Ice Breakers for Online Business and Family Gatherings

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While we continue to work from home, minimize family gatherings, and gather with friends for online games, it’s becoming clear that virtual meetings aren’t going anywhere. And let’s face it, it just doesn’t work to let general chit-chat take over! It’s important that the host of the call keep the conversation on track, making sure the conversation flows smoothly, and more important, that everyone feels comfortable with one another to share ideas or to have fun. So how about learning some great ice breakers for online business meetings, virtual family calls, and digital happy hours?

Solid Ice Breakers for Your Virtual Meetings

What makes a great ice breaker?

For me, a good ice breaker has one goal: to build an emotional connection with an individual (or group) so the following conversations will be easier (or less awkward). Although many ice breakers can make people uncomfortable because they are either too silly or they put people on the spot, this one is easy and effective: Ask each person on the call to introduce themselves and share one thing the group does not know about them. This information will break down the formality and loosen up the virtual meeting. This technique works in business and business-adjacent settings, and is great for families, too!

Tips to ask effective and fun ice breakers

Keep ice breakers effective and fun by asking questions that:

  • Are not overly complicated (or personal)
  • Each person can steer the specific topic or direction of the answer
  • Give insight into each person’s personality
  • Are not work or achievement related
  • Help get to know people in a group
  • Identify common interests within the group

My favorite ice breaker questions

Maybe “favorite” isn’t the right word, but the top ice breaker right now is COVID, as everybody has an opinion and is willing to talk about their pandemic experiences. But this can be a bit depressing, especially when we are using virtual meetings to “escape” COVID-related changes. Instead, I would start the meeting or call with one of these questions:

  • What is one thing nobody here knows about you?
  • What is one thing you would never like to do again and why?
  • Would you prefer to travel forward or back in time?
  • Would you rather have more time or more money?
  • Would you rather be without internet for a week or without your phone?
  • What was your favorite childhood movie?
  • What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
  • What’s your strangest talent?
  • What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?
  • What was your favorite subject in school?
  • What is in the trunk of your car right now?
  • What is your absolute dream job? (Could be tricky on a business call, but could be fun too!)
  • If you could instantly be an expert in a subject, what would it be?

Ice breaker games to get everyone involved

What’s on your head? A great way to lighten the mood or to create connectivity is to ask everyone to wear their favorite hat. It’s funny how even a simple hat can change the tone and bring the fun to a virtual meeting or friend/family call. It also creates a memorable and shareable screenshot!

Two truths and a lie. You may have played this classic before, in which everyone shares two items that are true about themselves, and one item that is a lie. It’s up to the team to guess which ones are which! Up the ante by introducing a points system when players get the answers right or when the sharer successfully deceives the team.

Include every family member! Often times some family members get left out, either because they are not as assertive or because everyone is simply talking over them. This typically happens with the eldest family members or grandparents. To help include everyone, I started a game where I came up with a list of ten questions about some family members—in this example, my parents. I posed each question to the online group, who wrote down their answers and then held them up. I read the answers out loud, and my parents said who got the answer right. Then we shared additional commentary to elaborate on, for instance, “Where did Mom and Dad go on their first date?” This game can be modified by addressing a question to each person.

Ice breakers, in conclusion

When done right, ice breaker questions will help business and social groups loosen up and open up to one another, ideally making more creative collaborations and more fun virtual game nights and happy hours. Who knows—you might even save a few ice breakers for your virtual holiday parties!

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