Picture this. You’ve been planning your company’s Sales & Marketing offsite for months. You’ve navigated the complicated web of accommodation bookings. You’ve charted the map the bus route will take. You’ve spoken to 5 different caterers, listened to 12 DJs, tested out the zip line, and jam-packed the event agenda full of exciting activities. The day is finally here, yet your whole team is sitting in the main conference room in complete silence. You can literally hear the crickets outside.
What are you missing? You probably guessed it by now. You’re missing an activity to break the ice. Getting employees engaged from the start is fairly crucial as it will set the tone for the rest of the event. One of the best ways to do that is to kick off with some icebreaker questions that will enable the team to get to know each other, share some stories, and ease into the day.
What is an icebreaker?
A set of questions, games, or activities intended to soften the atmosphere within a group of people, making them feel more comfortable to communicate freely.
Icebreakers: the spoonful of sugar for an awkward silence
You might be thinking that there’s no way there’ll be an awkward silence at your team activity. Why would there be, when everyone talks to one another every day? Well, talking in a professional capacity is not the same as having a friendly conversation with a colleague. Just because people talk every day, doesn’t mean that they’ve ever talked about anything other than the task they’re dealing with.
What’s more, as the world becomes increasingly distributed, bringing remote teams together might mean that some of your team members are only seeing each other in person for the first time! The transition from a fully online relationship to one in real life could be harder to adapt to for some than you may think.
5 reasons you need icebreaker questions or games at your next company event
1. They help people feel more relaxed
Not everyone is a social butterfly – and that’s absolutely fine. Coming up with a fun conversation that gets everyone involved straight off the bat means that even the quietest of teammates will feel more comfortable starting to chat. You’ll help the proverbial ice start to melt and people will warm up to one another and the day ahead.
2. They inspire team bonding
Fun icebreaker questions are very likely to be the beginning of a friendship among colleagues! Think about it – maybe they’ve never spoken about their favorite TV show before, or whether they’re more of a cat or dog person.
By opening the door to more personal questions (without taking that too far, of course), you lay the groundwork for colleagues to get to know each other outside the confines of their daily tasks. And yes, you guessed it – this is precisely the kind of thing that boosts employee engagement in the long run.
3. They help newbies feel like part of the team
Inevitably, you’ll have a couple of newbies among the throng at your company event. While many of the team members will likely have already known each other for some time, newbies have a whole new world to discover. Having everyone play a “get to know you” type game will take all your team members on a journey of discovery together, taking the pressure off the newbie to tackle this on their own.
4. They usually start the day off with laughter
Chances are, the event that you’ve planned is pretty content-heavy. An offsite, for example, will likely entail a day of presentations, brainstorming, and workshops. And yes, those activities certainly are fun and mentally stimulating – but they can be quite a lot. Starting the day off with laughter is the perfect way to get everyone motivated and in the mood for what’s to come.
5. They’ll usually make for a great anecdote later
One of the benefits of team events is that they foster a sense of belonging and bonding among teams. A key component of that is having a shared experience and a memory to talk about after the fact. Hearing a funny story from your VP of Growth, for example, about how he loves to sing along to Encanto is something employees are likely to remember and talk about for some time after the event. That just keeps this friendly, social atmosphere going for longer!
“Would you rather” icebreaker questions
This type of question usually posits two different, and fairly extreme, choices for people to choose from. The idea is for people to make an impulse decision – the resulting differences are likely to make for a lively and fun debate! Here are a few examples:
- Would you rather eat burritos or hot dogs for the rest of your life?
- Would you rather be stranded on a desert island alone or with your high school principal?
- Would you rather go to space or explore the deepest depths of the ocean?
- Would you rather live in the Wizarding World from Harry Potter or in Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings?
- Would you rather go to a rock concert or an opera?
- Would you rather have to speak in public for an hour or not talk at all for a day?
- Would you rather be the host of a successful podcast or be on a talk show for one episode?
- Would you rather go to a tennis match or a soccer game?
- Would you rather go back to high school or go back to college?
- Would you rather travel back in time or go to the future?
With ice-breaker questions aimed at team building, what you want to achieve is for people to get into a conversation and discover something new about each other. That’s why leaving these questions open-ended and encouraging someone to speak up first will get you the best results. Chances are you won’t get through many, but the few you make it through will be interesting!
- What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done yet?
- If you could live any Disney movie, which one would it be?
- Do you have any fun, weird, or interesting family traditions?
- What do you think would be the most useful tool in a zombie apocalypse?
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
- What do you think the theme song to your life would be?
- What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?
- What’s your greatest pet peeve?
- What famous person would you pick to play you in a movie?
- What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you in a team meeting?
Deeper “get to know you” questions
This list of icebreaker questions is better for smaller groups where you want team members to really drill down and get to know each other on a deeper level. Be careful not to overstep your boundaries, and never make anyone answer a question they’re not comfortable with!
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
- How did you meet your best friend?
- What’s your favorite place to get away and recharge?
- What’s your favorite way to unwind after a long day?
- What’s the last thing you always do before leaving your house?
- What are 3 things on your bucket list?
- If you had a million dollars, what’s the first thing you’d do with it?
- If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what would it be?
- What was your first day at your first ever job like?
- What phrase or cliché do you most live by?
Funny ice breaker questions
Sure, the questions themselves might not be so funny – but the answers could well be!
- What’s the funniest fashion trend you ever followed loyally?
- Who is your biggest celebrity crush?
- What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?
- What ice cream flavor would you ban and why?
- Who is your most hated cartoon character?
- What’s the one trivia question you can never remember the answer to?
- What’s your favorite song to sing at a karaoke bar?
- If you could participate in the Olympics, which sport would you most like to do?
- Which emoji do you use most often?
- What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s appeared in the background of a Zoom call?
Understanding where people come from is a great way to learn more about who they are today. People normally enjoy sharing anecdotes from their lives and their past – so this list of icebreaker questions is perfect both for teams full of newbies as well as teams who have known each other for some time.
- Did you play a musical instrument growing up? Which one?
- What was your favorite movie as a child?
- Do you have any siblings?
- Have you ever been told you look like someone famous?
- What was your favorite thing to study in school?
- What was your least favorite house chore?
- Do you speak any other languages?
- What was your favorite food you ate at home?
- Did you play any sports as a child? Do you still play?
- Which fictional character did you always admire and why?
Strictly professional questions
- What was your first job?
- What’s the best team-building activity you participated in?
- What do you wish people told you as a new employee?
- What’s the most important aspect of our company culture for you?
- How do you like to introduce yourself when you join a new team?
- Do you prefer remote work, hybrid, or on-site?
- What’s your favorite company event of the year?
- What did you want to be when you were growing up?
- What’s the most inspiring thing someone at work told you?
- Are you more of a Mac or Windows person?