A great icebreaker at team meetings not only sparks conversation amongst participants, but makes people think or recall fond memories and learn new things about their coworkers. We’ve covered icebreakers for large groups a few times - such as during an all-company retreat or a department meeting.
In this article, we’re covering icebreaker games and ideas that are ideal for small groups, under 20 people. The sweet spot for most of these activities is going to be 10-20 people. It’s important to differentiate and pick icebreakers that are suitable for the size of the group that you’re working with. What is great for a really big group may not be suitable for a small group. Without further ado, let’s dive into our list of icebreaker games for small groups.
Getting to know each other icebreaker games
1. Around the horn
About as simple and traditional as it gets, this icebreaker involves a facilitator simply asking everyone to introduce themselves to the group. Keep things concise by asking everyone to share their name, role, region, and maybe one fun fact or otherwise light-hearted bit of information. Some people have people state what they are excited to learn in the session or what is most on their minds, work-wise.
2. Creative introductions
A more fun version of “around the horn”, this exercise has everyone introduce themselves to the group, but with a twist. Give people a few moments to prepare their introduction with a unique spin. Perhaps they might compose a short poem or sing their introduction to music. Someone might choose to introduce themselves using their favorite movie character voice. Give people freedom to come up with something fun and enough time to be creative, and this is sure to be an icebreaker that people remember.
3. Sinking boat
This popular team-building activity involves participants imagining themselves stranded on a boat that’s sinking. You’ll need to break people into small groups and instruct them on this exercise. The objective is for the group to work together to decide who should be saved from the sinking boat based on their overall importance to the group and what they value. This encourages communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills. It’s also a good way to spark discussions about teamwork and decision-making and can give everyone insight into the talents and personalities of their colleagues.
4. Worst job ever?
Many icebreakers involve simply answering a question, and this is a fun one to get the responses to. As everyone introduces themselves, have them say what their worst job ever was, and why. Laughter is sure to ensue and you might find out some amazing backgrounds of your coworkers.
5. Office trivia
You can’t go wrong with trivia centered on your own workplace. You’ll need to prepare questions in advance, or you can have people submit questions and answers that they think would be fun. Then, when kicking off your next meeting, run through a list of questions and see who can get the most answers. Questions can range from something like “Who has worked in the accounting department the longest?” to “Who has the best parking spot?” Get creative and have fun with the questions (just make sure you’re not making anyone uncomfortable and it’s all in good fun - for example, “Who would you expect to steal your lunch from the refrigerator?” could verge on mean). Finally, this is a good game for introverts since no one is on the spot - participants can be as active as they want to be. Follow our blog for more icebreakers for introverts, too.
6. Icebreaker bingo
This is one of the best games for lengthier introductions and learning more about the people around you. Most people are familiar with a bingo format, so it should be easy to play. You can use an online bingo card generator to come up with squares and randomize them. Squares can be anything from “owns a boat” to “has 20 years with the company” to “met a celebrity”. Another great thing about this icebreaker game is that there are actual winners - so if you have some fun prizes to hand out, this exercise is perfect.
7. Simple icebreaker questions
If you’re short on time but know you need an icebreaker, why not just come up with some simple icebreaker questions. Just like we mentioned in around the horn, simply have everyone go around the room and answer a question that you thought of. Some examples are “How did you spend the summer?” or “What project are you really excited about right now?” The options are truly limitless so just think about the information that you think your team would be interested to know about each other and go from there.
8. Speed networking
Often considered a great icebreaker for large groups (and it is), this activity is also suited to small groups too. Pair your entire team into random groups of two and have chairs arranged so that each pair can sit across from each other. Set a timer for five minutes, and in that time, the duo can ask each other questions and generally discuss anything they feel like. When the timer goes off, one of the individuals should move to another chair (you can say everyone moves one to the right, or something similar). Reset the timer and the process begins again. With a small group, you can give everyone the opportunity to talk to almost everyone and get to know each other much better.
9. Under 18 achievements
It can be really interesting to learn more about people’s backgrounds, particularly if they aren’t from your area. You never know who was their high school lacrosse champion, or moved here from Japan. Kick off your icebreaker exercise by having everyone share the biggest accomplishment they achieved before turning 18.
10. Jenga question game
Who doesn’t love Jenga? You can put a fun twist on the game by writing random questions on Jenga pieces and then putting the game together into the usual stack. Have people come up to the front of the room one at a time, remove one of the Jenga blocks, and then read and answer the question they received. This gets especially tricky (and fun) the further you go, where the tower is teetering. The more random you are with the questions, the more silly the game will get.
