What Is an Ice Breaker Game?
Ice breaker games are a great way to get discussion flowing at the beginning of and during a meeting or employee event. They are activities designed to get people out of their seats and introduced to other employees they don’t know or otherwise wouldn’t talk to. They can be used across an organization to help people from different departments mingle and get to know the face behind the email address.
There are three main types of ice breaker games:
The Benefits of Playing Ice Breaker Games
Like most activities we take part in—exercising, cooking, driving a car—we warm up, either ourselves or the tool we’re using. Getting ready to discuss or absorb a topic is no different. Icebreakers are great ways to do that warming up.
Ice breaker games loosen participants up, allowing them to get the most out of the day. Breaking down people’s defenses gets them out of their shell and taking part. Once everyone starts talking, they are better able to work together to find the solutions and best practices desired.
If the group working together is from diverse backgrounds (ages, ethnic groups, job titles and salary ranges), ice breaker games are a great way for them to find areas they have in common with each other. It starts any event off with a familiarity among new people. The key is to ensure participants enjoy themselves. This way, they’re motivated to learn and apply the knowledge being presented. People want to feel part of a close-knit group and ice breaker games give them that opportunity.
10 Unique Ideas for Ice Breaker Games
There are many icebreakers to choose from. We have narrowed that list to the most relevant, effective, and successful of the bunch. Take your pick and tailor them to fit your group size, length of the meeting, or conference and topics being discussed.
In many meetings, people start by sitting next to the people they know or feel they have something in common with. Have people count off and then sit with people who got the same number.
1. 10 Things in Common
This works great for getting people to take time to get to know each other. Break the larger group into smaller groups of four or five people by having them count off. Once they’re in their groups, tell them they need to find 10 things the group has in common. Make it clear they can’t use anything work-related, clothing-related, or body parts as a commonality.
One person in the group should take notes and another should volunteer to read the results to the larger group. It’s fun for each group to find what they have in common with each other and with other groups. Some things will get laughter from the group, breaking down barriers to learning.
2. One Word Ice Breaker
Break the group into smaller groups of 4-5. Give the group a topic relevant to your business: current culture, processes or procedures. Have everyone think silently for one minute and come up with one word that best describes that topic for them. When time is up, have each person share their word with their smaller group and why they chose it. This sparks conversation about each person’s choice and may give people a different lens to look through.
3. Just for Fun
Starting any meeting with laughter creates a relaxed environment. You pick the question and have each participant share their answer with the group. Some ideas:
- If you were a food, what would you be and why?
- Name your favorite line from a movie
- If you had to be an animal, what animal would you choose?
- If you could be a candy bar, what would you be and why?
4. Snowball Fight!
Hand out blank pieces of paper at the beginning of a meeting. When you sense energy lulling, have everyone stand up. Once they do, tell them to crumple up those pieces of paper. Have music cued up and tell them once the music starts, they should all throw their “snowballs” at a target (not a person) in the room. Start the music and watch how much fun people have. This snowball fight is a lesson in how quickly a mindset shift can happen.
This is a very different bingo. Prepare a 5x5-space bingo card filled out with a series of personal or business-related topics. The key is to get everyone up and talking to other people. As they talk to people, they tick off squares as they apply to each person. The person who gets the first bingo, gets up and shares who each square applies to. Sample topics:
- Visited over 10 countries
- Stood in line for a concert
- Fallen asleep during a conference call
- Been more than an hour late to a meeting
6. Who Is It?
At the beginning of the meeting have everyone write an interesting or little-known fact about themselves. Collect them and put them in a bowl. Throughout the meeting—before and after breaks—read one or two and have the group guess who it is. Make sure you get to every piece of paper. There’s nothing more disappointing than hoping to share something fun with the group and have those hopes dashed.
7. Your Personal Best
Break your group into smaller groups of 4-5. Give the participants 10 minutes to think of and write about a shining moment in their career over the last five years. Instruct participants to talk about it in as much detail as they can remember with their group—what led up to it and what happened after.
After 10 minutes, give the group 45 minutes to discuss each person’s greatest moments. As you observe, you’ll see everyone’s faces light up. Some common themes may arise and ask the groups to identify them. After 45 minutes, ask the group to talk about how they can re-create some aspects of those moments in their current positions.
8. 5 of Anything
This one is two ice breaker games in one. If you’re working with a large group, break it down into smaller groups of 5-6. Have each person write five—something. Ideas are:
- Favorite movies
- Favorite books
- Favorite foods
- Least favorite foods
- Cities they’d like to visit
Have each person share their choices with their groups. This can be fun because there will be a lot of commonalities in each group, making people feel more comfortable with each other.
Once the personal lists have been shared, ask them to list another five things but make them work-related. Choose something like:
- Favorite meeting topics
- Habits of good listeners
- Habits of poor listeners
- Factors that most motivate them
Debrief this part to see common themes throughout the larger group that may need addressing. If there’s a blind spot in the company, be sure to let the group know you’ll address it.
9. M&M Game
Fill a bowl with M&Ms, place a spoon in the bowl and pass the bowl around the room. While the bowl is with each person, have them take a small scoop. Once they have the candy in their hand, look at the colors. Get them to tell you, based on the color, their favorite:
- Red—favorite superhero
- Orange—favorite outdoor activity
- Blue—favorite food
- Green—favorite vacation spot
- Brown—favorite TV show
- Yellow—favorite thing about the company you all work for
10. Two Truths and a Lie
This old standard is to get people to share three facts, two of which are true and one that is not. The rest of the group has to pick which is the lie. This is a great way for people to have fun with each other and learn something. People inherently like to share things about themselves and coming up with a lie can be fun to do and see.
Take votes to see what the majority of the room believed to be the lie and then have the subject confirm or deny the consensus. This is a great way to introduce new members of a team as they may find commonalities with people already in the group and feel less awkward.
Whether you’re kicking off a half-day meeting or three-day conference, ice breaker games are a great way to get everyone comfortable with their surroundings and each other. Breaking down barriers is the best way to ensure your participants are ready to absorb the information you’re sharing with them and put it to good use when they get back to their jobs.
If you’re not sure how to kick off a meeting, just choose from one of these ice breaker games and watch how your employees react. You’ll do them every time after experiencing the positive reaction these games elicit. Employees may even find themselves looking forward to the next meeting.