Icebreaker Ideas for Team Building

Why icebreakers?

  • Because they are fun! And awkward-but honestly, that is part of the fun.
  • They are a great way to start a meeting or session.
  • They break down barriers that exist between participants.
  • They encourage interactions that normally wouldn’t happen. In today’s workplace, personal interactions don’t happen as organically, especially with remote meetings having become the norm. Team building interactions strengthens your bond with your coworkers which in turn affects engagement and productivity and investment in your organization, which is even more crucial with volunteers.

At our most recent VMS team retreat, we tried out a new icebreaker. We paired off and one partner was given an image and tasked with describing it to the other, using only shape and size instructions. For instance “In the top third of the paper there is a rectangle, if you fold the paper hot dog, it would be in the middle line. In the rectangle there are two circles, they are in the upper half of the rectangle, and the one on the left is slightly higher,” and so on.

Back to back, we had fifteen minutes on the clock to direct our partner in drawing a robot. The image below shows the reference image on top, and then the three green sheets are what Team 1, 2, and 3 created based on directions that were given to them.

Then we switched roles and drew a ladybug.

This activity really highlighted the importance of effective communication. Communication is about more than simply what you say, it’s also about what the other person hears. For this to be effective, you really have to have a back and forth dialogue to confirm that you understand what is being communicated.

For this event, the teams were (in no particular order): Nicole and Blaire, Kyle and Ellie, and Zachary and Courtney. Can you guess who was team 1, team 2, and team 3? More importantly, what can you tell about each team’s communication skills? What can each team do to improve? What can we each learn about each other in order to communicate better?

Here are some other icebreaker ideas for your next meeting:

  • Two truths and a lie — Each person has to deliver three statements, two of which are true, one is a lie, and then the group tries to guess the lie.
  • 10 Things in Common — Each person would have to think of one commonality they have with all the other members of the group. For instance: We all care deeply about our community. We all think queso is the best cheese. And other characteristics that are specific to your group or region, or just universal truths (thinking about the queso again).
  • Would you rather..?– Present two options, and have someone choose. Would you rather have a million dollars to create second story housing downtown or have a million dollars that you could use to hire consultants for design projects?

Please share your favorite icebreaker with us!