Agile techniques・TOOLS・soft skills

Top icebreaker ideas for successful virtual meetings

Remote meetings can often feel distant and disconnected. Break the ice and foster a collaborative atmosphere with these engaging ice breaker activities designed for virtual meetings.

In today's digital landscape, nearly everyone, regardless of their role or position, finds themselves participating in online calls via Zoom, Teams, or Skype.
Unlike face-to-face meetings, where casual chitchat helps people settle in, virtual meetings can often feel tense, making it difficult for participants to feel comfortable speaking up, especially at the beginning. Even worse is the facilitator's nightmare: a screen full of cameras turned off and a silent audience. So, how can we break the ice and create a friendly, collaborative atmosphere in the virtual conference room? Here are some effective ice breaker activities to get your remote meetings off to a great start. For even more ideas, check out my other blog post on Agile ice breakers here.

Show & Tell activities

Show & tell activities are perfect for small groups where participants either know each other well or need to get to know each other better. These activities encourage people to turn on their cameras and actively participate, which can significantly boost engagement and foster a sense of camaraderie. Here are some fun and effective show & tell ice breakers for your remote meetings:

Set your virtual background to your favorite location
Ask everyone to set their virtual background to a photo of their favorite location and share a few words about why they chose it. This activity is quick and easy, as finding or uploading a photo takes only a few minutes. However, keep in mind that it may not work well for participants joining via phone.

Show the most unusual object in your room
Encourage participants to find and show the most unusual object in their room, on their desk, or in their bag, and share its story. This activity is great for sparking conversations and can be done quickly, but consider the audience. If someone is in a shared office space or traveling, this might not be feasible.

Share a hidden talent
Invite participants to share a hidden talent that others might not know about. Personally, I love learning about people's hidden talents. It makes me feel like I know them much better. I often break the ice by sharing that I have synesthesia—I see letters and digits in color. Knowing something personal about me helps others open up as well. Once you share your "crazy" side, it creates psychological safety for others to share personal stories and be vulnerable. Just make sure the group size is manageable so this activity doesn't take up too much meeting time.

Tell an embarrassing or funny childhood story
This icebreaker works wonders with smaller, close-knit groups or new teams that will work together for a while. Sharing childhood stories can reveal hidden aspects of one's personality and foster deeper connections. For instance, I always tell the story of how, when I was three, I moved my pillow and blanket to a baby stroller my parents planned to sell, climbed inside, and fell asleep as my form of protest. You can probably tell something about my character from this story, can't you? This activity is more intimate, so gauge the group's comfort level before proceeding.

Discuss working preferences
This more formal activity is ideal when participants aren't comfortable sharing personal or goofy stories. Conduct a round-robin where each person shares their working style and preferences, such as how they like to give and receive feedback, their preferred uninterrupted work times, and their availability for meetings. For more insights on feedback, check out my blog posts on giving feedback and receiving feedback. You can make this activity a bit more personal by asking about strengths and weaknesses, but always gauge the level of comfort. Psychological safety is crucial and cannot be rushed.

These show & tell activities can transform your remote meetings, making them more engaging and enjoyable.

Write in the chat

These activities require less effort from participants but still help them engage in the conversation and pay attention to what's happening in the meeting. Simply ask people to put their responses in the chat, and if time allows, pick a few to share more about their answers with the group.

Charades and riddles
Display charades or riddles on your screen and ask participants to type their answers in the chat box. I particularly enjoy using emojis to describe movies—can you guess this one? 🐀🧑‍🍳 (Hint: It's a beloved animated film). Even if the riddles are relatively simple, sparking some curiosity at the beginning of the meeting helps keep the audience engaged throughout. This icebreaker is ideal for medium-sized trainings and workshops, where maintaining engagement and interest is crucial.

