20 Best icebreakers for office and virtual team meetings

Getting your employees fired up for a meeting—online or in-person—is about as easy as getting a dog excited for a bath.

Meeting in the morning?

Hello, half-asleep zombies…

Meeting in the afternoon?

Welcome, screen-fatigued daydreamers…

The atmosphere at the start of most meetings, put simply, isn’t great.

But starting a meeting with an icebreaker can change this. 

In fact, they are a great way of easing pre-existing tensions and interrupting the monotony of the daily grind.

Once you start using icebreakers at the start of your meetings, you’ll find your employees are much more engaged and eager to contribute.

What are the best icebreaker games for virtual meetings?

If you’ve ever kicked off a Zoom call with a half-hearted question like, “How is everybody?” Then uh-oh, you just missed a critical moment to get them hyped up.

So, the next time you host an online meeting, consider starting with a virtual icebreaker game.

Unlike virtual team-building activities, icebreaker games are often quick (between 5 and 20 minutes), easy to play, and require little to no equipment.

Let’s jump in!

1. The Desert Island Game

Looking for a quick mental warm-up? The Desert Island Game is a classic icebreaker that pushes your team to make difficult decisions. You’ll also learn more about the priorities of your employees.

Great for: Decision-making

Duration: 5 minutes

Players: 4+

You’ll need: Nothing

How to play The Desert Island Game

Setup: Make a list of eight random items such as a shovel, string, sticky tape, a canvas bag, etc.

To play: The rules of the game are simple. Your team must imagine they’re about to take a one-way ferry to a deserted island and they can only take three items with them. Present your team with your pre-prepared list of eight items and ask your employees to choose which three items they would take. Then, go around and ask what everybody chose and why.

2. The GIF Game

When words fail us, there are always GIFs. If you’re looking to lighten the mood with a funny icebreaker, The GIF Game is a perfect choice!

Great for: Energisation, communication

Duration: 5 minutes

Players: 6+

You’ll need: Nothing

How to play The GIF Game

Setup: Before you start, prepare a simple statement or question that you can use as a prompt. Something like, “What you’ll find me doing after work on a Friday night…” or “What’s your idea of a relaxation?”

To play: Start the game by asking your team the prompt. Your employees must then provide a reaction to the prompt by posting a GIF to your chosen collaboration tool such as Slack. Whoever posted the best GIF then gets to come up with another prompt question/statement.

3. Read My Lips

In this fun icebreaker game, your team will need to read the lips of their teammates and guess the phrase.

Great for: Energisation

Duration: 5 minutes

Players: 8+

You’ll need: Nothing

How to play Read My Lips

Setup: Split your group into teams. The bigger the groups are the more difficult the game will be.

To play: The host provides the first player of each team with a simple phrase such as “I work harder than everybody else in my team.” The longer the phrase is the more difficult the game will be. Make sure the other players don’t hear or see what the phrase is. The first player then turns off their microphone and says the phrase, making sure their mouth is visible. The second player guesses what was said, turns their microphone off and says the phrase to the third player. Play continues like this until the last player has “heard” the phrase. The last player then guesses what the original phrase was. Teams that guess the phrase (more or less) correctly win a point.

4. Caption This

You’ve probably seen companies using Caption This to encourage their audience to interact with their content. Well, it also works brilliantly as a fun virtual icebreaker.

Great for: Energisation, creative thinking

Duration: 5 minutes

Players: 4+

You’ll need: Various funny/thought-provoking images

How to play Caption This

Setup: Prepare a series of funny/thought-provoking images by performing a quick internet search.

To play: Start sharing your screen and display the images one at a time. Give your team a minute or two to come up with a witty caption that fits each image. Once everybody has written their captions, go back to the start and listen to the suggestions. As you go through them, ask players to vote for which one they liked the most! The player with the most votes wins.

5. Guess The Emoji Board

This is one of our personal favourites because it’s a fun and simple way for your team to get to know each other.

