You’re looking for an activity to kick off your meeting, workshop or training, but you’re tired of the same old icebreaker activities you’ve seen on every list?
You’re in the right place! 😊
Here you will find a compilation of the best icebreaker activities, as recommended by others. However, I believe that these activities may not work effectively for most groups.
In this post, I will explain why they may not work and provide alternative activities that work so much better. If you’re looking for fresh and new activities, I’m sure you’ll find some valuable ideas in this post.
Let’s ditch these icebreakers!
This is part I of a series of posts where I research the most mentioned icebreaker activities online and in books and share my alternative icemelter activities. All of these activities will work in person and remotely (on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Bitter, etc):
1. Ditch: Fun Facts 🤪
Each person introduces themselves and then shares a “fun fact” or something unique about themselves. This icebreaker activity is meant as a great introduction activity when people don’t know each other yet, but it also creates some awkward moments.
❌ Why it Doesn’t Work
Split attention: If there is no time to think of your fun fact, it becomes impossible to listen to each other. Everyone is caught up in their own thoughts, trying to appear interesting and not boring. As a result, they don’t listen to what others have said, feel anxious, and therefore, the activity completely misses its intended purpose.
Competition: Participants may feel the need to be the most interesting person in the room, and introverts may fear being judged as boring, making this activity particularly challenging for them.
Discover: Samesies 🤗
By finding unique things that participants have in common, you can facilitate instant connections for groups. Engaging in this simple activity allows participants to foster stronger connections and build relationships based on shared interests and commonalities. It is an ideal activity for networking and team building.
- Share that the purpose of this activity is to uncover thing you have in common with others in this group and then divide your participants into groups of 2-3.
- Explain to them that they need to identify 10 commonalities. Encourage them to earn extra points by discovering the most unique, weird, and unusual things they have in common with others in their group. Ideally, it should be something that sets them apart from everyone else in the larger group.
- Either wait until all groups have found their 10 things or set a time limit of about 5 minutes before bringing everyone back.
- If there is time, have one person from each group present the commonalities they have discovered. Otherwise, simply ask each group to share the weirdest, most unusual, or unique thing they found out about each other. For larger virtual sessions, this can be done in the chat and then invite a few people to unmute and elaborate.
🧙♂️ Facilitator Tips
- Remind participants that the goal is to find “unusual” things in common, not just anything. So “we both breathe air” doesn’t really count.
- If you like, you can also change the question to something more specific, like “Find the most unique thing while excluding physical traits and places” or “Find the most unique thing in a specific category, like high school.”
- My favourite way to debrief this activity is to ask about what strategies groups have applied to find their commonalities and how this might be useful for networking.
✅ Why this works
- Smaller groups: Instead of sharing a fun fact and quickly moving on to the next person, there is more time to have conversations and connect in smaller groups. This is often preferred by shy, reserved, and introverted individuals.
- Playful and collaborative: Instead of being a competition to see who has the most interesting fact about themselves, this becomes a collaborative game where the group has to work together.
- Practicing vulnerability: After addressing the obvious things you might have in common with others, it requires one person to be vulnerable in order to go deeper. Groups that engage in this practice will discover more unique aspects that they share, resulting in stronger bonds.
2. Ditch: Two Truths & One Lie 🤥
In this classic get-to-know-you game, everyone shares three statements about themselves, but one’s a fib. Others have to spot the one that is a lie.
❌ Why it Doesn’t Work
Promotes Deception: While it’s intended to be fun, the essence of the game is deception, as participants are encouraged to trick others into believing a lie. This aspect can inadvertently sow seeds of distrust among group members, especially if the lie is not revealed or explained in a way that builds rapport. Starting off a relationship with a lie, even in a playful context, might not be the best foundation for trust.
Competitive: Instead of encouraging participants to listen and empathize with each other’s experiences, it prioritizes winning the game. This competitive nature might hinder the development of a supportive and collaborative environment, making it less about building genuine connections and more about proving one’s cleverness.
Excludes less imaginative: Not everyone is comfortable or skilled at thinking up believable lies or intriguing truths on the spot. This can put some people at a disadvantage, making them feel anxious or excluded from the group. It favors those who are quick thinkers or naturally creative, potentially leaving others feeling disconnected from the activity and the group.
