Icebreaker games are a fun team building activity to improve team bonding in your small or large group. If you're looking for great icebreaker ideas for your team members then this is the ultimate guide for you.
In this guide, I'm going to show you a range of icebreaker activities that will improve company culture and help people trust one another in a fun way within a small amount of time.
Table Of Contents
- Chapter 1: Quick Ice Breaker Games
- Chapter 2: Icebreaker Activities for Work & Meetings
- Chapter 3: Icebreaker Games for Small Groups
- Chapter 4: Icebreaker Games for Large Groups
- Chapter 5: Icebreakers for New Hires
- Chapter 6: Icebreakers for Training
- Chapter 7: Icebreakers for Team Building
- Chapter 8: Icebreakers for New Clients
- Chapter 9: Icebreakers for Youth and Students
- Chapter 10: Our Top 25 Ice Breaker Questions
Humans, by our very nature, are social beings. We naturally have a desire to be a part of a larger community, to feel genuinely connected with others, and to forge authentic relationships with the people we spend time with. And yet, despite all of that, most of us find ourselves at a loss when it comes to being social.
This is when having the right ice breaker game comes in.
When used correctly, ice breaker games have the power to help participants to build a rapport with one another, increase workplace collaboration and productivity, and actively improve our ability to absorb and learn new skills.
However, there are hundreds of different ice-breaking activities out there that you can use and knowing the right one to use depends on the situation. As a manager or team leader, it’s vital that you understand the right and wrong ways you can break the ice around the workplace.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Why Break the Ice?
Yes, I know, let’s address the elephant in the room first.
The term “ice breaker” has a tendency to prompt the rolling of eyes and half-hearted groans, especially when mentioned in the workplace. For many people, icebreakers in the workplace are at best viewed as being annoying and awkward, and at worst as a nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing event. And no, when we say ice breaker games we are not talking about rock-paper-scissors.
The main reason behind this negative reputation is quite simple: most people have no idea how to properly run an ice breaker activity.
Ice breakers are meant to help people get more comfortable with each other by having everyone warm up and participate in the same activity. However, more often than not, you’ll find overly-enthusiastic individuals who are more concerned with forcing others outside of their comfort zones instead of creating a space that brings people together.
A poorly run icebreaker not only makes everyone feel awkward, but actively works against its intended goal of encouraging collaboration, communication, and sense of community.
On the other hand, a well-run icebreaker can be incredibly helpful for any organisation when used correctly.
The Powerful Benefits of Ice Breakers in the Workplace
On the surface, icebreakers are primarily used to dispel that initial bit of awkwardness that naturally happens when a group of people are together by giving everyone something to do. Which is why you’ll often find ice breaker games being used to help people who have never met before get to know each other better.
When you look past the surface though, you’ll find that icebreakers have the power to do so much more than merely warming up the conversation.
Encourages community and collaboration
According to a report by TinyPulse, the vast majority of workers feel detached with their coworkers, with only 24% of people reporting that they feel connected to their peers. Which in turn leads to employees feeling disengaged, being less productive, and more prone to work-related stress and burnout.
One of the most effective ways that organisations can combat this is by making use of ice breakers in the workplace. While it’s unlikely that they’ll become best friends overnight, ice breaker games open the door for people to get to know one another and start building that all-important sense of community within the workplace. Research has shown that even simple icebreakers that ask participants to talk about themselves were incredibly powerful in developing trust and likability amongst people, even if they only ever interact online.
Furthermore, multiple studies have shown that icebreakers that get everyone to participate in the same activity together drastically reduces the amount of time it would normally take for people to get comfortable collaborating with one another.
Sets the right tone and expectations
Whether you’re introducing a new hire to the company or leading an important meeting, icebreakers give people an idea of what to expect moving forward.
For example, if you’re running a meeting where you want everyone to actively participate and contribute new ideas, then you can help get everyone into the right mindset by using an ice breaker game that gives everyone a chance to speak their mind. Even if the activity itself has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the meeting, the right icebreaker can help reduce the anxiety that comes with speaking up and signals to everyone that all ideas are welcome.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to get people engaged and relaxed then look to bring the fun in your icebreaker. Games like building challenges and snowball fights are a dynamic way to provide an energy boost, get everyone involved and sends the message to not take yourself so seriously.
Improves learning and skill acquisition
One of the top reasons why you should use icebreakers in the workplace is that it has been proven, time and time again, that ice breakers consistently have a positive effect on our ability to learn new skills.
One study monitored the effects of icebreakers on learning by following the progress of a hundred students in learning a new language, with one group regularly participating in icebreaking activities such as playing simple games and even singing funny songs.