Great for: Energisation, team bonding

Duration: 5 minutes

Players: 4+

You’ll need: Screenshots of “recently used” emojis

How to play Guess The Emoji Board

Setup: Before you can play Guess The Emoji Board, you’ll need to ask each member of your team to send in a screenshot of their “recently used” emojis. Save the screenshots in a folder and name the files.

To play: One by one, display the screenshots by sharing your screen. Then, ask your team to guess whom the emoji board belongs to—you’ll be surprised how much your emojis say about you!

6. Show and Tell

Boost employee public speaking skills with this classic communication game.

Great for: Communication, public speaking

Duration: 10-20 minutes

Players: 4-10

You’ll need: Nothing

How to play Show and Tell

Setup: Before your meeting, ask each team member to bring with them an object/thing that fits a theme. The theme could be something like “your most prized possession” or “something that makes you smile.” 

To play: One by one, ask each person to talk about their object/thing for about 1-2 minutes, depending on how many people are in your group. They can talk about how it came into their possession, why it’s important to them, where they keep it, etc. Giving your employees the chance to talk about themselves without interruption is great for developing communication and public speaking skills.

7. Draw Your Mood

Want to check in with your group but don’t want to get caught up in a time-consuming game? Draw Your Mood is a unique, creative way of gauging employee moods before a virtual meeting.

Great for: Communication

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Players: 4+

You’ll need: Nothing

How to play Draw Your Mood

Setup: Ask each person to find a sheet of paper and a selection of coloured pens/pencils.

To play: Set a short time limit, then ask your team to draw their mood. They can use words, pictures and a variety of colours to convey their emotions. When the time is up, ask your team to show their drawings and explain what they mean. By drawing their moods, your employees, particularly introverted team members, will feel more confident expressing their moods.

8. Emoji Quiz

Emoji Quiz is a quick mental warm-up that will test your team's knowledge of movie, book and song titles.

Great for: Creative thinking, problem-solving

Duration: 10 minutes

Players: 4+

You’ll need: A list of movie, book and song titles written in emojis

How to play Emoji Quiz

Setup: Prepare a list of movie, book and song titles written in emojis. Here are a few examples to get you started:

🥁🤕 = Whiplash (movie)

🚣‍♂️🦈💀 = Jaws (movie)

🐴🐄🐑🐓🏡🌾 = Animal Farm - George Orwell (book)

👩🏼‍🦰🚊 = The Girl on The Train - Paula Hawkins (book)

🙈💡💡 = Blinding Lights - The Weeknd (song)

To play: Share your screen and display each title, one by one. You can either ask your employees to write down their answers in silence or—if you prefer to make things a little more lively—you can allow players to shout out their guesses. The player with the most correct answers wins!

9. Two Truths, One Lie

Ready to hear some amazing facts about your team? Two Truths, One Lie is a classic party game that reveals your employees, proudest and most embarrassing moments!

Great for: Team bonding

Duration: 10 minutes

Players: 4+

You’ll need: Nothing

How to play Two Truths, One Lie

Setup: N/A

To play: One at a time, ask your employees to share three interesting statements about themselves, two of which will be true and one will be a lie. It’s up to the other players to guess which one is the lie!

10. Guess The Childhood Photo

Ready to engage in some harmless self-mockery? Guess The Childhood Photo is a wholesome icebreaker game that will have your team yelling “Awww!”

Great for: Team bonding

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Players: 4+

You’ll need: A childhood image of each employee

How to play Guess The Childhood Photo

Setup: Before the meeting, ask each employee to send in a funny/memorable childhood photo of themselves.

To play: Show the photos and ask your employees to guess who appears in each photo. It’s hilarious to see how much some of your colleagues have changed!

What are the best icebreaker games for office meetings?

A quick icebreaker game before a team meeting boosts engagement and gets the creative juices flowing.

In the following list, you’ll find 10 of our favourite icebreakers for large groups and small groups to get your team warmed up and ready for action before a meeting.

