It is common for Japanese companies to start their day with some sort of icebreaker activity. Many start their day by cheering the company motto aloud or performing short stretching exercises as a team.
It may sound strange, but these companies are onto something. They believe that the key to the effectiveness of group work comes from intense exchange and communication between employees. Ice breakers play an important role in fostering that exchange and communication.
Now, asking your team to do the company cheer before your meetings might earn you some eye rolls. So, instead, here are 20 other activities you can carry out to break the ice and foster collaboration and participation during your meetings.
If you don’t know where to start, we recommend trying these simple and fun, activities:
- Mood Cloud
- Image Poll
- Would You Rather
- Trivia Quiz
- Who said it?
- Never have I ever
- One word game
- The most likely to...
- Appreciation Time
- A highlight of the week
- Expressing Gratitude
- 18 & Under
- Pain Point Brainstorming
- Group Problem-Solving
- Forced Association
- Six Thinking Hats
- Career Milestone Quiz
- The Boss Q&A Session
- Company History Quiz
- Two Truths One Lie
(Bonus: If you already use Pigeonhole Live for your meetings, these ice breaker activities can be easily executed on the same platform!)
1. Mood Cloud
Everyone loves word clouds. They are fun to build as a team exercise and are so versatile.
One of the effective ways we find word clouds being used during ice breakers is to build a Mood Cloud together. Here are the steps for conducting this ice breaker:
- Set up a word cloud session on Pigeonhole Live with the question: Describe how you are feeling today with one word.
- At the start of your meeting, ask them to log in to Pigeonhole Live and submit their answers.
- Open the Projector Panel to show the word cloud coming to live in real time as your team submits the answers.
The good thing is you can do this exercise both with your physical team and remote team during your meeting.
2. Image Poll
Set up polls of adorable animal photos and let your team vote on their favourites before the meeting. Goofy and adorable animal pictures instantly put you in a better mood during groggy mornings before a serious and gruelling meeting.
3. Would You Rather
Set up a series of Multiple-Choice Poll with interesting and fun questions such as:
- Would you rather be born with an elephant trunk or a giraffe neck?
- Would you rather be constantly itchy or constantly sticky?
- Would you rather eat poison ivy or a handful of wasps?
- Would you rather have a 1-minute conversation with your past self or your future self?
The trick with this activity is that, the quirkier your question, the more fun it gets. It’s also a great way to get to know the quirky side of the people you work with. Here are 71 questions for you to pick from.
If you want to make the game more fun, add images to the poll, especially when you are presenting two horrible options for your teammates to pick from.
4. Trivia Quiz
Run a trivia quiz on anything fun topic of your choice. Set up the quiz with leaderboard and let your team fight their way to the top of the leaderboard. Pigeonhole Live’s Quiz Leaderboard feature ranks participants based on accuracy and speed of answers. So, you can imagine the adrenaline of racing to the top. It’s a fun way to get everyone pumped and awake before the meeting starts proper.
5. Who said it?
Do your teammates say the most ridiculous things casually? You can always turn those into a game. Record the funny things that you hear every day in your office and find lines that sound as ridiculous from popular TV characters. Then, make a quiz on who said the line!
Example: "There are too many people on this earth. We need a new plague."
- Dwight Schrute from the show The Office
- Jim from the Marketing
6. Never have I ever
Make a poll with a series of “Never have I ever…” questions and a have a voting session before your meeting. Here are some questions for inspiration but don’t be afraid to personalise it to your office and team!
- Never have I ever cut my own hair.
- Never have I ever cried in a Pixar movie.
- Never have I ever broken a bone.
- Never have I ever dropped my phone in the toilet.
- Never have I ever gotten a tattoo I regretted.
7. One word game
Set up a Word Cloud and get your team to think for a minute or two, and then share one word that describes X. X could be your office culture, their job or their most recent project. You can even make X specific to your meeting agenda to make the activity more relevant and fun.
8. The most likely to…
Set up a few word clouds on Pigeonhole Live with the question “The most likely to…” and end with any interesting descriptors or actions. Examples that you can start with:
- The most likely to go on a backpacking trip across Asia
- The most likely to star in a TV Show
- The most likely to start their own company
Then, get your team to nominate their teammates for each of the questions. As they enter names into the word cloud and vote on options entered, you can observe a word cloud of names forming together.