At the end of the study, it was discovered that the group that took part in icebreakers scored significantly higher in tests and were more confident and fluent in the new language. With the icebreakers being attributed to keeping students engaged in the learning material, encouraged creative thinking, and fostering collaborative learning.
What’s become increasingly clear is that it is by using icebreakers, team leaders and trainers are able to effectively create an atmosphere that actively encourages our ability to learn and absorb new information.
The Right Way to Break the Ice at Work
Before you dive into all the fun ice breaker games you can start using at work, let’s remember that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this. I’m sure all of us have at least one negative experience of ice breakers in the workplace, so let’s first make sure that we know the correct way to break the ice at work.
Know your goal
As with most things, you won’t get very far unless you know exactly what is you’re aiming for. It’s easier to view each ice breaker activity as its own tool, and it’s important that you use the right tool for the job.
In the same way that you wouldn’t use a hammer to cut something, you wouldn’t want to devote an entire day of team building exercises if the goal is to make introductions and start a conversation.
When choosing the right icebreaker to use, think carefully about what exactly you’re looking to achieve and why this particular icebreaker will work best.
Consider everyone’s comfort level
The biggest mistake that people make when running icebreakers in the workplace is to disregard the comfort level of their participants. Making everyone feel a little awkward and even uncomfortable is fine, pushing someone to feel anxious to the point where they’re on the brink of a nervous breakdown is not.
Which is why it’s essential that team leaders and managers consider things like how familiar participants are with each other, what you’re asking people to reveal about themselves and the amount of social risk involved with your icebreaker.
Create a level playing field
Let’s keep in mind that the reason why icebreakers exist in the first place. Icebreakers were designed with the express purpose of helping break down the social barriers that prevent us from interacting with others.
This is doubly important in the workplace when you consider the variety of personal and professional barriers that are in place. Things like differences in seniority level, working in different departments, and even the layout of your office are natural obstacles to meaningful interaction.
When choosing what activity to use to break the ice, make sure that you’re making everyone as equal as possible regardless of who they are. If one person has to sing a silly song they’re going to feel singled out, but if everyone has to do it then everyone may be a little embarrassed but at least everyone is participating.
Chapter 1: Quick Ice Breaker Games
For many people, their aversion about speaking in public isn’t necessarily with talking in public but talking about themselves. A way to break the ice on that is to ask them to share a random piece of trivia that they know.
This is an effective icebreaker because everyone has that one random fact that they somehow know and it takes a lot of the pressure off of trying to think of something interesting about themselves. It’s an easy way to get everyone involved and gives people a chance to say something without feeling too self-conscious.
Two truths and a lie
A classic icebreaker game, two truths and a lie have long been used as a way to get the conversation going and to have some fun while you’re at it. All you need to do is have everyone share with the rest of the team two facts about themselves and a believable lie. Next, everyone then has to discuss and vote on what they think is the truth and what is the lie.
It’s recommended that you don’t suddenly spring this kind of icebreaker on people as some, especially those who consider themselves introverted or shy, find it distressing to suddenly be in the spotlight.
Sidestep this problem by giving everyone some notice that you’re going to be playing this game. Besides giving people some time to prepare and be more creative with their answers, this team icebreaker also gives introverts time to mentally prepare for this type of activity.
Chapter 2: Icebreaker Activities for Work & Meetings
First job lessons
Whether it’s a fond memory or an unfavourable one, everyone remembers their first job. Asking your team what their first job was and what the biggest lessons they learnt from it can be an excellent way to gain a better grasp of who they are.
Chapter 3: Icebreaker Games for Small Groups
Who am I?
For this ice breaker activity, you’ll begin by writing down the names of various well-known people onto pieces of paper and sticking them onto the backs or foreheads of participants. When you do the set up just make sure that the individuals or characters you choose are actually known to everyone, for example, if your new hires are all millennials then it’s unlikely they’ll be aware of the life and deeds of old-timey Hollywood star Burt Lancaster.
The participants can either then mingle around the room and see if they can figure out who they are by speaking to others, or you can take a more structured approach where they have to ask the rest of the group a number of questions to try and figure out who they are.
If you think that everyone is suitably relaxed and energised, then you can do a reverse version of this icebreaker where everyone is assigned a character and the rest of the group have to find out who they are instead. This is a particularly good icebreaker for smaller groups or a youth group.
Chapter 4: Icebreaker Games for Large Groups
These group icebreakers are perfect for when you need group games that are easy to organise.