1. Who Am I?

Mingle with your colleagues while trying to guess which celebrity’s name is written on your forehead. Simple, but great fun.

Great for: Communication, problem-solving

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Players: 6+

You’ll need: Sticky notes and pens

How to play Who Am I?

Setup: Hand each player a sticky note and pen, then ask them to write down the name of a well-known person/character. Make sure they keep this hidden for the time being.

To play: Players stick their sticky note to another player’s forehead without them seeing what’s written on it. When the timer starts, the players must ask questions to determine which name is written on their forehead. Those answering the questions can ONLY reply with “Yes” or “No.” Players can ask as many questions as they need.

2. Whose Story Is This, Anyway? 

Share your most memorable life stories and form deeper connections with this simple icebreaker game.

Great for: Team bonding

Duration: 10 minutes

Players: 6+

You’ll need: Paper and pens

How to play Whose Story Is This, Anyway?

Setup: Hand each player a sheet of paper and a pen. Provide a prompt, such as “Your most embarrassing memory” and ask the players to write down a true story about themselves.

To play: Once everybody has written their stories, ask them to fold their pieces of paper and place them into a bucket. Then, mix up the pieces of paper and pick one out. Once you’ve read the story to the group, it’s up to them to guess who wrote it.

3. Keep Up The Balloons

Physical movement helps energise your group and alleviate stress. Keep Up The Balloons is a hilarious icebreaker that’s perfect for small to medium-sized groups.

Great for: Energisation, teamwork

Duration: 5 minutes

Players: 6+

You’ll need: Various coloured balloons

How to play Keep Up The Balloons

Setup: Divide your group into teams and hand each team a set of coloured balloons. Use a different colour for each team and give them double the number of balloons as the number of people on their team. For example, Team 1 has three players, so they’ll get six red balloons.

To play: First, make sure there’s enough space for players to move around, this game can get a little frantic! When the timer starts, toss all the balloons into the air. Teams must not let any of their balloons touch the ground. If a balloon touches the ground, the team is eliminated. The last team standing is the winner!

4. 3-Question Mingle

This social icebreaker game bypasses small talk and helps your employees get to know each other on a deeper level.

Great for: Team bonding

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Players: 6+

You’ll need: Index cards and pens

How to play 3-Question Mingle

Setup: Hand each player three index cards and a pen. Ask the players to write down an open-ended question on each card. An open-ended question is a question that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

To play: Once everybody has written three questions, start a timer and ask the players to start mingling. When they find a partner, both players should ask one question. Once both players have asked and answered a question, they swap that question with their partner. They then continue mingling until they find another partner. When the time runs out, ask your team what interesting things they learned about each other.

5. Alternative Application

If you’re about to host a meeting that requires some creativity, this silly icebreaker will get your employees thinking outside the box.

Great for: Creative thinking

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Players: 6+

You’ll need: Various objects from the office (at least one per player)

How to play Alternative Application

Setup: Take a walk around the office and collect various objects such as a stapler, a lamp, a wastepaper basket, etc.

To play: Ask one player to stand in front of the rest of the group and hand them one of the objects you gathered earlier. They must then mime an alternative use for that object and the other players must guess what they’re miming. For example, if you handed them the stapler, they might pretend they’re using it as a pair of kitchen tongs. The first person to guess correctly goes next.

6. Word Association

This easy-to-play word game is a great way to harmonise your team before a creative meeting.

Great for: Creative thinking

Duration: 5 minutes

Players: 4+

You’ll need: Nothing

How to play Word Association

Setup: Sit together in a circle. If you’re already sitting around a conference table, stay where you are!

To play: Player 1 starts by saying a one-word prompt, such as “mirror.” The player immediately to their left must then say a word that they immediately associate with that word, like “reflection.” Play continues until the time runs out.

7. Inflatable Beachball Questions

A quick mental energiser that’s perfect for waking up your team before an early-morning meeting.

