The business landscape is a global one, and many companies have employees in multiple locations. Whether employees are working remotely, have a hybrid arrangement, or work in an office outside the headquarters, it’s essential that co-workers who are geographically scattered can connect.
How can companies with employees distributed throughout multiple locations encourage collaboration and connection? Proactive organizations will encourage team bonding and help remote employees to avoid loneliness and feeling disconnected. Virtual icebreaker games are a fun and creative way to build these relationships - no matter where people are located.
In that spirit, we put together a list of our favorite virtual icebreaker games. Use them for your next online meeting or just to help everyone get to know each other better. Browse these suggestions, or check out our previous article on team-building games that are perfect for Zoom.
Online meeting virtual icebreaker games (Everyone is online)
Icebreaker games are designed to help people get to know each other, enhance creativity, improve team cooperation, and make everyone more comfortable. How is that possible when people aren’t sitting in the same room? Some meetings take place with a mix of people - some in various remote environments and some in an office. For many teams, the entire population of the meeting is in an off-site environment. You’ll want to choose an icebreaker that is easy to do online: that means everyone can do it from their own space, you don’t need external props, and it won’t take a ton of time to get through it. Here are some of the best ones to try.
1. Build a map
If your team is geographically spread out, it can be fun to see where everyone is from. Have everyone tell which city or state they are calling from, and have them give a quick description about their favorite thing about where they live. If you want to take things a step further, have a visual of a map where you can click on each area and give everyone a visual of your team presence.
2. Share your favorite
Ask everyone their favorite movie, book, TV show, actor, etc. The category doesn’t really matter, but the idea is to get everyone to share something that can offer a bit of insight into their personality.
3. Last thing you ate
You can ask what everyone’s favorite food is, but it might be more fun to ask about the last thing everyone ate. This is especially fun if the meeting takes place around breakfast or lunch time. You may even learn something new about the culture of your colleagues if they just finished a local specialty.
4. Last 3 emojis
Have everyone share the last 3 emojis they used in their phone. They can pull up their recently used emojis and take a screenshot, then share with the group. Or, they can comment using them in the dialog box. Or, they can just tell you - but that’s not quite as fun.
5. Last photo
What was the last photo you took on your phone? Obviously everyone should focus on pictures that are safe for work, but this is a fun way to get to know more about peoples’ families, where they live, their hobbies, and what matters to them. Whether you see a cute kid or a new blanket someone crocheted, they will feel great sharing what’s important to them and it’ll strengthen bonds. People can add the photo to the dialog box of conference software or simply turn their camera on and hold up their phone.
6. 60 second intros
It’s not that original, but simply asking people to take one minute and share who they are, their role, and what they are hoping to accomplish in this meeting is very effective. A simple and straightforward exercise like this tends to be better for introverts. Browse more icebreaker games for introverts here.
7. Show your workspace
Share the space around you and let everyone see how you normally work. Use your laptop camera to give everyone a quick “tour” of your desk or office. It’s a nice touch to have everyone choose one item to highlight and explain why it’s important (such as a photo on a desk or their favorite leather-bound notebook). Note: not everyone will be comfortable using video in this manner during a meeting. You can ask people to provide still images in advance of the meeting, but you’ll have to give them a heads up. Have people take one photo that represents their work space and send it to you before the meeting begins.
8. Show and tell
In a throwback to elementary school, you can bring out this favorite. Before the meeting, tell everyone that you’re going to have them share one item that means a lot to them. They can either send in a photo or do a live update using their camera. They should feature the single item and be ready to explain why it’s important.
9. Company trivia
This is a great way to help new employees to get to know about where they work! See how well employees understand their organization by coming up with a list of questions. It can be as simple as coming up with 5 questions, or more complex and run like a game show. Either way, you can add a little extra skin to the game with some prizes like branded company swag for the winner.
10. Throwback Thursday (or any day)
Have everyone take a walk down memory lane by having them send in a photo of themselves as a child. They should do this before the meeting, and you need to give people enough notice that they can dig such a photo up. Then you can show each of the photos and have people guess who the person is! This tends to get really humorous and can be a lot of fun. It only works if the people in the meeting actually know each other (or at least have met before) and know what everyone looks like. It won’t work well for introducing a group that is new to each other.