Challenge to listen actively: Participants often spend more time internally brainstorming their own facts and ideas than actually listening to others. When a person is too focused on crafting their own statements, their ability to be present and truly connect with others’ stories is diminished.
Discover: Two Wins & One Wish 🌠
Unlike the traditional icebreaker game of “Two Truths and One Lie,” which can often turn into a competition, this activity focuses on building trust and connection. By sharing their achievements and aspirations, participants have the opportunity to get to know each other better. The goal is to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable offering and receiving support.
- Divide people into groups of three, preferably with individuals who don’t know each other well.
- Allow everyone some time to write down two recent accomplishments (wins) and one goal they hope to achieve in the next year (wish). These achievements can be related to their career, personal milestones, or even fun challenges they have set for themselves. I recommend giving everyone around 3-5 minutes to complete this task at the beginning so that they can fully engage in listening to others’ shares.
- One by one, they will share their accomplishments and aspirations, all expressed in the past tense, making it unclear what has not yet happened. For example:
- I lost 20 lbs. during one summer.
- I was featured in my local newspaper.
- I achieved $100,000 in sales in one year.
- The other participants should try to guess which one is the “wish,” although guessing correctly does not award any points. After revealing the correct answer, allow at least 5 minutes per round for others to ask questions about any of the facts that were shared.
- After everyone has shared, invite the groups to collaborate and find ways to support each other in order to achieve these wishes.
🧙♂️ Facilitator Tips
- When it comes to activities like this, having examples on hand can be really helpful. I suggest taking the time to come up with your own answers. This is a great chance to build connections and trust with your participants as the facilitator. I recommend making sure they are not too impressive but rather mediocre so it’s less competitive for the group.
- Make sure that everyone has enough time to write down their three facts. If you regularly work with your group, you can even introduce the activity at the end of a previous session or in an email and ask them to come prepared with their list.
- A great debrief question I like to ask in the end is “What are some themes that showed up in the things that people wished for?”
✅ Why This Works
Supportive Atmosphere: Unlike the competitive and sometimes deceitful nature of “Two Truths & One Lie,” this activity naturally leads to a more positive, uplifting environment where participants encourage and celebrate each other’s successes and support their goals, enhancing genuine connections.
Encourages Active Listening: Since the activity revolves around sharing personal victories and hopes, participants are more likely to listen attentively and engage meaningfully with each other. The structure of sharing in the past tense adds an element of curiosity without the competitive edge, making it easier for everyone to focus on listening rather than strategizing their own next move.
Shared Vulnerability: Sharing a wish or a goal introduces a level of vulnerability that “Two Truths & One Lie” lacks. This vulnerability is a powerful catalyst for building deeper connections. When individuals open up about their aspirations, it invites empathy, understanding, and a sense of community, laying the groundwork for stronger, more authentic relationships.
Inspires Mutual Support: The concluding part of this activity involves discussing how participants can support each other in achieving their shared wishes. This not only strengthens bonds but also turns the icebreaker from a simple getting-to-know-you activity into a collaborative effort that has a potential real-world impact on participants’ lives. It shifts the focus from individual achievements to communal growth and support.
3. Ditch: Never Have I Ever 🙅🏻♀️
This icebreaker game involves sharing experiences you’ve never had, with others admitting if they’ve done it.
❌ Why it Doesn’t Work
NSFW: While it’s a popular party game, it might not be the best choice for settings where the goal is to deepen interpersonal connections and build a supportive community. It can quickly become too personal or inappropriate for a professional environment.
Superficial Interactions: The game often leads to sharing experiences that are amusing or shocking rather than meaningful. While this can generate laughter or surprise, it doesn’t necessarily encourage participants to share more about their values, beliefs, or personal journeys. This focus on the superficial can limit opportunities for participants to truly connect on a deeper level.
Exclusion: Due to the nature of the activity, participants may occasionally find themselves in uncomfortable positions where they are asked to reveal personal or potentially embarrassing experiences. It is important to acknowledge that not everyone may feel comfortable sharing certain aspects of their lives. This can result in feelings of discomfort or exclusion, particularly if their experiences differ significantly from those of the rest of the group.