Great for: Energisation

Duration: 5 minutes

Players: 4+

You’ll need: An inflatable beachball, sticky notes, a pen

How to play Inflatable Beachball Questions

Setup: Write a question on the sticky note and stick it to the beachball.

To play: Standing or sitting together in a circle, bounce the ball randomly around the circle. Whoever catches the ball must answer the question written on the sticky note. Once they’ve answered the question, they bounce the ball to somebody else.

8. Chubby Bunny

An article published in the Harvard Business Review found that laughing in the office lightens the mental load and induces physical changes in your body. And if there’s one icebreaker that guarantees a laugh, it’s Chubby Bunny.

Great for: Energisation, stress relief

Duration: 5 minutes

Players: 4-10

You’ll need: A bag (or two) of marshmallows, bowls (one per pair)

How to play Chubby Bunny

Setup: Divide your group into pairs and each pair a bowl of marshmallows.

To play: The rules are simple. Players take turns placing and holding a marshmallow in their mouth. Every time they add a marshmallow they say the phrase “chubby bunny.” Players continue to add marshmallows until they can no longer say the phrase, or until they break into fits of laughter! The player with the most marshmallows in their mouth by the end of the game is the winner!

9. Tree or Boss Ross?

This is a fun icebreaker game that will have your employees thinking hard about how they formulate their questions—a useful warm-up before a meeting!

Great for: Creative thinking, communication

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Players: 4+

You’ll need: Nothing

How to play Tree or Bob Ross?

Setup: N/A

To play: One player thinks of a random thing, like a banana, for instance. Other players must attempt to guess what thing the player is thinking of by asking questions. The questions must be formatted like so: “Is it more like X or Y? Traditionally, the first question is always “Is it more like a tree or Bob Ross?” Players keep asking questions until they successfully guess the word.

10. Birthday Line Up

How good are your team at non-verbal communication? Birthday Lineup challenges your team to convey information without talking!

Great for: Communication

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Players: 7-10

You’ll need: Nothing

How to play Birthday Line Up

Setup: Ask the players to stand in a line, shoulder to shoulder.

To play: When you start the timer, players must arrange themselves in order of birthday (month and day only). There’s just one problem: they’re not allowed to speak! Players will need to think of creative ways of communicating their birthday using hand signals and gestures.

Short on time? Try an icebreaker question

Sometimes, it feels like there just isn’t enough time to cover everything you want to in a meeting. 

On days like these, you don’t have time to mess around with icebreaker games but you still want to make sure your employees are fired up and ready to engage.

That’s when icebreaker questions come in handy.

There are many different types, from simple “this or that” questions to thought-provoking brainteasers, but they all serve a similar purpose: to get your employees engaged and interacting.

What’s more, icebreaker questions don’t require any equipment or preparation, making them perfect for both in-person and remote teams.

Here are our top 10 icebreaker questions for you to try at your next meeting:

  1. If you were a wrestler, what would you choose as your entrance theme?
  2. Which part of your personality do you usually hold back and why?
  3. If you’re feeling down, what’s the simplest thing somebody can do for you to cheer you up?
  4. How do you get motivated for difficult tasks?
  5. What’s a common slang phrase that’s used where you live and what does it mean?
  6. What is your hidden talent?
  7. Who’s most likely to get too drunk at the staff party?
  8. What sound or feeling gives you the shivers?
  9. Get €1,000 a week for the rest of your life or €1 million right now?
  10. Always shout or always whisper?

Some of these questions are silly and some are a little more profound. It’s up to you which question(s) you choose to ask depending on the mood you’re trying to create.

Escape the office. Have better meetings.

The silly games, the banter, the head-scratching puzzles—using icebreakers before a meeting definitely boosts employee engagement.

But to get the best out of your team, you need more than five-minute energisers. You need to escape the office and head somewhere new—somewhere inspiring.

At Surf Office, we make booking your next company offsite retreat an absolute doddle.

We do the planning, we find the venues and we book the travel, leaving you plenty of time to get the most out of your trip.

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