Your favorite/Your first
Ask participants to share something personal, like the first movie they watched on a big screen, their favorite song from the 90s, or their first job. The goal is to get everyone typing in the chat box, as this boosts engagement for the rest of the meeting. While not everyone might rush to share their favorite color, most are excited to talk about books, movies, or music they love or that left a lasting impact. This icebreaker works well for medium to large audiences, as it's designed to activate participants rather than spark in-depth conversations.

Share your favorite proverb, quote, or saying
This activity serves a slightly different purpose. When people share something wise, they feel like they've contributed to the meeting, which shifts them from passive participants to active contributors. This increased sense of involvement makes them more alert and engaged throughout the conversation.

Write a caption
To activate your audience's creative muscles and prepare them for a brainstorming or co-creation session, show a funny picture and suggest they write a caption for it (or turn it into a meme). This exercise helps get the creative juices flowing. It works for any audience size, with small groups allowing for discussion and laughter, while larger groups can limit it to chat only.

These 'Write in the Chat' activities are excellent for fostering engagement with minimal effort, ensuring your participants are alert and ready to contribute.

Annotate or Vote

This type of activity requires minimal effort from both participants and facilitators but also tends to contribute less to engagement levels compared to the previous two groups. I find these icebreakers particularly useful for reactivating the audience after a coffee break or lunch, especially when I can't afford to spend more than five minutes on an icebreaker. Here are some quick and easy ideas:

Show on the map
Bring up a world map on your screen and ask participants to use the annotate tool to mark their hometown, favorite vacation destination, or the place they last traveled to. This activity quickly activates everyone and sets a positive tone for the meeting.

Fun votings
Use built-in voting tools or additional apps like Kahoot! to run some fun polls. For example, you can ask whether the infamous dress is white and gold or blue and black. Other ideas include:

  • Pineapple on pizza: Yes or No?
  • Favorite season: Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter?
  • Morning person or night owl?
Remember, the goal here is not to spark a debate but to get everyone to take action and share a few laughs about the results. Avoid sensitive topics like politics or religion.

Next outing place
Create a poll to choose a place and theme for the next team outing. This quick activity gets everyone involved and helps maintain engagement throughout the meeting. Be sure to consider minority opinions and strive for a compromise to ensure everyone is happy with the decision.

Pick the team name
This activity is great for a new team. Use tools like Kahoot! or Miro to first collect ideas for team names, then vote on them. This is probably the most engaging of the annotate and voting activities but is best suited for newly formed teams.

I hope you found these activities useful and can apply them in your meetings. To make your team more engaged and healthy, don't forget to check out our free Team Barometer tool, which measures your team's health level and provides practical advice on how to improve it.
Did you like this article?

More about AI

More about Tools

More about Soft skills

Check out our courses

Understanding Agile - Complete Guide for Beginners
Elevate to an Agile mastery and propel your career.
Jira Essentials | A complete Jira guide for beginners
Master Jira and revolutionize your project management!
Becoming Agile Product Owner
Navigate the complexities of product development with confidence and authority.
Agile Planning and OKRs
Unlock the strategies to drive organizational agility and achieve ambitious goals.
Agile Customer Research and Data-Driven Decision Making
Transform into a research pro quickly and effortlessly!
Agile Transformation A to Z
Build your expertise from scratch and join the growing industry with 6 figure salaries.
Jira Advanced | Managing and Administrating Jira like a Pro
Unlock the full potential of Jira with our advanced course tailored for experienced users.
Becoming an Agile Leader
A transformational journey that will shift your leadership mindset and unlock your full potential
Agile Transformation A to Z
Build your expertise from scratch and join the growing industry with 6 figure salaries.
Agile WoW - Master Agile Ways of Working
Learn to facilitate our interactive workshop helping your team to experience Agile ways of working
Ultimate Miro Guide: Enhance Team Productivity & Agility
Master collaboration tools and elevate your project management skills.
Measuring and Improving Agile Team Health

Learn how to foster a more dynamic, responsive, and productive Agile environment.
Be the first to know our news!
Once a month you will hear about our latest blog posts, courses, free webinars and more. And no spam, of course.