11. My life in one minute
Instead of the usual “This is my name, this is where I’m from, and this is my job…” monologue, have people sum up their life in a single moment. Set a timer for one minute for each person and have them describe their entire life up until this point in only 60 seconds. It's harder than you think! As people try to make the most of their allotted time, you’ll be surprised by the information they can fit in!
12. Create emotion signs
Why not give everyone a bit of a heads up about the kind of moods they’ll be dealing with that day? Have a paper and some markers ready at each seat when people come into the room. Ask them to make a sign that would signal their mood to everyone around them, and then hold it up. For example, if someone is a bit out of sorts on a Monday morning, they might write “Tired”. If someone is really excited, they might write something like “Pumped!” If someone is anxious about presenting later, they might draw a nervous-looking face. Then, have each person stand and explain what’s on their sign and why.
13. Which cartoon character would you be?
What silly character (or creature) are you most like? Have everyone go around the room, and in addition to the basics like name and role, ask them to share which cartoon character they would play and why. For example, a rugged outdoorsman might say he is like Sven from the Disney classic Frozen, while a particularly studious young woman might say she is like Lisa Simpson from the old Simpsons show.
14. 10 things I do well
Another version of simply sharing information about yourself, ask people to come up with a list of ten things they do well. It’s a good idea to have a pen and paper at each place setting in advance so that people can brainstorm. Have everyone stand up and share their list with the group. This is actually a really powerful way to understand group dynamics and who is best for what, which is important for collaboration in the workplace. Plus, it’s a sort of forced reminder for individuals about what they are good at, which is a confidence builder.
15. What I admire most in others…
Yet another version of the most straightforward style of icebreaker, this one involves answering the question “What do you most admire in others?” In this way, you can find out what matters most to the people you work with, which makes for a much more pleasant and cooperative work environment. For example, if trust is most important to someone, then you’ll remember that doing what you say you will is crucial. If someone says being accountable is very admirable, then you know that you can count on them for help with projects.
16. My favorite gift to give…
You can learn a lot about people from what they say about presents. What do they like to give, or receive? Ask people to share their favorites, and you’re sure to gain insight into their personality (plus learn some cool new gift ideas in the process). This is an especially fun one for around the holidays. An alternative for following the holidays would be “What is the most exciting gift you got?”
17. Personal treasure box
This exercise takes a bit longer and is a bit more involved, but involves a lot of introspection which can be a powerful exercise. Ask everyone to create their own personal treasure box and place items inside. You can get really creative and have literal treasure boxes at each seat, with different items symbolizing various aspects of life. Or, you can just use a pencil and paper. The important thing is that everyone has time to think about what should go into their personal treasure box - the items, values, and people that are most special to them. Then, have everyone share with the group what they included and why. Since this exercise is more in-depth, it’s best to reserve at least an hour and maybe more for proper sharing and dialogue.
18. Six word memoir
This is a common exercise in college English classes, but it involves a lot of creativity and brainpower. Ask people to boil their lives down into six words only. For example, one of the most impactful memoirs we have seen said “The broken bird flies through fog.” This person was sharing - without really disclosing details - that they had overcome some struggles and were proud of their ability to persevere. Give people time to put some real thought into this exercise and it’s sure to be something that stays with them long after the meeting.
19. Personality shapes
If your personality was a shape, what would it be? This is a fun little game where you can get a visual of the different personality types you work with. At a table near the entrance to your event, have several colored shapes set out. You’ll also want a sheet available that explains the different shapes and their traits. For example, squares could be detail-oriented and stubborn, while circles are empathetic but struggle with saying no. You can be creative in making the various shapes and matching them with different characteristics. The important thing is that everyone gets a chance to choose a shape based on the descriptions provided. Then, before starting the meeting, ask everyone to raise their shape in the air and let everyone look around. In this way, you can get an accurate portrayal of who sees themselves a certain way. For added benefit, allow time for discussion.
There are a lot more getting-to-know-you games and exercises covered in our blog; make sure to check it out if you need more inspiration!
Icebreakers to generate problem solving capabilities
20. Compiling mission statement
A group mission statement is a hands-on way to get people working together toward a common goal. If your group is more than 10, break it into even smaller groups of 3-4 for this work. Then, have everyone work together to come up with a mission statement for either the company as a whole, an important initiative being worked on, or for the immediate retreat or working session. Teams can start by brainstorming and then narrowing down statements into a single written paragraph that they present out loud to the larger group. It’s a great way to kick off the session with high energy and cooperation.
21. Case study problem solving
Many consulting firms and other businesses include small case studies as part of their interview process. You can do the same by having a single small group (or even smaller pairings) consider a particular problem and come up with a solution. This can be something a bit silly, like “How would you survive if you were stranded on a desert island?” but it’s more effective if the issue is centered on your real work. For example, if sales of a certain product line are lagging, have the team discuss strategies for what they would do to fix it. It’s a good way of getting everyone’s brains channeling the right energy before digging into more complex work.
