Brrr, It’s cold in here!
The best ice breakers have the power to create new attendee connections, stimulate better breakout conversations, and create an atmosphere of inclusivity and well, fun! But it's easier said than done, and the wrong ice breaker questions can lead to awkwardness or even increased tension. How can you build great connections quicker?
We know conference networking is hard and forced conversations in a breakout even more challenging. Which is why we’re such a big proponent of using the discussion boards in a mobile event app before you get onsite. Because it's 10x as easier to talk to someone in person if you've engaged with them online previously...but we digress.
Thinking Up Ice Breakers Can Be Time-Consuming
Asking "How is everyone?" at the beginning of every session isn't always the best way to encourage connections. And whether or not you’re doing it digitally or face to face, sometimes, you need to take it a step further with an ice breaker.
This is just one more thing for your to do list though. And we don’t want to be those people who’ve given you yet another task to complete. Instead, we've compiled a list of some of our favorite ice breaker games.
Next time you need an easy way to get those attendee conversations started, now you can use one of these games instead of asking "How is everyone", and you're sure to hear some better, more insightful responses than "I'm good."
Event Ice Breaker Games We Love
Ice Breakers Built for Online and Face to Face
Would You Rather
18 and Under
Ice Breakers Best for Onsite
One Word Game
Two Truths and a Lie
Who is it?
Ice Breakers That Can be Played Before and During an Event
Place a map and a set of pins at the front of the room or place a digital map that people can interact with in a discussion forum. As people become part of the group or join you in the breakout room, ask them to place a pin where they were born or raised.
As the map fills up with pins, people will learn about how diverse the event they are attending might be. Make sure to keep the map available for attendees to walk up and look more closely at the map.
Pro tip: Michigan, known as the Mitten State, can be an extra bit of fun if you can get those attendees to drop in selfies of them showing everyone where they’re from on their hand. In 20 years, I’ve literally never met someone from Michigan who didn’t immediately do this when asked where they’re from and they're always so overjoyed to share their home state pride.
To successfully loosen everyone up and get them in the right mindset for meeting and connecting with new friends, you might consider putting a short Pop Quiz in your discussion board.
If your goal is simply to encourage attendee bonding, your quiz can be more fun -- like, "Match the lyrics with this 90's song". However, you might also use the Pop Quiz as an opportunity to introduce participants' to the event’s theme.
If you're discussing association membership facts, for instance, maybe you'll start by quizzing attendees on association history facts (i.e. "What year was this association founded?"). If it’s a company event, for instance, instead you can ask “When did our company go public?”
"Would You Rather" is actually an excellent, quick ice breaker for events! In fact, I love this game especially for before you arrive onsite because introverts everywhere will play it online but though they're less willing to engage in person. And even if they don’t engage before, they’re absorbing the information which prepares them better to interact in person. Extroverts love it because it’s built on competition. Win-win!
Here are a few "Would You Rather" questions to get you started:
- Would you rather eat peas or carrots for the rest of your life?
- Would you rather Chris Hemsworth or Chris Pine?
- Would you rather go on a hike or see a movie?
- Would you rather never use social media sites and apps again, or never watch another movie or TV show?
- Would you rather have a horrible short term memory or a horrible long term memory?
You can also make it event specific and learn your attendees’ preferences for locations, food, session types, etc.
Don’t be afraid to make it funny or slightly risque either. A little bit of leg isn’t terrible as long as you know your attendees’ cultural line.
18 & Under is an engaging and unique way to encourage attendees to share fun or interesting stories with one another. Start a discussion that asks each person in the group to share one accomplishment they had before they turned 18.
Undoubtedly you'll get some of lesser importance, like "I visited Hawaii," but you never know what hidden skills or fun stories you might discover in your attendees
Pro tip: This is a great discussion to have one of your company influencers or association volunteers moderate? It works best if it’s a two-way conversation. Plant the seeds and help keep the conversation moving.
