Icebreakers are a staple of team building. Unfortunately, many fail to live up to their potential by either relying too heavily on participant energy, being so time-intensive in preparation that they don’t allow for thorough and meaningful discussion; they’re filled with activities that end up being more awkward than fun. The good news is that icebreakers don’t have to be one size fits all. The bad news is that icebreakers don’t have to be one size fits all.
Here are 10 exercises meant to help break the ice on any team.
Icebreakers can be incorporated as part of the initial team-building process when a team decides to regroup after undergoing significant changes or at any other time where a boost in team morale is needed. Don’t hesitate to pick and choose from the suggested activities that follow. We also recommend having fun with it – adapt them as needed to fit your organization’s culture and objectives.
1. “Tall Tales”
An icebreaker activity that asks each participant to share one story about themselves that their colleagues will never believe. However, within reason, the stories should have an element of truth to them (i.e., don’t say you were once abducted by aliens). Here are some examples:
- They have a personal connection to a famous celebrity.
- Their name is actually two names, but their parents decided to give them only one name at birth.
- Their biggest fear used to be (fill in the blank with something funny or oddball).
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2. “Pass the Torch”
An activity designed to reinforce the idea that each team member is valuable and has something important to offer other members of the team. Pass an imaginary torch from person to person as everyone takes turns sharing why they are proud to be part of this team and what they hope will happen during the upcoming event/activity/project etcetera. Everyone should end up holding it once before passing on and getting a chance for others to express why they are excited to work with them.
3. “Worst Job”
A simple icebreaker that asks each participant to reveal the worst job they have ever had, as well as their most embarrassing moment (that does not involve nudity). Both should be shared in front of everyone without hesitation or embarrassment. Remember, no hair is better than gray hair!
4. “Hot Seat”
An exercise where participants sit in a circle and take turns answering questions posed by the group while being videotaped/photographed live. The facilitator asks questions designed to help break down barriers and get everyone talking more freely about themselves and how they might fit into the team moving forward.
5. “Truth or Dare”
This is a very simple activity where each participant gets the chance to ask any question something like (Free trivia questions) of one of their colleagues that can be answered with either “truth” or “dare”. As someone in the hot seat, there are no wrong answers and nothing is off limits. The only rule is that if you say dare, you have to do what has been asked within reason (and respect boundaries). Example Questions include:
- If we were all stranded on an island together, which item would you like to grab first? Why?
- What’s your dream destination? Why haven’t you traveled there yet?
- In 100 words or less, what’s something you find interesting about yourself?
6. “Favorite Me”
Participants are asked to fill in the blank on the following prompt: “I am my favorite because ______ __________ (fill in the blank with anything they want). Participants then have three minutes to construct a three-dimensional portrait of whatever they have just written down. After that, each participant gets five minutes to explain why their colleagues wrote what they did. They should encourage others by asking open ended questions like.
7. “Where Are You From?”
This is a great chance for everyone to learn more about one another and break down preconceived notions and stereotypes. A good rule of thumb is if someone volunteers information without you asking, immediately follow up by asking another question that you have already decided to use. The goal here is to avoid a two-question limit! The questions can vary from simple and lighthearted to more deep-rooted ones like.
8. “I’ve Never…”
This one really helps break down barriers and get conversations flowing naturally. Here are some example questions you could start with if you don’t have your own ideas right away:
- I’ve never been outside of Canada/the United States. What’s on your top ten travel list? Why haven’t you traveled there yet?
- I’ve never gone off-roading in my car or truck. What’s something you want to try?
- I’ve never had a locker in school. What was your worst/best grade in high-school?
9. “Elephant Family” and “Superhero”
This activity serves the same purpose as the “Where Are You From?” activity except it helps people get a better idea of what is important to one another and how others might make them laugh or smile while also learning more about themselves (their likes, dislikes, quirks etcetera). The key here is that each participant must answer in a way that makes them unique and different from everyone else without any hesitation or shame for having personalized answers to things like:
- If you were an animal, what type would you be and why?
- If you had one superpower what would it be and why?
- If you were a superhero in high school/college, what is your alter ego’s name, costume color scheme, power source etcetera.
10 . “Mission Impossible” (Modified)
This activity is the most fun of all of them and works really well when everyone has been drinking or at least eating something very sugary beforehand to get their hearts pumping (and courage flowing). The goal here is simple: To create a mission statement for the group using only three sentences that can fit on a sticky note! The group can vote on the best ones or ask for clarification for any questions. Keep in mind that this activity is really fun and it will make you feel even closer to your coworkers as you explain what they mean is really special, especially if they are themed.