If you’re able to set aside at least a few hours for employee orientation, then it’s highly recommended that you try out this fun icebreaker.
Scavenger hunts are a great and engaging way to introduce new staff into the workplace and get a feel for their new job. Not only does it encourage collaboration and interaction, it’s also an activity that all personality types can enjoy. You can spice things up further by adding a small incentive for the winning team like an Amazon gift card for example.
Depending on how many people you have, you can break everyone into small groups of four or five and give them a short list of things to find within the office. This can include everything from finding objects around the office to answering a series of questions about the brand’s culture and history.
To achieve even better results, it’s best to get a few of the senior team or members of different departments involved as well. This way the new hires can immediately start working together with coworkers that they would not have normally interacted with.
10 things in common
While it’s easy to forget, it’s important to bear in mind that we have more things in common with each other than we do things that differentiate us. The goal of this icebreaker is to remind us of exactly that and to help employees feel more connected with their colleagues.
To play, all you need to do is break everyone up into small groups and ask them to find 10 things that they all have in common that have absolutely nothing to do with work. This helps people learn more about each other’s interests and to connect with each other on a more personal level.
Chapter 5: Icebreakers for New Hires
One of the most common places you’ll find ice breakers being used in the workplace is around new hires. Ideally, the icebreakers you use will have everyone leaving the room feeling energised, excited about work, and with a deeper understanding of the company or their job.
When picking out what activities to use, be mindful of the fact that everyone is a complete stranger and are still unsure of how to act around each other. That means that most people won’t be comfortable with sharing intimate or personal details about themselves or activities that require a lot of physical contact with strangers. You can start employing those types of icebreakers towards the end of the day, after everyone has gotten to know each other a bit better.
Here are some fun icebreakers to use to quickly get your new hires comfortable with each other and excited for tomorrow:
A great icebreaker game to use for new hires is to gather a bunch of pennies (or any other coin if you’re in a civilised country that no longer uses pennies) and place them in a hat. Everyone reaches in and takes out a penny and are asked to share something meaningful that happened to them on the year the coin was minted. You can even take it a step further by throwing in a bunch of older coins and ask people to name an important event that happened.
This is a great game to start off because it gets everyone to actively participate and to share something interesting about themselves that they’re comfortable with revealing. It helps everyone to get to know each other a little better and feel more comfortable.
While you can always do the standard “put a bunch of questions in a bowl and have people pick them out” icebreaker, you can instead make the activity infinitely more engaging and fun by giving it a twist.
In this version, you’ll instead write the questions on each Jenga block which people will have to answer as they play through the game. You can make it so that everyone has to answer the question or just the person that made the move.
While simple, this kind of game is incredibly effective in getting people into a relaxed mindset and to start sharing personal anecdotes about themselves. Here is a great list of questions that you can use that are guaranteed to get everyone talking.
Chapter 6: Icebreakers for Training
When it comes to running training sessions or seminars, the goal of the icebreaker is to get everyone into a mindset where they’re at ease and engaged with whoever is running the training session.
Generally speaking, it can be assumed that everyone who is taking part in the training is already familiar with one another. If not, then it’ll be worth running another quick ice breaker game that gets everyone to introduce themselves. More often than not, if we have a question about something we’ll turn to our peers first over the instructor. So it’s best to use your icebreaker as a way to get everyone comfortable with asking each other questions and develop the expectation for peer-to-peer learning.
Experienced instructors also know that the icebreaker that they use to kick off their workshop is a very easy way to that sense of trust and authority they have over their audience. Great instructors, on the other hand, will use their icebreaker as a way to begin introducing the ideas and themes of whatever they’re teaching to start getting their audience engaged.
Feel free to use any of the suggested ice breaker games to launch your next workshop or seminar:
Building challenges (paper tower, marshmallow challenge)
A popular type of ice breaker game, building challenges have long been used as a way to get people to start working together and start exercising their creative and problem-solving skills.
All building challenges follow the same principle of diving everyone into small groups and having them build something with unconventional materials within ten to fifteen minutes.
For example, the paper tower challenge is when everyone is tasked with making the tallest tower possible using only newspaper and tape. Whereas the marshmallow challenge involves giving each group some died spaghetti, string, tape and a marshmallow and groups have to build the tallest structure possible with the marshmallow on top. If you’re not vertically inclined, then feel free create your own construction challenges like building the most convincing-looking pig using only Legos.
