Everyone will most likely recall the first day walking into a new workplace, college, marketing team, or corporate meeting. The new environment comes with its challenges, and one of them is having to introduce oneself to a bunch of strangers. While the regular introduction is one of the ways to get acquainted with team members, it is not the most efficient method; that is where icebreakers come in handy.
Icebreakers are designed to help familiarize people and mainly involve sharing of names, background information, and other personal/professional information. They help introduce team members in an informal, yet intimate way, while helping participants relax and ease into a meeting or training.
Icebreakers break through the shy, awkward feeling that most people encounter when around strangers. These activities can be used in a number of surroundings: social gatherings, schools, work settings, and sport teams.
The group leader should consider the age/size of the team; whether the topics in question are familiar or unfamiliar to group members; or whether participants hail from different backgrounds. When choosing team icebreakers, it is necessary to be conscious of the team dynamics. The selected activities should accommodate every team member, and no one should be forced to reveal information or participate in an uncomfortable event. In addition, the icebreakers should be in line with the topic of discussion or the goal of the entire team.
This list of icebreakers is recommended for team members; whether they know each other or have never met before. The list is detailed and is sure to provide some of the best team icebreakers. The games are not in any particular order, but can be tweaked to suit the goal of the day or to suit the given environment. In most cases, these icebreakers will require the guidance of a team leader or facilitator.
- Introductions/ Who am I?: Members pair up and are given five minutes to share vital information about each other. Each member is then asked to introduce a partner to the rest of the team.
- Networking Bingo: Each contestant is issued with a preprinted bingo card and a pen. The card should have 5-7 unique characteristics. Each member is then required to move around (network) the room and identify another team member who fits the details in the sheet. That person then signs the box. Once a player has all of his/her choices filled, that person yells BINGO! And everyone stops to allow that person to read the traits. One rule is that no name should be used more than once. Once a winner is determined, the winner’s card can be used to introduce the rest of the team members
- Fact or Fiction/ Two Truths and a Lie/Three things about me: Every team member is required to write down THREE things on a piece of paper. Two are true, and one is false. Every member should then read out the three ‘facts’ while the rest of the group votes which ones are true or false.
- Seating plan: Ask contestants to arrange their seats according to their first name or in order of their birthday.
- Lollipop: Pass out lollipops to every group member and ask the participants to read the flavors. For every letter appearing in the flavor, members should say something about themselves to the group.
- Summer Activities Name game: Team members introduce themselves and disclose their summer activity. Members are required to present themselves with their first names. They should then reveal any activities that they partook in summer that starts with the same letter as their first names.
- Gossip: The group sits in a circle, and the team leader shares a secret with the next person in the circle. The secret is then shared across the circle, but should not be repeated twice to the same person. Once the secret is back to its source (team leader), it is shared with everyone, and a comparison is made with the original information.
- Name and Number: Members write down their name on one side of a card and number on the other then tape the card to their shirt with only the names showing. They then walk around and introduce themselves to as many people as they can. After some mingling, everyone is required to turn his or her card so that the number shows instead of the name. Team members should then write down – on a numbered piece of paper- as many names as they can recall, to the corresponding number.
- Famous Pairs/ Famous faces: Team members are required to identify the names of famous persons/celebrities. The nametag of the famous person is then taped on the back of each group player – the member should not see the tape on his/her back. The members are then asked to identify who they are. Each participant is allowed to loiter in the room and ask questions that can only be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
- Would you rather?: Would you rather (eat peas or bananas? Use a bus or airplane? Read a book or watch a movie?). Questions may range depending on the motive of the team. First, the contestants straddle a tape then jump left or right depending on their answers.
- I Have Never: Each participant starts with some candy then goes round the circle completing the sentence, “I have never…” If a member has done what the leading contestant has never done, they have to give that contestant some candies.
- Wallet/Purse introductions: The contestants have to pull out an item from their purse or wallets and explain how the item represents them.
- Pile of Hats: The candidates are required to gather as many hats as they can and place them in the middle of the room. Group members should then sit in a circle around the hats. Each member is then given a chance to pick a hat of their choice, giving a reason why the hat represents them and how they feel at that moment. Everyone is given an opportunity to select a hat and give an explanation.
- Hog call: Divide the team into two pairs and ask each pair to choose two things, either a machine or animal. The members must decide who is which: animal or machine. Each pair then distributes to opposite sides of the room, and everyone is required to close their eyes. Every individual is required to identify another by the sound that person makes. The task requires some supervision.