Asking fun questions is an easy and effective ice breaker game. To play, simply go around the room and have each person provide an answer to a fun question. The questions are up to you, but if you're stuck, here are a few ideas:
- If you didn’t work in “your industry”, what would you be doing?
- What’s the craziest travel experience you’ve ever had?
- If you could be any superhero, what would you be and why?
- What was the first concert you ever went to?
- If you could have any celebrity over for drinks, who would it be and why?
These questions serve two purposes -- first, they allow your attendees to get into an easy to chat, more interactive mindset. Second, they encourage conversation on topics typically reserved for outside the conference center, which enables attendees to get to know one another on a deeper level.
Ice Breakers That Work Best Onsite
The One Word ice breaker allows you to provide initial context into an event or session's topic, and gets everyone in the right mindset for discussion.
To play, you'll want to divide meeting participants into smaller groups. Then, tell them to think for a minute or two, and then share with their group one word that describes X.
For instance, let's say you're leading a meeting on culture. Tell the groups to describe work culture, or your office culture in particular, in one word. Once they've shared with their groups, you can invite them to share their word with the entire room.
This game encourages everyone to think about a certain topic in smaller groups ahead of time, which could increase participation during the meeting.
Yeah yeah, one of the more classic ice breakers in the list, this one technically could be played online before you get to the event. HOWEVER, people’s facial expressions make it solid gold to play it in person.
To play, you simply ask each person to reveal three "facts" about themselves -- two of the facts will be true, and one will be a lie.
For instance, I might say, "I’ve eaten at every Michelin starred restaurant in DC. I have two sisters. I once traveled literally around the globe in less than 20 days." Attendees take turns guessing which is the lie. (FYI, while I do know someone who HAS eaten at every DC Michelin restaurant, it unfortunately isn’t me, so that's the lie. However, I did travel round the world in less than 20 days and am still paying for it in jet lag.)
Two Truths and a Lie is a fun and engaging game, and more importantly, it can help your attendees learn facts about one another, so they can begin forming deeper connections
This ice breaker can promote attendee bonding, and it's one of the easier options in the list. Simply choose a brief personality quiz on your phone or computer (if you're stuck, here's a list), put the link in your event app, and have everyone open the session, take it and get going!
Once everyone has completed the personality assessment, have each attendee mention one thing they agree or disagree with in their results. This game allows everyone to gain a new perspective on the people sitting next to them, and it's also a fun and easy way to get an interesting conversation started.
Divide folks into sections. Break up groups that know each other. Then, have everyone write a unique, strange, or unexpected fact about themselves on a sticky note. Then, have the attendee place it on the wall. Either the speaker or other attendees can pull one down and start reading.
Allow attendees to try and guess who wrote it. After they guess, ask the employee who wrote the fact to identify themselves and give any further context if necessary. This could be a great way to get to know surprising new things about your teammates.
This game is simple and meant to energize your attendees. Arrange attendees in a circle and ask one volunteer to sit or stand in the middle. Tell the volunteer that they can not laugh or smile, regardless of what happens. Then have each other attendee take turns telling the volunteer an event-appropriate joke.
The goal of the volunteer is to hear a joke from every attendee around the circle, while the goal of the other attendees is to make the volunteer laugh.
Don’t Settle for Average Attendee Engagement
If you're looking for more engagement, more connectivity, the best experience, every tool and trick you use has to have the best bang for your investment. Your attendees expect more and exceptional meeting planners don't settle for the base minimum — they use engaging content AND flexible and innovative event solutions like Pathable to answer specific needs of their attendees and create a much more engaging and experience-driven event in the process.
How Pathable Can Help
Our team is always standing by to answer questions, bounce ideas off of, and meet up with you at the next industry tradeshow to chat about options you're considering. If you’re looking for more in-depth advice on apps and event management, subscribe to the Pathable blog or join us for one of our monthly CMP webinars. And as always, when you're ready to take the next step, don’t hesitate to schedule a demo!