how to do it.

Can this technique work for an online meeting?  Yes! Obviously, you can’t have people physically line up, but you can do something visually.  Here is how it worked on a call recently with Leap Ambassadors where we discussed the Performance Imperative, specifically the pillar about boards. We started the meeting with a statement and we were asked whether we agreed or disagreed by showing a number of fingers from 1-5 (with 5 fingers being agree strongly and 1 finger disagree strongly)

This allows us to get into a deep discussion related to the topic. And it was fun!

Another fun and playful icebreaker that can also be done on zoom is called “Sketch Your Neighbor.” You begin your meeting by having your team sketch each other – the person next to them on the Zoom square. Most people can’t draw, so this activity levels the playing field and it positively reinforces group dynamics and builds a more open environment.

You can use the online whiteboard platform Mural for the drawing tools or ask everyone to use paper and pen and hold it up to the camera. Each person shares their drawing and you guess who it is. There is always lots of laughing!

Another icebreaker that can translate online is from my colleague Jen Bokoff. You ask everyone to introduce themselves and share a favorite photo on their phone.

What are some creative icebreakers that you have done online for trainings or meetings? Need some ideas for your next meeting or training? Check out the many icebreakers in these resources.

A Good Training Starts with a Great Icebreaker

Six Fun Nonprofit Icebreakers

Meeting and Greet Icebreaker Questions for Trainings

200 Icebreakers for Meetings

Icebreakers that Don’t Suck

Icebreakers that Rock

Win3 Icebreaker Collection

The Big Book of Icebreakers

Best Icebreakers for Training & Meetings

Mindtools: Icebreakers


7 Responses

  1. Great post, I love these ideas for Zoom/camera meetings.

    So many workplaces are distributed now; people need to break out of their (screen) box and learn new ways to connect.

    Here are a few more I like to lead:

  2. Beth Kanter says:

    Thanks for sharing Susan!

  3. Jason says:

    Great ideas. I work with a lot of remote workers and will definitely try to implement some of these.

  4. […] Introverts, unite…separately….in our own homes! And for those of you who manage introverts who work from home, Beth Kanter shares Icebreakers for Online Meetings That Introverts Will Love. […]

  5. […] idea taken from Beth Kanter’s […]

  6. Shannon says:

    After months of online meetings with the same people I have worked with for years, I want the icebreakers on the Zoom meetings to stop. Our team meetings are ending up 1.5-2 hours long because of these and I have other things I need to do, like my job. There is never any mention of NOT doing these. They aren’t always necessary and people don’t understand that. Please write an article about how to NOT include icebreakers just because you think it’s fun when your team is ready to suddenly have internet connections.

  7. Beth Kanter says:

    I hear what you are saying about icebreakers for a team of people who has worked together for years – perhaps you have built up good engagement/relationships/trust with everyone and everyone is not being impacted by current events (although that would be really rare).

    But Icebreakers are great for folks to transition into the meeting, shift gears – especially if they are coming into the meeting from another meeting or working on something solo.

    Icebreakers can be designed in a variety of formats and lengths. They need to be well facilitated so they don’t take up the entire time. It can be as simple as a few minutes of chitchat before the meeting begins, a minute of quiet meditation. Or a check-in from each person if there are highly stressful events happening outside our office walls that we are not immune to. Or as an in-depth as team game or activity that takes up the whole meeting. You need to select the right type of icebreaker and facilitate it well. And, there is a rhythm to it. During the pandemic, I know some org teams have been meeting more frequently but for shorter amounts of time – using the standing meeting or market place form. One organization I know does three check-ins per week – MWF. Monday is devoted to deliverables and making decisions. The Wed allows for a little bit more time for check-ins, plus updates on deliverables. Fridays are a short team building activity, plus a small amount of time to check in re: deliverables.

    Another best practice is to establish a norm called “I pass” – that allows people who don’t want to participate in any humanizing, socializing/relationship building type of activity or icebreaker to say they pass.

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