If you happen to have a large group of people, a super simple activity that gets everyone in the room energised and talking to one another is human bingo. This game works by giving everyone a sheet with a five by five table on it, with a random and interesting fact written inside each box such as:
- Broken a bone before
- Speaks more than two languages
- Prefers dogs over cats
It’s then up to each person to go around the room and collect the signatures of people who match that characteristic. Encourage even more interaction by instituting a rule where they can only get one signature from each person. The game ends once someone shouts “Bingo!”
A clever way to get everyone in an innovative mindset is to give people an unusual problem to solve. For this ice breaker game, everyone is split into small groups and each group is given ten minutes to prepare a short pitch about something unusual that can range from movie ideas (The Ring but as a comedy) to weird jobs (advertising slogan for poop cleaner at African safari).
After preparation, each group has to present their pitch to the rest of the audience and try to convince them that their idea is worth funding. The winning idea can be picked by audience vote or by the instructor, regardless this game is designed to get people to start thinking outside the box in a fun and interactive way.
Taking a page out of Eric de Groot’s book, quickly and easily magnify the energy and focus of your audience by giving them an enjoyable way to get rid of any stress they might have, namely be making a huge mess.
All you have to do is give everyone a few sheets of paper and then have them crumple each sheet up into a small ball. From there, you instruct them to stand up and focus on a target, any target, within the room and tell them that as soon as the music starts they are to throw their paper balls.
While throwing a piece of paper might sound silly, that’s also kind of the point.
In a few short seconds, you can instantly change the mood of a room by getting everyone involved in something silly and releasing any stress they might have by letting them forget their inhibitions and doing something active.
Chapter 7: Icebreakers for Team Building
As any successful executive or business leader knows, one of the strongest indicators of an organisation’s success or failure are the friendships between its employees.
Research has shown that the number one thing that employees enjoy about their jobs are their coworkers. The simple fact is that the more you enjoy the company of the people you work with the more likely you’re going to enjoy working. With one study by Gallup finding that businesses that have highly engaged teams report a 21% greater profitability in comparison to competitors with average employee engagement rates.
While you can’t force everyone to get along and instantly become friends that talk about going opening a bar together in the Poconos. Organisations can help their employees get to know each other better and make it easier to develop those personal connections by making use of short and simple icebreaker games.
Here are some icebreakers you can use in the workplace that are specifically designed to help everyone feel comfortable around each other.
Asking fun questions is always an easy and effective way to break the ice, regardless of the situation, but they are particularly useful in developing a strong level of trust and intimacy amongst team members. By asking fun, and sometimes downright silly, questions, coworkers can learn a bit more about each other on a deeper level and start having conversations that wouldn’t normally happen in the workplace.
However, this can be difficult to achieve if you’re working with a remote team or if people find talking to other in-person to be difficult. The great news is that there is a very easy way to overcome this particular challenge.
Using something like Quizbreaker you can create a fun weekly quiz that’s delivered to every team member via email. This takes away much of the pressure that’s typically involved with running ice breaker games in person and is a fantastic way to bring everyone together regardless of where they’re located in the world.
A super fun and simple icebreaker, this is a fantastic way to get employees to instantly feel closer to each other.
Simply instruct everyone to bring in a photo of themselves as a baby, or to send in a digital copy, and put together a board that features all the photos. The goal of the game is simple, whoever is able to correctly guess which photo belongs to which employee wins. Super simple and super fun.
Pay it forward
Everyone loves feeling like they’re being appreciated, especially at work where it’s quite easy to feel as if you’re one of the crowd. This icebreaker generally works best as a way to end a meeting or session by making sure that everyone leaves with a sense of accomplishment.
Everyone is given the task to look to the person on their right and to write three positive attributes about them. This can be simple things like the way the question they asked during a meeting to the more personal like how their attitude around the office. There’s no need to read out these out loud, simply giving them to the other person is enough.
A great activity that encourages team members to practice gratitude, highlight personal strengths, and making people feel recognised and valued.
Chapter 8: Icebreakers for New Clients
Regardless of size, type or industry, every B2B business understands the importance of being able to win new clients. But for many businesses the problem isn’t with gaining new clients, it’s getting them to stay.
The key to this is knowing how to quickly establish a strong rapport with a client, which is no easy task. Not every client is going to be happy, or even willing, to discuss business with someone they don’t feel like they have a connection with. This is when being able to rely on a handful of useful icebreakers come in handy.
The following icebreakers are very simple ways to get the conversation going with a new or potential client and to learn more about them.
However, and this is essential to remember, none of these icebreakers will replace considerate and active listening on your part. Everyone wants to feel like they’re being understood and that what they’re saying is being heard.
The aim of these icebreakers is to start a conversation where you have that opportunity to do just that.