22. Solving a riddle
If you don’t have time for an entire case study resolution, start simpler: a riddle. You can do a quick Google search for plenty of riddles that don’t take a lot of time to solve. You might want to make it a little contest, and begin by sharing the riddle and seeing which team can solve it first. Need some inspiration? This one is from the classic book, the Hobbit: “This thing all things devours; Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones to meal; Slays king, ruins town; Beats the high mountain down. What is it?” The answer is time!
23. Eight intelligences on a desert island
Gardener’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences is a popular concept in psychology. It proposes that people have a wide variety of abilities and talents, called intelligences. The eight intelligences are: Visual-spatial, linguistic-verbal, interpersonal, intrapersonal, logical-mathematical, musical, body - kinesthetic, and naturalistic. The game is ideal for 8 people (so groups that can be divided by 8 are important), and to begin each person should represent one of the intelligences. They can choose randomly or draw from a hat. Then, pretend you are all on a desert island. Resources are limited and some people will be “voted off” in order to ensure survival. Who stays and who goes? You’ll learn a lot about what your team values and prioritizes, as well as what people consider strengths or weaknesses. Typically, debates and discussion ensue, so make sure to leave plenty of time for robust dialogue.
24. Mini Myers-Briggs session
If you work in a progressive environment, then chances are you’ve completed some form of personality assessment before, maybe even the Myers-Briggs version. In this popular personality test, you are assigned a four-letter personality type that gives insight into your behavior in relationships, at work, etc. Have everyone complete the test in advance, and then start your meeting by having everyone discuss the results.
25. 10 ways to kill a new idea
If you want to be sure everyone really has an open mind and is ready to bring creative ideas to the table, start by having everyone talk about what not to do. You can use a whiteboard or even a poster-size sheet of paper. Ask everyone to share thoughts on the best ways to kill a new idea. Make a comprehensive list and then use discussion to narrow down the top 10. Then, make a commitment as a group that you will not do these things as you complete the day’s work. This creates an environment where everyone is open to new ideas and ready to work together.
26. Recall quiz (at the end of an event)
How about a little icebreaker to wrap things up? Most icebreakers are at the beginning, but with longer events, we suggest interspersing them throughout - including the end. Have everyone go around the room and share their biggest takeaway from the day. Or, have a list of quiz-style questions that you ask everyone and see who can remember the most answers. Recall is an important part of memory, so this is a great time to reiterate the concepts that you really want people to take away.
27. How to implement insights (following event)
If you want to go beyond recall, have each person describe how they will implement what they learned in their daily lives and tasks. Hearing important concepts is one thing; knowing how you can practically apply them is something else!
28. Travel back in time…
In this creative exercise, ask everyone to imagine that they are able to travel back in time to a singular event. Where would they go, and why? Most important: what would they change? What would they make sure was done differently? And, with those differences, what would the outcomes be? Would our lives be different today if their version of events had happened? In business, an important part of strategy is thinking multiple steps ahead, and understanding “if this/then that”. This exercise asks everyone to think ahead about various repercussions of certain events. It’s a great game to play if you want to flex those strategic muscles, and also leads to some really interesting conversations.
29. New brand manager (teams)
In this game, you can break a group of 10-20 people into smaller teams. Give each team a product (you can keep it simple by grabbing things from around the room like a pencil sharpener or a soda) and ask them to be brand manager for a day. What is the overall business plan for this product? How about marketing strategy and tactics? How are they selling this product, and to whom? This is a good activity for teams that need to improve their marketing and sales mindsets. Have each team present the plan for their brand and conduct discussions as a larger team.
Infuse more fun icebreaker games
30. Paper airplane race in pairs
Sometimes you just want to have fun - and make sure to set that tone for the day. One way to do that is by creating paper airplanes and then flying them around. Provide plenty of paper and then pair people off. Have them each create a paper airplane and then race them. They can see which airplane goes the fastest, farthest, etc. If you want this exercise to double as a getting-to-know-you icebreaker, pair individuals with people they don’t normally work with.
Another hands-on game, this is just what it sounds like - trying to hit a bullseye target. Put up a large bullseye target in the space that you’re working in, and have people throw foam balls to try and hit it. If you want it to be more “icebreaker-ish” then have each person announce their name and role before tossing the ball. Keep track and narrow down to a few winners that need to share a bit more information about themselves in order to get a prize.
