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20 Ice Breakers for Virtual Meetings

Written by 
Bryan Kitch
June 1, 2022

Heading into a virtual meeting with unknown collaborators can be awkward — and it’s increasingly important to account for this scenario, with the pandemic forcing major companies and brands to consider permanently remote work

And that’s a trend that is likely to continue. In fact, Ladders recently predicted that 25% of all professionals will be remote by the end of 2022 — that’s up from less than 4% before 2020. 

So, how can you take the awkward silence out of a virtual meeting and replace it with something that’s actually… fun?

What is an ice breaker?

An ice breaker is a meeting activity that is meant to help foster a sense of community and build rapport between colleagues, students, or group members.

These activities vary widely, but are generally based on questions or challenges posed to the group that allow participants to give appropriate (and sometimes humorous) answers, which may also offer insights into ways of working together.

Most of all, ice breakers are meant to be a fun opportunity to get to know your team.

Why should you use ice breakers?

When people are more comfortable, they are more likely to participate and engage in your meeting. But how can you make people feel comfortable in a new, virtual setting? 

Ice breakers are a great stepping stone to psychological safety, and ultimately more productive meetings. They help warm up your team members in a remote meeting and foster team bonding.

By allowing people to relax, find ways to relate to one another, and connect with each other on more informal terms, you help set the baseline of mutual trust and respect that can grow into healthy and productive working relationships in the future.

And, they really work.

Believe it or not, sharing embarrassing stories tends to significantly increase team creativity, while playing video games together can boost later productivity by as much as 20%.

Below are 20 examples of ice breakers you can use to kick off a meeting the right way:

20 ice breakers for your next virtual meeting

We love breaking the ice at MURAL, because we love the creativity, humor, and spontaneity that comes with exercises designed to engage. Here are a few ideas that can work for any virtual meeting — the only tools required are an internet connection and your imagination.

Before we get started — a key to our (very serious) rating system:

Risk level: Low - these activities are benign but still engaging
Risk level: Medium - these activities are pretty safe but there’s always a chance of a wild card
Risk level: High - these activities are fun but also involve people comfortable with sharing, and just as we’ve come to learn from boxes of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get

Ice breakers for brand-new teams

When you’re just getting to know your new team, it’s good to have a solid framework in place for introductions, expectations, and action items.

1. One-minute introductions

Risk level: Low

Short introductions are a good way to take the pressure off people when getting to know one another and set expectations. For brevity’s sake, it’s best to break it down into simple categories such as first name, last name, and one fact about each person.

2. Where in the world are you?

Risk level: Low

If you’re kicking off a virtual meeting with a new team, chances are you’re not all located in the same city or region (or even country). Have participants describe the city or town where they live, and name something they find iconic about that place.

A map of the world with pins showing where team members are located.
Pro-tip: Create a mural from the World Map Template for this activity

3. What is your favorite film, tv series, or book

Risk level: Low

Have everyone introduce themselves and give a 30-second pitch for their favorite films, shows, or books. Did you know that your new Product Manager was super into Film Noir because of the underlying structure that mysteries provide both the narrative and the viewer? No? Well, now you do — and you’ve learned a little bit about how she thinks as well.

Related: Team Bookshelf Template

4. What are your favorite foods?

Risk level: Low

For this exercise, have your team introduce themselves and then describe one dish that they love, and what it means to them. This is an easy way to get people talking, and again offers insight into people’s personal history, likes and dislikes, and even ways of working. Also, a shared digital space can help make this even more engaging — and even educational (new recipes, anyone?).

Related: Team Feast Template

5. If you could choose to have any superpower, which would you choose?

Risk level: Low

Ask your team to choose one or more superpowers (typically one, for the sake of keeping it short) that they might wish they had as a way to help them understand one another’s values and approaches to work. You could also tie this to an existing superhero, or even a feature film (since most of them seem to be about superheroes these days).

6. What was your very first job?

Risk level: Low

Ask each of your team members to share what they did in their first job, and (of course) bonus points for any funny stories that went with it. (Did you know that the ‘E’ in Chuck E. Cheese stands for ‘Entertainment?’ You’re welcome.)

Run this ice breaker for free in MURAL with the Team Warmups & Energizers template.

7. What’s your nickname?

Risk level: Medium

When establishing relationships, it can be good to learn familiar ways to refer to one another (pending comfort zones, of course), and the backstory angle adds a twist that can be fun and unexpected. Have everyone introduce themselves, and then share their nicknames and the backstories that go with them.

Ice breakers for team-building

One thing that can make for a good ice breaker is building strategies for working together in an open and informal way. This can help build trust and empathy when new teams are formed and give clarity to new team members when they join.