The most straightforward way to kick off any meeting with a new client is to ask them to share what their expectations are. To ensure that you dialled in with their needs and goals, asking your new clients what they expect from the meeting, their relationship with your business, and what they hope to gain, is an easy way to make clients feel heard and gain an understanding of what they want.
Take it a step further by asking about what their expectations are beyond their relationship with your business. Ask them what they want their personal goals are for their business, the kind of results they hope to achieve, and why they have those goals to begin with.
People naturally love talking about themselves, and most are quite happy to do so when given the opportunity. A simple way to get new clients talking about themselves is to ask them what the top five things on their bucket list, this is a classic game.
This kind of question can give you incredible insight into what your new client’s motivations are and what drives them. Even if they haven’t identified them yet, it can be fascinating to just sit back and listen to them think out loud about their hopes and dreams.
Depending on their answer, this also gives you ample opportunity to provide value to them beyond your professional relationship. For example, if you find out that one of your new client’s items on their bucket list is about travelling, then you can send them some information about a country they’re interested in visiting.
To help get everyone into the right mindset for the meeting, it’s often helpful to play the one-word association game. Give your client a prompt that's related to what you’re aiming to discuss and ask them to share one word that they associate with it and why.
For example, if you’re meeting a new client to discuss their marketing strategy you can ask them to describe in one word what they want their marketing to be like. Once they tell you, you can unpack their reasoning and thoughts behind it by asking some followup questions and understanding what their thoughts are.
Chapter 9: Icebreakers for Youth and Students
The following are great icebreaker games for helping kids and teenagers get to know each other better and make new friends.
There is no limit to a child’s imagination, so let this game be an excuse for kids to have their imaginations run wild! The aim of the game is to have everyone work together to create a story by only saying one sentence at a time. Have everyone stand in a circle and have the first person begin with a sentence like “When I was at school today I was walking by the cafeteria when suddenly!…” Anytime someone says the word “suddenly” the next person adds their own bit before ending it with “and suddenly!...” and the story keeps on going and getting more and more ridiculous as each person jumps in with their own contribution.
A playground classic, egg drop is an incredibly fun icebreaker game that has students working together in small groups and, most of all, having fun. The aim of the game is to have each group build a carrier or container that can allow for an egg to be dropped off the roof of a building without it breaking. You’ll have to prepare by gathering as many different building supplies as you can from styrofoam and cardboard all the way to balloons and tissue paper, and of course you can’t forget the eggs! You’ll be surprised at how creative students will get when building their own carrier and, win or lose, everyone’s bound to get a kick out of throwing an egg off the side of a building.
If you’re looking for an icebreaker game that gets people moving and thinking on their feet then look no further. Start off by having everyone agree on a topic like “Names of animals” or “Teacher’s names” for example. From there, gather everyone in a circle and have them throw a ball at each other. Whoever has the ball has 5 seconds to name something that nobody has mentioned yet before throwing the ball to someone else. Throw in some upbeat music in the background and you’ll have yoursef a party!
Chapter 10: Our Top 25 Ice Breaker Questions
This collection of serious & funny icebreaker questions are our favourite 25 of all time. Try them out with your team and observe how easily everyone will get to know each other a little more.
- If you could have someone follow you around all the time, like a personal assistant, what would you have them do?
- If you could only watch one more film for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
- If you had a time machine, what point in the past or future would you visit?
- If you could have any one superpower, which would you choose?
- If you could host a talk show, who would be your first guest?
- What is the nerdiest thing you do in your spare time?
- What was the first paying job you ever had?
- What is one word you would use to describe yourself as a child?
- What is one thing still left on your bucket list?
- At which store would you like to max out your credit card?
- What's your favourite place that you've ever visited?
- What was your favourite TV show when growing up?
- If you had one extra hour free each day, how would you use it?
- What would be the ultimate gift for you to receive?
- If you could learn any other language to fluency, which one would you choose?
- You're going sailing around the world, what do you name your boat?
- What section of the newspaper are you?
- What was your favourite band 10 years ago?
- If you were to tell one person "Thank You" for helping me become the person I am today, who would it be and what did they do?
- What movie or novel character do you most identify with?
- Describe your "perfect" kind of day
- What characteristic do you most admire in others?
- What one memory do you most treasure?
- What's the most important lesson you've learned in the last year?
- If you ruled the world, what would you change on Day 1?
So there you have it! This list of fun ice breaker games & activities will keep you and your team happy for a long time.
Do you have a favourite icebreaker game that you didn't see on this list? We'd love to see it in the comments below.