11. Name that tune
Pick out snippets of 10 songs and have people try to guess what they are. At the beginning of the meeting play each snippet and give people an opportunity to figure out what song it belongs to. Bonus points for remembering the artist or the year as well!
12. A virtual scavenger hunt
This is a great icebreaker for larger groups. Give everyone a list that you pulled or prepared in advance with items they can find around their house or office. Tell everyone they need to find all of the items on the list within a certain time limit. Whoever finds the most items before time is up wins. Up to you if you want to include prizes!
13. Guess the city
Help coworkers get to know each other better by sharing information about the city they are from without saying the name. For example, if the city is “Chicago”, people might say it’s often called the second city and they are famous for Italian beef. Then people can take guesses about the city they are talking about.
14. Dream vacation
Prior to the meeting, ask everyone to do some research on a venue for their ideal vacation. Whether it’s a swanky resort or an Airbnb in the mountains, have people save the link and then share it before the meeting starts. Each team member should take a turn presenting their link and sharing a bit about why they picked it. Be aware: this often leads to lengthier conversations on vacations and bucket lists, because who doesn’t like to talk about dream destinations?
15. Hot takes
This may or may not be a great game for a small team, it depends on the temperament of your people! Ask everyone to share their most unpopular opinion. However, the opinions shouldn’t be about controversial topics that can actually get heated. A good example of an innocent hot take would be something like “Pineapple is the best pizza topping” or “Snakes are my favorite animal”.
16. Guess the background photo
Most video conferencing solutions allow people to customize their background photos. Let everyone know in advance that they should pick a special photo, and then everyone can take turns guessing who is the owner of each photo.
17. Find the airport
Send the entire team a link for the geolocation of a spot in a random city (where no one lives). Then give a time limit of 10 minutes for them to work as a team and find the airport in that city. People can submit suggestions over chat or using their mic while the team leader navigates the map. This is a fun team-based activity that everyone can participate in and it sets the tone for cooperation.
18. Bring a jingle
In advance of the meeting, have everyone choose a commercial jingle to share with the team. Make a game of it by having people guess which product the commercial is for. Try not to pick one that will be stuck in your head all day!
19. Poll questions
There are a lot of websites that allow you to create simple polls and share the answers. Why not try one before your next meeting? Choose some light-hearted questions and then spend a few minutes going over the responses with everyone. Questions like “pancakes or waffles?” or “coffee or tea?” are innocent and provide simple fodder for discussions. Try SurveyMonkey or Poll-maker.com to start.
20. Talk about your heroes
Who is a role model in your life? Who have you looked up to? Ask everyone to spend one or two minutes sharing who their heroes are and why. This is a great way for people to learn new things and better understand the values of their coworkers.
21. Conference call bingo
It’s really easy to make custom bingo cards by creating a five by five table in a spreadsheet or document. Fill out each square with random items that people on your team are likely to have. Share the link and ask everyone to answer in chat when a space applies to them. Things like “owns a fish” or “is left-handed” are the kind of items that should fill up the bingo card. Team meeting icebreakers like this can really improve camaraderie.
22. Office superlative awards
Who is most likely to run a marathon? Who is most likely to publish a book or compete in a professional sport or end up on a TV show? It can be fun to have everyone vote on these superlatives in advance. Of course, be sensitive and come up with categories that are fun and limit discomfort. You don’t want to have categories like “Best looking” or “smartest”.
23. Guess who
Have everyone submit one fact about themselves prior to the meeting, and then start the session by having everyone guess who the fact is about. Give attendees 10 seconds to guess who the fact applies to and then the meeting leader can reveal the answer.
24. Capture a photo
Let everyone show some personality by captioning a picture on their screen. Set a timer for 30 seconds and review everyone’s submissions by reading them on the chat when the timer runs out. The funniest caption wins!
25. Would you rather questions
Get serious insight into everyone’s personality by asking “would you rather?” questions. For example, “would you rather permanently give up deodorant or toothpaste?”. For more ideas on how to ask effective questions for icebreakers, check out this post.
Getting to Know You icebreakers
A really simple icebreaker tactic is just asking questions. You don’t have to necessarily plan a game or other activity - just pick one or two questions that everyone can give an answer to. Go around the “room” and give everyone a few minutes to answer one of these questions. These items should work whether people are in person or online only. They’ll work just as well for a Zoom call as they will for sitting around a conference room table.