32. Ready, set, relax!
As mentioned, taking a few breaks in longer working sessions or retreats is smart. A really simple tactic that requires no preparation and is extremely easy is…doing nothing! A few times throughout the day, stop what you’re doing and say “Ready, set, relax!” This is everyone’s cue to stop what they’re working on and stretch, get a drink, chat with someone. Encourage people to turn to their neighbor and chat during the breaks to make things more productive.
33. Nerf ball break
If you need a break that’s a little more physical, set up some buckets of nerf balls in an outdoor space at your venue. Have everyone stand in a circle and choose one person to have the ball initially. When they have the ball, they answer the question that you chose for an icebreaker. For example, “What are you excited to do or learn about today?” They answer, and then throw the ball to someone else, who also answers. Once everyone has had a turn to share, you can head back inside.
34. Large jigsaw puzzle
During a multi-day agenda, it’s a fun challenge to try to complete a jigsaw puzzle as a team. Set up a large table with the puzzle pieces and encourage everyone to participate during breaks. You might even want to set up an incentive where the team gets a collective prize if the puzzle is done by the end of the retreat. You never know who people will end up standing next to or chatting with. It’s a way to get people moving and getting comfortable with others.
35. Team tour away from workplace
If you are in an area next to a cool landmark or otherwise noteworthy space, start the meeting by having everyone get up, go outside, and see some cool things. Someone from your office who knows the area can explain what different landmarks are and why they are important. This provides a nice opportunity for people to talk informally and get to know each other better.
36. Walk around the block
If you’re hosting people from other areas or offices, it’s a good idea to give them a feel for your city. Before starting the meeting, have everyone pair off and give them a route to walk around. Give everyone a half hour to explore in the mile or so around your office. People will appreciate the fresh air, the chance to stretch their legs, and conversation with a new coworker. Note: This option is better for metropolitan areas, where there are actual “blocks” to walk around and interesting things to look at.
37. Marshmallow building challenge
This is one of the best team-building challenges, and is also good for critical thinking and problem solving skills too. You’ll need bags of marshmallows, toothpicks, and string. Have your team work together to build the tallest tower that they can using only those materials. You can also break people into pairs and make it a competition.
Icebreakers that are great for virtual groups
38. Share your current book
During your next virtual meeting, have everyone introduce themselves by sharing their name, role, and which book they are reading. Bonus points if they can hold up the book so everyone can see the cover. If you have time, you might ask them to also share their all-time favorite books. You can get to know a lot about a person based on what they enjoy reading.
Bring some (literal) spice to your next online meeting by having everyone bake something in advance. You can either provide a single recipe for everyone to follow, or encourage them to make their favorite dish. It’s also a good idea to add a bit more context, such as why what you made is your favorite, or how difficult you found the baking challenge. Then, allow everyone to eat their treats while on the call!
40. Funny meme competition
Prior to your next online meeting, let everyone know that they’ll be sharing a meme. This gives them time to collect one that they think is truly funny. Then, when the virtual meeting begins, have everyone share their name along with the meme they picked. If you want, you can send a prompt as well, like “Find a meme that describes how you feel about this meeting.” If you want, you can make it a competition and award a prize to the most humorous or most original meme.
41. Video costume contest
Costumes are not just for Halloween! Before your next virtual gathering, instruct people to dress up in their favorite costume. Then, at the start of the meeting, have each person introduce themselves, and have other attendees guess what their costume is.
42. Scary story competition
Another fun contest is seeing who can tell the scariest story. This is an activity where you’ll want to give people some time in advance so that they can research or make up their story. Then, during the meeting, have each person tell their scary story and vote at the end using a poll to see who put together the spookiest tale. Depending on the size of your group, this can be a time-consuming exercise. Make sure you’re allotting a few minutes per person, with plenty of time to wrap up, vote, and announce the winner. It’s probably not the best idea for kicking off a meeting that is only scheduled for two hours, for example.
This is a team bonding activity where everyone will build off of each other’s content to weave an interesting story. Select a single person to start, and you can give them a prompt if that helps (such as “Today I walked out of my house and…”). They should say a few lines to start the story, and then pick one person to pick up and continue. In this way, everyone will get a chance to add to the story based on what the person before them said. These stories typically get pretty funny, so this is a great exercise for a little energy boost.
Make sure to follow our blog for plenty of other virtual icebreaker games.
Icebreakers during your next team retreat
Any of these icebreakers for small teams can do a great job of helping to build trust and camaraderie while boosting fun. If you’re planning a full-day meeting or team-building retreat, make sure you have a few different icebreakers and breaks planned. Your agenda should ideally include an icebreaker to kick things off, an activity for socializing between sessions, and an exercise for closing out the day.
If you need help creating a team retreat with the perfect agenda and energy, reach out to Surf Office. We can help you to plan a company retreat or meeting that your small group will value and remember.