Virtual Icebreakers


By Perry Gasteiger, Executive Assistant, Neolé Inc.

There’s nothing worse than getting out of the waiting room and into Zoom, and hearing nothing but crickets (and Joe’s dog barking in the background). So how do you avoid these awkward moments? How do you engage your audience and get them relaxed, engaged, and interacting with each other? We have one word for you:


So simple, yet so elegantly useful. Icebreakers are small activities that are fun, easy, and get the group thinking, talking, or moving. Most importantly, they create psychological safety (defined by Amy Edmondson as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes”). We love using these at the beginning of our meetings to get the energy buzzing and the smiles beaming! Here are some of our favourites:

Stretch It Out! Perfect for larger groups.

In this simple but activating icebreaker, the facilitator asks participants to stretch their arms in certain directions: to the left, to the right, up, or down. Mix it up, pick up the pace, and make it fun! Once your audience is engaged, start stretching their minds a little, too! Invert the commands so that when you say “to the left”, they stretch to the right, “to the right” they stretch to the left, “up” they stretch down, and “down” they stretch up! This will be sure to elicit a few giggles, and also get everyone’s blood flowing.

Cheese or Ikea? Works well with small and large groups.

This hilarious icebreaker is so much fun to kick off with! This link takes you to a quiz where you have to guess if the word on the screen is a kind of cheese, or if it’s an IKEA product. Have everyone write down their answers in the chat (or even unmute and shout them out — be careful here though; if you have too many people this can get a little raucous), and watch the grins crack as we find out who’s the big cheese!

Share an Object. Perfect in breakout groups or at small meetings.

This one is great if you have a little time to spend at the beginning of your agenda! Have everyone get up and grab an object that is important to them, come back, and explain to the group the meaning this object holds. This is awesome because it gets people out of their chairs and their blood flowing, and allows everyone to connect for a minute on a more personal level. The objects can be funny, sentimental, a source of pride, or completely random! Watch people light up as they get to share a bit of themselves with the group.

Those are our top 3 favourite icebreakers! Looking for more? Check out this list of over 30 different icebreakers to try with your team.

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"NeOle's virtual facilitation services were an eye-opening experience for our globally-dispersed organization. The level of engagement and productive work that we accomplished rapidly turned skeptics into rabid fans, which is why we continue to hire Neolé." - J.Vehar, VP Products, Dale Carnegie & Associates
"I have had the pleasure of working with NeOlé in a number of settings over the past de​cade. Their creative and collaborative approach to training, group facilitation and problem solving greatly influenced the work we did with frontline workers across Ontario. I have adopted a number of their strategies into my own work, and never hesitate to call on NeOle to lead a session at our annual event." - P.Cross, Legal Director, Luke's Place
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