When you hear the phrase “team icebreaker,” your first thought might be those traditional activities like using uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows to build towers, or playing a game of charades that you really didn’t want to take part in.
The good news is that team icebreakers are no longer like this.
Today’s team icebreakers are more fun to take part in, and feel more rewarding — probably because your team members see them as a chance to break the routine and get to know each other better, instead of an opportunity to feel awkward in front of others.
In this guide, we’re sharing:
- What a team icebreaker is
- Why team icebreakers are valuable
- Our best team icebreaker ideas that your team members will actually enjoy
Let’s wave goodbye to workspace icebreakers of the past and discover more about how to use icebreakers in a more effective way to unite your team and build better relationships.
What is a team icebreaker?
A team icebreaker is any activity, game, or question that breaks down barriers between your team members and helps them connect. Icebreakers are normally used at corporate retreats, team building events, and as part of virtual meetings to introduce people to each other and build relationships.
Popular icebreakers include games like “would you rather?” and activities like scavenger hunts or speed networking. Another great option is a series of quick icebreaker questions, which gives you a way to get people engaged even if you’re short on time.
Why team icebreakers are so valuable
Icebreakers don’t just give your team members something to talk about or engage with. They’re useful for a whole host of other reasons too.
Here’s a rundown of the top benefits of introducing team icebreakers:
- 🔒 Stronger sense of community and trust
- 🔗 Better connections between team members and across teams
- 🧩 Higher levels of problem solving and team collaboration skills
- 😀 Dedicated time and space for team building and growth
- 💚 Greater sense of company culture, experience, and values
- 📝 More collaborations between team members
- 💡 Unexpected ideas, inspiration, and innovations through brainstorming
Team icebreaker activities give your people something to discuss, debate, or take part in during team meetings and events — giving even your most introverted team members a topic to discuss or a way to engage without feeling overwhelmed.
11 of the best team building icebreaker ideas
We know that team icebreakers are worth investing in, but what exactly should you all do together? Here are the best icebreaker games and team building activities for small groups — whether you work in-person, hybrid, or remotely.
1. Guess who
Guess who is a simple game that can become a useful team building exercise that also works your logic, teamwork, and problem solving skills. Share a fun fact about someone in the group, and ask your team members to say who they think it is.
You can expand this to other mediums too — share an image that someone has drawn, an object that belongs to a team member, or a photo from a team member’s previous vacation.
2. Icebreaker questions
Your team icebreakers don’t have to be complicated. Sometimes all you need is a question to spark discussion before your team meeting. For this, we love questions like:
- What’s expensive but totally worth it?
- What is your superpower?
- If you could only have one item on a desert island, what would it be?
- What’s your favorite movie or TV show?
- If you could have dinner with any famous person, who would it be?
- What’s your favorite thing to order at the coffee shop?
- What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
- What’s the top item on your bucket list?
This list of questions is only the beginning. There’s no shortage of ideas you could use to start a conversation or get your team member’s opinions on. Use Polly’s Zoom icebreakers features to simplify the process and create a more engaging experience than your standard Zoom polls.
3. Scavenger hunt
For teams that love to get up and move around, a scavenger hunt is a fun way to bring your in-person, hybrid, or virtual team together. Host a big event for a large group or ask your team to hunt down one object before your weekly team meeting.
When you’re not in-person, stick to objects that your remote team is likely to have close by. Set a time limit, and the first team member back with a completed checklist is the winner.
4. Would you rather?
Like general icebreaker questions, would you rather questions are a great choice if you’re limited by time and still want to get some team building into your meeting or event.
Create conversation with questions like:
- Would you rather climb a mountain or dive deep in the sea?
- Would you rather be a chef or a zookeeper for a day?
- Would you rather work and travel or stay in one place?
- Would you rather attend a live concert or visit a museum?
- Would you rather be famous or unknown?
Tailor the poll questions to your audience, and avoid anything that’s highly sensitive or doesn’t match your team culture or atmosphere. You know your team best, so you can also use this to plan questions that you know will spark an interest and cause some interesting discussions.
