Icebreakers are commonplace in face to face learning. They get the group warmed up and open to sharing and learning together. However, in a virtual learning space I don’t see them used as often.
In my experience, sometimes getting a group that don’t know each other to open up to each other virtually and share in the chat or over the mic can be more challenging. Icebreakers are a great way to gently ease the group into sharing and contributing.
By starting the session with immediate interaction, it sets the stall out for how you want the learning or meeting to go. Regular interaction = a better session as the more they share the more you can tailor it to their needs.
So let’s dive into the virtual icebreakers you can use. I’ve kept them generic enough that they should be transferrable or tailorable to various types of learning.
8 virtual icebreakers
1. Emoji this….
Ask the group to use an emoji (or even a gif!) to describe their morning/feelings about this course etc.
This is a fun light-hearted way to get the group to share. If you want to take the activity further, pick out any unique ones and ask them to share more with the group if they’re comfortable to do so.
2. Rate yourself….
Rate yourself can be both an evaluation question and an icebreaker – the perfect double whammy!
Use a poll to ask the group to rate their experience/confidence etc. on the topic being covered. Then share the results with the group so everyone knows where their starting point as a benchmark. If you wanted, you could ask the group to rate themselves again either at the end of the course or post-learning to measure the distance travelled for learners.
Why do we always have to share fun facts about ourselves as an introduction? What about those days where there isn’t anything fun to share, or you are comparing yourself to that one super interesting person (ugh!). Let’s avoid this scenario by sharing boring facts instead.
Remember, the purpose of virtual icebreakers are to break the ice. So, breaking the ice could be telling the group that you had eggs for breakfast, or have a blue sofa. Plus it takes the pressure off the group to think of something interesting.
4. Get visual
If your tech of choice has the whiteboard functionality you can get the group sharing through the whiteboard. You could ask them to draw something that represents them, or draw a picture of themselves. The possibilities are endless!
5. Stamp it!
If your tech has the option for stamps (Zoom does currently but teams doesn’t) you could share an image and ask the group to stamp it or put their name to it.
For example, you could have a continuum of something trivial like are you a cats or dog person? Then get the group to vote where they sit.
Another great way I’ve seen stamps used is asking the group to mark on a map where in the world they are joining the call from. If it’s a local group this may just be a regional map, or if you’ve got an international call this could be a global map.
The stamp feature can be used in lots of different ways so its definitely one to explore if you’ve not already.
6. Show and tell
This one is great for if the group will be using their cameras throughout the session. Remember in school when the teacher would arrange a lesson on show and tell? Well the same applies here. You ask the group to share an item and talk about it.
If it’s a quick ice breaker it could just be something within arm’s length i.e. a pen, notepad etc. Or if you’ve got more time and want to use it as a bit more of an activity you could ask them to find something that signifies the topic you will be talking about. i.e. if its wellbeing, something that supports your wellbeing.
Once the group have found an item ask them to share it on the screen and briefly talk about it, if your short on time you could just pick a few at random to discuss. Or even add in a poll for who had the best item and get the group to vote.
7. What a conundrum
Conundrums are a great way to get the groups brain going. As long as it isn’t anything too difficult. To do this, share a conundrum on the screen and make it fastest to answer the conundrum wins the ice breaker (people love a competition!).
Not great at making your own conundrums? Neither am I but wordplays has you covered for all your conundrum generating needs.
8. Fortunately, unfortunately
I’m part of a public speaking club and we sometimes do this as our icebreaker. It’s a great creative way to get people talking but probably works best over the microphone rather than in the chat as it would take too long to wait for everyone to type.
How it works is you, as the facilitator start a story:
Facilitator: Sophia went to the shops this morning to buy eggs, fortunately…. Then pick a person in the group to continue the story on with
Learner 1: fortunately….there we’re 5 different types of eggs to chose from, unfortunately…. Then you pick the next person who starts
Learner 2: unfortunately…and on the story continues.
Learner 3: fortunately….
Learner 4: unfortunately… (you get the gist by now!)
It’s a fun way to be creative and share ideas, you could pick the story to match the topic, or keep it random.
Those are my 8 quick virtual icebreakers that you can use within your next virtual learning or meeting. Give them a try and I’d love to hear how you get on!
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