Not all ice breakers have to be games. Sometimes you just need to start on a positive, reflective note to get everyone in a supportive and happy mood.
9. Appreciation Time
Get your team to nominate a teammate for something they did well in the past week or for making an extra effort and helping someone with work. We tried this before our all-hands meeting and it had an amazing impact on employee morale.
10. A highlight of the week
You can also get your team to take a minute to think of their week and come up with a highlight or two to share before the start of the meeting. Getting into a quiet, reflective activity can actually help everyone focus on the positives and frame the right mindset for the meeting and the rest of their week.
11. Expressing gratitude
Studies have shown a strong correlation between the expression of gratitude and happiness. Giving thanks to the past, present and what’s to come helps us frame our thoughts in a positive and productive manner.
Simply set up an Open-Ended Poll and ask your teammates to enter one thing they are grateful for today before the meeting. Simply reading everyone’s entry together can put a positive spin on the meetings and relationship between people in the meeting.
12. 18 & Under
We borrowed this from Hubspot’s list. 18 & under is an ice breaker to encourage your teammates to share interesting stories about themselves and also start the meeting on a positive reflective note about personal accomplishments.
The activity is simple: Set up an Open-Ended Poll. Before the meeting, ask each person to enter one accomplishment they had before they turned 18 on Pigeonhole Live. Once it’s all up, you can get the top votes ones to share a little bit about their story to achieving the stated accomplishments.
And other times it helps to get into problem-solving mode together. Solving problems together can help your team bond while pushing their creativity to new heights:
13. Pain point brainstorming
Divide your employees into smaller teams consisting of people from different departments.
- Ask each group to think about 1-2 most important needs in their life that is underserved.
- Come up with solutions that don’t currently exist to meet those needs or solve those pain points.
Ask them to share their ideas in an open-ended poll.
We wrote about this activity in greater detail in this article.
14. Group problem-solving
Bring up a real problem you are facing in the company. Divide your employees into smaller teams of people from different departments and ask them to brainstorm creative ways to solve the problem.
After they have come up with the solution, they can share it in the open-ended poll. The rest of the teams can vote on each others’ ideas. You can incentivise this activity with gift vouchers or merchandise for the winning team. Or even get the team to act on their solution.
15. Forced association
Present your employees with two seemingly unrelated objects and challenge them to come up with a new product. The objects could be part of the product, the problem, or have something to do with target market.
Get them to share this new product in an open-ended poll. The product with the highest votes will win. If the town hall meeting is purely physical, the winners can even take the objects home with them.
16. Six Thinking Hats
The six thinking hats is an activity designed to push your team to think differently. Most of us have a preferred way of thinking that we fall trap to when approached with a problem. The six thinking hats represent metaphors for different ways of thinking that your teammates can adopt when problem-solving.
To conduct the activity:
- Present your team with a problem. Example: Should we increase our prices?
- Set up 6 Open-ended polls each representing one thinking hat: neutral, feelings, negative, positive, creative and process.
- Ask your team to post questions along each line of thinking in the respective polls.
- Conduct a post-poll discussion based on the questions you’ve crowdsourced.
Lastly, here are some ice breakers to just get to know your company and colleagues a little bit better:
17. Career milestone Quiz
Ask employees reaching a career milestone to make a short quiz about themselves. Get everyone to take part in the quiz and see who knows the employee the best.
18. The boss Q&A session
Get your boss to do a short “Ask me Anything” session before your all-hands meeting. Set up a Q&A session so that everyone can submit their questions and upvote questions that they want answered. It’s a great way to get to know your boss better!
19. Company history Quiz
If your office is reaching a particular milestone such as an anniversary, you can set up a company history quiz and get everyone to participate before your meeting.
20. Two Truths One Lie
Get a department to take the lead for each session of this activity. They can set up a Multiple-Choice Poll with two truth options and one lie option for each question. The questions could be about the members in the department or the work that the department does.
It’s a fun activity to build cross-department bonding as well!