I have already explained you how to run a remote team meeting here. One thing that was not mentioned there, but is still very advisable to include, is how and when to use the icebreakers. The simplest definition says that ”icebreaker is simply an approach you can use to get conversations flowing, and to break down barriers or shyness between team members. You might use one to kick off a face-to-face training session, to get everyone “in the mood” for a meeting, or to energize a team event”. Virtual ice breakers don’t differ from the ”live” ones, despite the fact that you need to use them in online situations.
The idea of an icebreaker is to use it at the beginning of any teleconference or videoconference. Using ice breaker can be a good practice if your team members are in different locations, and have never been able to meet in person.
Types of icebreakers
Snapshot of your life – taking one and sharing with other meeting participants is a fun way to get everyone connected. You may e.g. take a snapshot of what is outside your window, or how does your home office look like.
Ask non-work related questions – it’s rather hard to break the ice during team meeting if you are focused only on business matters. A good idea might be to start the appointment with fun, non-work related questions and let everybody share their answer. Topics like favourite movie, childhood toys or memories are never too old to talk about.
True/false statement games – quite a common excerise that is a good way to get to know each other better. Each participant prepares a couple of true and one false statement about themselves (or two false, one true, doesn’t matter). Then, as a collective, the other team members must decide which statement is false (or true). Except for getting to know something about each other, this excercise also helps build team cohesion and collaboration.
Welcoming participants – that’s not an excercise, but rather a good practice, but helps every participant feel more comfortable from the very beginning of the meeting. Greet each person as they hop on the call. Ask them a social question (e.g. ”It’s snowing today in Wrocław, how is London?”). Just make sure you don’t delay the start time because of this social introductions.
Just a couple of examples, but right now you should have at least some idea how to start the meeting not coming immediately into business matters. However, there are some situations in which icebreakers might be counterproductive:
First meeting with client – of course it’s up to you how you run your business, but getting into icebreaker activity as the first interaction with the client might be perceived as unprofessional
Your team already knows each other – If your team members are already going out for lunch together, there isn’t much need to provide a structured activity for them to get to know each other. One exception would be if only part of the team is located elsewhere; then you might incorporate this kind of activity just to bring the remote group in.
Cultural issues – be aware of them – you need to be very sensitive when asking icebreaker questions. Remember that questions that deal with sexuality, religion, nationality or private life can ruin the meeting before it even starts.
Virtual ice breakers can help remote team members improve their relationships with one another, and they can promote creativity and problem solving within the group.
Consider whether a virtual ice breaker is appropriate for your meeting, organization or participants. Think hard about your goals and objectives before you design or choose it. You’ll also need to take into account the functionality of your participants’ technology, as well as any differences in time zones and culture.
As always, you are welcome to share your inputs if you have any other idea how to break the ice beofre you start the remote meeting.