5. Two truths and a lie
This might be a traditional icebreaker, but it’s one that still works today. Ask your team members to prepare two truths and one lie, and ask everyone else to try and spot the lie from the true statements.
This is a great icebreaker for both close-knit and new teams, as your team members can make the statements as easy or as hard to guess as they’d like. It’s also an opportunity for your team members to practice their acting skills, come up with some creative statements, and share a little more about themselves with each other.
6. Trivia quiz
There’s no better way to test your team’s knowledge on all things from pop culture to ancient history than with a trivia quiz. Assemble your questions, choose a time to get together, and discover who really knows their stuff.
Polly makes it easy for you to run trivia quiz games, thanks to our integrations with both Slack and Microsoft Teams. You don’t need to prepare trivia questions either — we’ve already done the hard work for you. Simply schedule this fun icebreaker, show up, and see who knows the most about your chosen category.
7. Fun facts
One of the simplest but most impactful team icebreakers is asking your team members to share a fun fact about themselves. Ask everyone to volunteer something good that happened to them that week, an interesting fact about their hobbies, or simply a random fun fact about themselves.
This simple icebreaker improves team bonding and helps you get to know each other on a personal level. They’re especially useful for building connections with new team members and finding conversation starters to use with them in the future.
8. Hot takes
If you want to create debate and understand what your team members truly think about a subject, it’s time to play a game of hot takes. Make a controversial statement and invite everyone to share their thoughts on it.
This is a great team building moment for established teams that feel comfortable debating the right way to eat pizza or the most overrated city. It’s also easy to set up within Slack, thanks to Polly’s Hot Takes feature.
9. Show and tell
Show and tell might remind you of your pre-high school days when you could bring in a stuffed animal from home, but it also has its place in the work environment. Invite team members to show up to your next meeting with an object that means something to them and tell the story of why that is. You can even just give everyone 60 seconds to grab something from around their home.
Show and tell is a good icebreaker if you want to get to know your team members better. It can uncover hidden talents, interesting hobbies, and amazing achievements that they might not have otherwise thought to share.
10. Funniest joke contest
If you have a group of comedians on your team, hosting a funniest joke contest (or dad joke contest!) can be a great way to keep them engaged and turn their interest into something the entire team can enjoy. Host a competition at the end of a team meeting and poll everyone to vote for their favorite joke.
This works best in a smaller group where everyone is comfortable practicing their skills and laughing out loud. For a thoughtful way to include everyone, use Polly to create a poll (or polly as we call them!) with anonymous submissions turned on. That way, every team member can take part if they want to — even if they don’t want to share their joke out loud.
11. This or that
For another simple yet effective way to get your team member’s opinions out there, try hosting a round of “this or that” questions. This is a fun way to poll your team members for their true thoughts and feelings, whether it’s on big topics like how you like to work or smaller ones like comparing ice cream flavors.
Here are some fun “this or that” questions to try out with your team:
- Candy or chips?
- The past or the future?
- Still images or videos?
- Remote work or in-person?
- Summer or winter?
- Cats or dogs?
Looking for more inspiration? We’ve put together a guide filled with 75 “this or that” questions that should keep you going for a while.
Build stronger relationships with team icebreakers
Team icebreakers don’t have to feel as cringeworthy as they did in the past. Use the icebreaker ideas on this list to inspire you to introduce moments that feel authentic, genuine, introvert-friendly, and actually fun to take part in.
If you’re ready to bring fun, fresh icebreakers to your team and want to do it in the best way, try Polly. Our employee engagement features include Hot Takes, icebreaker questions, and live polls that empower you to get to know your team better and build lasting connections.
Written by Nicola Scoon
Nicola Scoon is a freelance writer that's passionate about employee engagement and better workplace experiences. She draws on her experience in internal communications to help companies create content that empowers, encourages, and motivates people to create better experiences for all.