One note: It’s a good idea to be aware of the differences in your team and which ones might make people self-conscious. For instance, you’ll see below that some of the questions are around fads or music. If your team is mostly 25 year olds with one 60 year old, they might not feel that their answers are too relatable and may feel that such questions only serve to highlight their age. Differences are great and tend to make teams better - but it never hurts to take some extra time ensuring everyone’s comfort.
If you could have any superpower what would it be? This is a fun and straightforward question that can offer some fun answers. You can make things more “work-focused” by asking which superpower would be most helpful in their professional role.
27. First job
Another fun and simple question that should be easy for everyone to answer. What was your first job? What did you like or dislike about it? Are there any funny stories to go with it? Almost everyone will have a hilarious story about their initial job at a roller rink, pizza parlor, or ice cream shop.
Do you have a nickname? Not everyone does but it can be fun to learn meeting participants’ nicknames (even if they don’t want anyone to use them at work).
29. Animal personality
Similar to the superpower question, asking “What animal would you be if you weren’t human?” can offer a lot of insight into people’s personality. Knowing which animal each person relates to the most provides information about what they value and which traits are most prominent in them.
30. Hiccup cure
If you don’t want to get too personal, why not ask about how people cure a case of hiccups. Everyone has their own method for getting rid of pesky hiccups. You just might learn something new!
31. Past trends
Everything old is new again and trends always come back around. What was cool when you were young that you see coming back? Mullets anyone? Or, is there a trend that you really loved that you hope never comes back? You can also compare regional or cultural differences and learn a lot about someone’s background.
32. First album
What’s the first musical album you ever purchased? Keep in mind that some people don’t particularly love highlighting big age differences, so you might have to be sensitive to the age range of your meeting attendees. That being said, most people like to reminisce and music is a great way to do that.
33. Celebrity look alike
Do you have a celebrity twin? If there is a famous person that you think you look like, now is the time to share! Don’t have one? Maybe talk about who should play you in a movie of your life!
34. Karaoke song
Do you have a go-to for the karaoke bar? You might be surprised how many people do! Ask others to share the song, along with any hilarious outtakes or funny stories. Tell people there’s bonus points for telling how they chose their song or their favorite instance of singing it.
35. Guilty pleasure
What do you absolutely love but don’t love to admit it? If your vice is binge eating chips while watching reality TV, share that! Have everyone share their favorite guilty pleasure.
Have everyone bring their favorite snack to their meeting space and show the group what they are eating. You can learn a lot about someone by seeing what they love to eat!
What kind of store best represents each person’s personality? Ask everyone to picture a mall and then share which store they would be. This isn’t really a “favorite” game but more along the lines of symbolism. For example, if someone is on the preppy side and tends to wear khakis, they would be the Gap.
38. Song to skip
What is one song that you always skip when it comes on the radio? This is a fun question to ask and you might be surprised at the answers. Maybe one of someone’s “skip” songs is your favorite!
39. Best joke
What is your favorite clean joke? Ask everyone to come prepared to share their best family-friendly joke.
40. Board game
What is everyone’s favorite board game to play? Or perhaps a game they loved to play when they were young?
41. Halloween costume
What’s the best costume each person has worn for Halloween? People should share how they came up with the costume and why they wanted to choose it. Bonus points if they have a photo they can share!
42. Childhood show
What did you stay up late to watch when you were young? Almost everyone has a favorite show that they remember well and miss. Have everyone prepare to share their favorite childhood TV show and why they loved it so much.
43. Favorite teacher
Most people have a teacher that they have fond memories of. You can ask everyone to share their favorite teacher and why they felt that way. This can also lead to more discussion of the schools everyone attended, where they grew up, etc.
44. Favorite season
Pretty straightforward. Ask why to make the answers more interesting!
45. Favorite way to start the morning
Do you hop out of bed and grab a coffee? Or do you spend a few minutes meditating? Is a long, hot shower in the cards, or do you take a run first? Share your morning routine with everyone.
46. Favorite reality TV show
Reality TV is a big part of today’s culture, but many people consider it a guilty pleasure. Start by asking which reality TV shows everyone watches, and have them share if there is a cast member that they particularly enjoy or follow.