- Marooned: Members should answer how many items – limited to five – they would have brought with them if they were to be left behind on an island. Members are only limited to five items per team and not per person.
- String Necklaces: The objective of this game is to get as many strings as possible on one’s neck by getting other members to say “no” to one’s questions. Tie a necklace or yarn around everyone’s neck and ask some questions. If anyone responds with a “no,” he/she has to surrender his/her necklace.
- Pat on the back: Each person is required to draw an outline of his/her hand on a sheet of paper, which is then taped behind one’s back. Every team member then writes something positive on the back of another member.
- We are one: One member provides a classification upon which all the other members organize themselves. For example, the member can ask those wearing black shoes to stand together.
- Demographics: Brainstorm background data that the contestants may be interested in knowing about each member (for example, age, education, etc.). In reference to the demographics, have every participant choose who they are.
- Where are you?: Before members meet, the team leader needs to pick a date and ask everyone what they were doing on that date.
- Human Knot: Participants stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, and stretch their left hand into the middle of the circle to join with another person (not directly to his/her left or right). Each participant then places his/her right hand into the circle to join hands with another person. After their hands have tangled, they are required to untangle without breaking grips within the group.
- Partner TV commercials: Members are divided into groups of two and asked to interview each other within a limited time- say 3 minutes. Each member is then given a minute to come up with a television commercial marketing the other partner.
- Contrasting statement: The leader comes up with a list of contrasting groups, for example, day/night. After each pair is revealed, the entire team should divide into two and join the group that they best relate to (for example day). Within each group, members are asked to explain their choice.
- Uncle Fred’s suitcase: In a circle, the first person (a volunteer) starts the game with “I packed Uncle Fred’s suitcase with………..” then names some object or item. The person seated next to the first person must then repeat what the volunteer has said, and add his/her item. The game continues around the circle, and each participant is required to recite the previous object/items then add another. The members are allowed to help a partner who forgets some object. After the last person has repeated the details and added his/hers, the entire group then stands to recite what is in the suitcase: “ I packed Uncle Fred’s suitcase with…..,…..,……..,……., etc. The object/items can be replaced with the member’s names.
- Hometown: A large outline of state or country is placed on the floor or wall, and participants are required to put their hometowns and names on the map. Participants then proceed to share more information about their hometowns and how they joined the team.
- M&Ms/ Pass it around: A bag of M&Ms is required for introducing groups to each other. One group sits in a circle, and the bag is moved around. Team members are expected to help themselves with the M&Ms, but not to eat them. Once the bag has been around the entire circle, each member must reveal one thing about himself/herself for every M&M taken. This activity has some variations.
- The question web: Members stand in a circle. The leader holds the end of a spool of wool or string and throws it to one member to catch. The member then chooses to answer a question (from a list of already prepared questions). Holding the string, he or she then releases it to another team member who repeats the same method (chooses another question to answer). In the end, a web is created, and team members learn more about each player.
- All Together Now: Divide the team into groups depending on the number. It can be groups of three, four, or five. Colleagues in each cluster are then required to talk about themselves (including their dislikes and likes). The aim is to find three things in common to the other members of the group.
- Superlatives: Each participant is asked to study the group composition and decide on a superlative adjective that describes themselves in reference to others (fastest, most organized, happiest, etc.). The participants then give more details about their choice.
- Balloons: Use small pieces of papers to prepare questions and put those questions inside a balloon. Have each team member pop a balloon to retrieve a question and answer the question to the group.
- Name Tag: Every member needs to make a nametag that includes a picture. The picture (symbol, cartoon, building, nature) should be able to say something about that person. Alternatively, people can write answers to specific questions (for example, where do you live?) in the corner. Every person should then be given a chance to explain his/her drawing.
- Chaos/ Toss a Name: Organize contestants in a circle and ensure everyone introduces himself/herself. One player then begins by tossing an object to another, saying, “Hi, Name of Person.” Once the other person catches the object, he/she says, “Thanks, Name of tosser.” The receiver then calls upon another person before tossing the object to him or her. After the ball has been thrown for some time, a second ball can be added to make it more interesting.
- Blanket name game: The entire team is divided into two groups and asked to sit on the floor facing each other. A blanket is placed between the groups so that each team cannot view the other. A member from one of the teams is quietly asked to move to the blanket until all members face each other – but cannot view each other because of the blanket. On the count of three, the blanket is dropped, and each person is expected to remember the name of the person facing him/her.
- Common Ground: Give the team members a specific time (say 7 minutes) to write down a list of all the things they have in common, but they should avoid the obvious. Once the time elapses, each group should disclose the number of items they have listed and reveal any unusual details.