Differences vs Commonalities: The game’s structure can inadvertently highlight differences among participants rather than uncover shared experiences or interests. This focus on differences can hinder the development of a cohesive group dynamic and make it more challenging to find common ground upon which to build genuine connections.
Discover: Show Yourself 🙋♀️
While the facilitator reads out various statements, the participants uncover their cameras (or stand up) if a statement is true for them. This serves as a low-risk way for individuals to connect and get to know each other better and discover shared experiences or attributes.
- Explain that the objective of this activity is to foster connections and learn about each other in a fun, respectful way.
- Get participants set up:
- In-Person: Have participants stand in a line or in a circle
- Virtual: Advise everyone to switch their view to gallery mode to see all participants simultaneously and then invite them to turn off their cameras (or cover them with a sticky note or any random object).
- Share with the group that you will call out specific categories, labels, or descriptions. Request that participants who identify with these descriptions either turn on their camera (for virtual settings) or step forward (for in-person settings).
- Explain the process with an example, such as saying, “I love cats.” Inform participants that if this statement describes them and they feel comfortable acknowledging it, they should respond by turning on their camera or stepping forward.
- Here is a list of possible statements to choose from:
- I prefer summer more than winter.
- I have kids at home
- I am a pet parent … share the name of your pet in the chat
- I’m excited for this session
- It’s early morning for me / I’m staying up late to be in the session
- I live in a different place than I grew up
- Remind participants that there is no pressure to turn on your camera / step forward if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. They will need to make that decision.
- Allow a brief moment for participants to see and recognize who shares their experiences or traits. This moment is crucial for building connections.
- Share the next statement and continue this process for 8-10 rounds before you debrief.
🧙♂️ Facilitator Tips
- Prepare your prompt statements in advance. Connect them to your session purpose and to your specific audience. Start with some easy statements and gradually increase the level of vulnerability. Ideally, at the end, you ask something fun and light again to lead into the next part of your agenda.
- Take a moment to acknowledge the people who show themselves. You may want to say something like: “This is the ‘People Who Are Pet Parents’ club.” And especially acknowledge the courage of someone standing by themselves.
- It’s a great idea after you’ve shared a few statements, to ask the group if anyone wants to come up with a statement for the group. This is a great way to invite group members to contribute to the session and increase engagement.
- At the end, you can ask the group to share any reflections – What did they notice? What surprised them? What are some similarities? What are some differences?
- This activity can be played in person and online. Here are different ways participants can show that a statement is true for them:
- In-person: stand up, step forward, raise your hand
- Virtually: turn camera on, uncover camera with hand, sticky note or other objects, click raise hand button
✅ Why This Works
Non-verbal participation: Instead of asking group members to speak up or answer questions—which can be daunting for some—the activity relies on simple physical actions or clicks. This approach lowers the barrier to participation significantly. Moving one’s body by stepping forward, standing up, or merely clicking a button feels much less intimidating than verbalizing responses, especially for those who are shy or introverted.
No Pressure: Unlike games that may compel participants to reveal personal or potentially uncomfortable information, this activity offers a flexible, low-pressure environment. Participants have the choice to share based on statements they resonate with, allowing them to control how much they disclose. This voluntary participation fosters a safe space for individuals to engage at their comfort level, enhancing the feeling of mutual respect and understanding within the group.
Shared Experiences: By visually representing commonalities, whether it’s a love for winter or being a pet parent, this activity instantly highlights shared interests and experiences. Seeing others “show themselves” in response to the same statements can create instant bonds over shared attributes, making it easier for participants to feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie.
Builds Momentum for Deeper Conversations: Starting with lighter, more general statements and gradually moving to more personal disclosures allows participants to warm up to each other and build trust incrementally. This approach not only makes participants more comfortable but also lays the groundwork for deeper, more meaningful conversations.
Do you want to learn more activities that MELT the ice instead of BREAKING it?
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Imagine you’re designing a new workshop, training, or meeting and want your participants to engage and connect, but you’re struggling to find new ideas.
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- And when you do find a promising activity, you’re wondering if it will work for your group size and timing or how to adapt it to work on Zoom.
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