8. Define ways of working together

Risk level: Low

Working together to build a team charter is a great way to learn about teammates as well as establish ground rules for engagement. Define things like: What’s the best way to get in touch? Do you prefer asynchronous work or would you rather set a meeting? How are you accustomed to collaborating with teammates? How have you handled this in your previous experiences?

We’d recommend using a visual medium for this, like the Hybrid Team Charter Template, so teammates can get a better understanding of their virtual and physical workplaces, as well as more information about time zones for synchronous and asynchronous communication.

9. Share your workspace

Risk level: Medium

This activity is centered on sharing the space around you. Have everyone introduce themselves and then pick out one aspect of their workspace that is important to them.

Note: Using a visual platform where still images can be provided instead of live video can mitigate any potential discomfort during a team meeting. It can also inform colleagues about ways of working together and work styles that can build empathy and spark conversation.

Use the Share Your Office Template to add comments and compliments about your coworker's home office setups.

10. Company trivia

Risk level: Low

See how well your team members know the organization with a simple trivia game, and reward the winners with kudos (or maybe even a little swag?). This can be as quick as 5 company-related questions, or more involved, like a traditional game show. Just make sure the emphasis is heavy on family and light on feud (jokes!).

Related: MURAL Trivia Game Template

Funny ice breakers for virtual meetings

8. What animal are you?

Risk level: Low

People sometimes have some pretty original ideas about how to do this! Also, it’s a lighthearted and unobtrusive way to kick things off with some potentially funny outcomes. Ask everyone to introduce themselves, and then encourage them to share a unique method of escaping the hiccups — you never quite know whom you’ll be helping along the way!

12. What’s your cure for hiccups?

Risk level: Low

People sometimes have some pretty original ideas about how to do this! Also, it’s a lighthearted and unobtrusive way to kick things off with some potentially funny outcomes. Ask everyone to introduce themselves, and then encourage them to share a unique method of escaping the hiccups — you never quite know whom you’ll be helping along the way!

13. What’s the weirdest way you’ve met someone and become friends?

Risk level: Low

This offers teammates a way to share a personal (and probably funny) story without much risk, and gives everyone a chance to talk about not only themselves but their friends. Have everyone introduce themselves, and then share a short (1-2 minute) origin story behind one of their friendships.

14. What video game have you spent hours playing?

Risk level: Low

Just about everyone has played video games at some point in their lives (guilty), so it’s a pretty safe bet. Bonus points if you are familiar with the classics (and by that of course I mean NBA Jam and Crash Bandicoot).

15. What was cool when you were younger but isn’t cool now?

Risk level: Medium

Does anyone remember parachute pants? The only risk involved in this one is that some folks are more sensitive than others about revealing their (approximate) age, but outside of that, the results are often hilarious. Use your discretion.

16. What's the first album you ever bought?

Risk level: Medium

Again, there is the slight risk here of people feeling uncomfortable about age, but in our experience, many people love the opportunity to reminisce — a good follow-up question is what format. (Vinyl is back! But then, my first album was on a cassette tape — not back, yet…)

17. Who is your celebrity lookalike?

Risk level: Medium

Ask your teammates to share the celebrity that people say resembles them most, and include an image reference if possible. With a visual platform, you could also gamify the experience by having everyone vote anonymously for the most convincing doppelgänger.

18. What's your go-to karaoke song?

Risk level: Medium

This can be a fun way to introduce favorite kinds of music, with potentially hilarious outcomes. Also, signing has been shown to mediate fast social bonding. Bonus points if people have good stories about why they selected their songs — or particularly memorable performances.

19. What are the last 3 emojis you typed in your phone?

Risk level: High

It’s hard to predict, but as we’re indicating with the (expertly calibrated) Risk Level here, this one could potentially get interesting, so our advice is to use only with established teams. Given that there are so many ways to interpret emojis (and, in fact, those interpretations often change across demographics), this exercise can also be useful in terms of clearing up any potential miscommunications across your team in platforms like Slack, or other tools where emoji reactions have become ubiquitous.

20. Most embarrassing stories

Risk level: High

It’s a fine line (so having some guidelines like ‘work appropriate’ for stories up front is the way to go), but when people share personal stories, it offers diverse groups an immediate window into their colleagues’ experiences, and fosters empathy and understanding that has measurable, positive effects on team creativity. As people introduce themselves, ask them to pick a 1-2 minute anecdote that was embarrassing for them in the past, and what they learned from the experience.

More ways to break the ice

Ice breakers can sometimes be cheesy, but it's a fun way to learn more about your coworkers, build trust among team members, and make online meetings more engaging.

These are some of our favorites, but we love new ideas and ways of working together. We’re constantly adding to (and improving) our template library, but you can also access more ideas — and connect with other facilitators and professionals — via the MURAL Community

Sign up for a Free Forever account to hold virtual team ice breakers in MURAL and get started with our ice breaker templates.

About the author

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.