Icebreaker games for hybrid meetings
With hybrid working teams, many meetings have both virtual and in-person attendees. You’ll often find a full conference room with a phone present to communicate with those working remotely. These activities can be completed in person or by virtual teams, and are especially relevant now that virtual team-building has never been so popular.
47. Extend the story
This is a good icebreaker for people that are in person or in virtual spaces, or a mix. Start by sharing one line and then have everyone add a new line to further the story. For example:
Person one: I need to get in my car.
Person two : To go to the store.
Person three: To buy food for a party.
Person four: That I’m throwing for my Mom.
48. Desert island essentials
What would you bring to a deserted island? Use the time to have everyone add to a comprehensive list. Each attendee can take a turn sharing what they would want to bring, and the leader can keep an ongoing list.
49. Spill celebrity tea
What’s the latest pop culture gossip you’ve heard? Celebrities are a fun topic that most people can take at least some interest in. Whether in person or online, everyone can take a moment and share the latest celebrity news that sparked their interest. This is just a fun and light-hearted exercise so it’s best left to meetings that are the same.
50. Bucket list
Most people have a bucket list, or at least they can come up with one if given a few moments. Ask everyone to share one item from their list. What is one thing they hope to do or accomplish before they die? If you want, you can add everyone’s suggestions to one large comprehensive list and post it somewhere or share it at the end of the meeting. You may even want to frame it and hang it in the office!
51. Compliment coworkers
Have everyone share one thing they really like or admire about a person they work with. You may want to come up with an order for this, otherwise you risk heaps of compliments getting shared about the same person. Make sure the praise is spread around. If you’re in person, you can say something like “talk about the person to your right”. If you’re online, or in mixed company, you might want to use an alphabetical list where each person shares about the person next on the list.
52. Share some nostalgia
What makes you reminisce about the past? A certain smell, a song? Have everyone share one thing that takes them back. You never know who might share the same feelings!
53. Bring a meme
Memes are all over the place and should be plenty easy to find. Have everyone spend a few minutes before the meeting finding a work-appropriate meme to share with the group. The icebreaker can be as simple as sharing what you’ve found, or you can make a game where everyone has to guess who the meme belongs to.
54. Three words
This one is pretty straightforward. What three words would you use to describe yourself? Have everyone answer the question.
55. Share your childhood dream
What did you want to be when you grow up? Are you in that role now? Chances are you wanted to be a singer, a professional athlete, or a ballerina. Have everyone share their loftiest dreams from childhood.
56. Describe a holiday meal
What does your family do for big holidays? This is a great way to learn about people’s traditions and where they come from. Ask everyone to talk about the next holiday they celebrate and what they will prepare (or enjoy) for the meal.
57. Share your favorite tradition
In the same vein as the icebreaker above, have each person share their favorite tradition from their childhood. Whether it’s something they did each week with their family or something their friend group did at school, it will be fun and put a smile on everyone’s face.
58. “Hometown” count
Some people moved around a lot as a kid while others stayed in one place until they eventually moved away. Ask each person to talk about their hometown or how many towns they consider their “hometown”. Let them elaborate on any moves and why. This is a great way to get to know everyone at a deeper level and is really helpful for bonding. See more "Get to know you” games in our past post!
59. Alternative names
Did your parents ever consider naming you something else? Some people may have not ever heard this, but many people have been told by their parents that they were almost named something else. Ask everyone to open up about this experience if they have heard about names they almost had.
60. Choose a famous parent
If everyone had to choose a famous parent, who would they pick? Do you relate more to Morticia Adams or June Cleaver? This is a fun way to get some serious insight into what sort of people you work with.
61. Word association
Begin by having one person choose a word or phrase. Then go around the group and have everyone share what word comes to mind when they hear it. For example, someone might say “Cold” and the next person could say “winter” and then the next person would say “sledding”, and so on.
Go beyond virtual meetings
Virtual meetings are an essential part of doing business today, and you can maximize their effectiveness by including virtual icebreaker games. However, you can do more for your team to ramp up camaraderie and productivity. Offline company offsites or team-building retreats are a vital way to build team culture, enhance bonds, and simply get more done. Virtual meetings are an important day-to-day function, but business leaders should aim to organize regular offsites (at least two per year) for various departments or the entire group.
Surf Office is here to help. We can help you to plan productive and fun corporate retreats and off-sites - the kind of events that your team looks forward to, year after year!