Ice breakers

Ice breakers
Photo by NOAA / Unsplash

Ice breakers can be great activities to set the tone in a meeting and do a bit of whakawhanaungatanga (relationship building) in your meeting. I also use them in online meetings to set a norm for participation via typing into a shared document. Usually I setup a section in the document and make a whole list of empty bullet points, roughly one bullet point per person expected to attend the meeting. Then set a prompt.

Encouraging the use of emojis, and showing users how to access their emoji keyboard (different on each of Mac, Linux, ChromeOS and Windows) can be useful here.

Here are a few of the kinds of prompts I use:

  • 🍦What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?  
  • Tea 🫖 or Coffee ☕️, how do you take it?
  • Describe the view from the front window, front door, or porch of your favorite holiday location.
  • What's your favorite breakfast cereal?
  • Who  is someone you admire?
  • What was your first job?
  • If you could acquire a new skill with no work, what would it be?
  • What is your favorite family tradition?

Depending on the audience, you can select prompts that lean more personal to get more information shared between people. The fun and whimsical ones like ice cream flavours are a nice way to connect on people's personal preferences. All of this is building relationships and humanizing other meeting participants. Even if the participants know each other, well crafted prompts can help them learn more about things they've never thought to ask each other about.

In online forms of meetings, at nearly any scale, these ice-breakers can be completed in no more than about 5-minutes. The parallelization of people's typing allows you to gather a huge amount of information in a very little time.

Got a good ice breaker you've used recently? Share it by reaching out and contacting me.