- Talent show: Team members are given a chance to name and share the talent of their choice. This game enables the members to share the skills they have
- Conversations: Every contestant is given a sheet of paper with some instructions. The instructions should be structured in a way to ensure every member speaks to everyone around.
- Personal coat of arms: Every person is given a sheet of paper with a blank coat of arms. Each participant is required to respond to specific statements/questions in each quadrant. Each participant is then asked to draw a motto or symbol about his/her shield that is representative of him/her. Participants should then share their results with the group.
- Interview/fun facts: Divide the team members into pairs then ask them to interview each other. Each interviewer should aim to find three unique facts about their interviewee. Everyone should then be asked to present the three facts about their partner to the rest of the team.
- Paper plate dates/Make a date: Each participant is given a paper plate and asked to draw the face of a clock on the plate. With a horizontal line next to each number, each member is required to walk around to find a ‘date’ for each hour. Once everyone has found a date, he/she is required to write his/her name on the line. The whole point is that no member can have a ‘date’ with more than one person per hour. The date can only take place if each pair has the same time available. The team leader can then speed up time to allow a few minutes for each hour after everyone has made a date. Each pair should get the chance to know each other. For this exercise, gender is not an issue.
- Who’s done that?: Prepare a list of around 20-25 skills or experiences that are relevant to the team. Make enough copies for everyone and ensure there is sufficient space below each item. Let every person find someone who can sign one of the lines. The signee should leave their name and contact information.
- Ball Toss: Everyone should stand up to form a circle and face each other. Toss a beanbag or ball to a person and have that person share an interesting fact. That person then throws the ball to another player who is also required to share some facts.
- Dear Dolores: Participants sit in a circle, and each person starts by giving their name accompanied with an adjective that begins with the first letter of their name (E.g. Industrious Ian, Happy Helen). The next contestant repeats the person’s name and adjective followed by his or her name and adjective. The process continues in the circle.
- Lifelines: A ‘lifeline’ is drawn across a massive sheet of paper, and each member is required to mark a date (each date needs labeling for explanation) on the line that represents specific moments in their lives: turning points, lows, highs or other significant events. Each member then shares their dates with the other players. The group is then given a chance to ask questions about each other’s lifelines.
- Me Too: Each contestant is given ten scraps of papers or pennies. The first person then states what he/she has done, and everyone else who has done the same thing must admit and put their paper or penny in the middle of the table. The second person states something else (e.g. I have never gone skiing) and anyone who agrees puts another penny in the center. The game continues until one person runs out of pennies.
- Traffic lights: Divide members into teams and draw traffic lights on a chart in front of the room. The lights are representative of action plans: what they need to stop doing (red light), what they should minimize doing (yellow light), and what they should continue doing (green light). Each participant should then write his/her traffic lights and explain it to the group.
- Did you see it?: Members take turns asking each other questions about their environment (college/workplace/home). For example, what is the name of the new receptionist? The game investigates how much attention people pay to their surroundings.
- Important item: Participants are required to bring something of significance with them. Every member is then given a chance to explain why that thing is necessary. In some cases, players can be given an opportunity to guess the owner of a given item.
- Progressive story: This exercise requires that members know each other and feel comfortable discussing personal issues. For this game, listening is crucial, but members do not have to sit in a circle. The team leader begins the story and in no special order, another group member picks up the story adding another element to the plot. The main idea is to ensure everyone adds something. The progression of the story is representative of the member’s emotions.
- Animal imitation: Arrange chairs in a circle and label each chair with the name of a particular animal. The team members are required to replicate the gestures and sounds associated with the animals in question. Members then rotate and imitate the animal labeled on their new chair.
- The Shoe Game: The group is required to stand in a large circle, shoulder to shoulder. Members are then expected to remove their shoes. At the team leader’s command, every member runs to the middle of the circle and throws their shoes in the pile. The first person then chooses a pair of shoe- that is not his/hers- and makes a statement about the owner based on the appearance of the shoes. The shoe owner then comes forth and introduces himself/herself to the other members before picking another pair of shoes to ‘analyze.’ The process is repeated until everyone has been introduced based on their shoes.
- Positive Bombardment (or feedback): One participant is selected to receive positive feedback from the other team members. Once that person has received feedback from everyone, another person is chosen. There are a number of ways to perform this activity.
The team leader should come up with some follow up questions for each icebreaker. The questions should be used to rate the effectiveness of each.
If you enjoyed these 51 Team Icebreakers you might also want to check out our 76 Icebreaker Questions.