Top Six Meeting Icebreakers

meeting icebreakers

Meeting icebreakers are a great way to liven up your meetings. If attendees enjoy your meetings, their attention span will improve, leading to faster and better meeting results. And they are more likely to turn up on a regular basis!

Meeting Ice breakers may require an investment of time, but can be very effective. Use them if you are building a team, dealing with an important issue or working on an inter-departmental project.

Every scenario is different, so think about the topic and the attendees. Select the meeting icebreaker that you think will get the best response.

Here are our top six favourite meeting icebreakers:

1. Think about Treats

You will be surprised at how much a small gesture of a box of sweets, pastries or other refreshments can make, particularly if they are unexpected. Surprise your attendees by bringing treats along to your meetings, or inviting them to do the same. And vary the treats each time.

2. Vary the Venue

Do you have to have every meeting in the same place? Does it have to be in a formal setting? The venue can have a major effect on the atmosphere of a meeting. The more relaxed the setting, the more creative attendees can be. If your meetings are aimed at problem solving, this is important. Consider bringing your attendees to a offsite venue, or even an outdoor setting, if you need their full attention.

3. Mix and Move

If people tend to sit in the same seats at every meeting, get them to switch around to generate new energy. For some lighthearted fun, issue the group with a card giving one name of a famous couple - they have to find their "partner" and sit next to them.

If you are concerned that there may be destructive conflict at a meeting, use place cards to seat people in a constructive way. Avoid seating arrangements that lead to cliques, which can harden a negative viewpoint. Place constructive attendees sitting directly opposite you, and keep those who might challenge you in a disruptive way to your left or right.

create the right atmosphere in your meetings

4. Look at the Layout

Meetings are typically held with attendees seated around a boardroom table or large desk. This can act as a barrier to communication, as it creates an air of formality. Suppose you invited attendees to sit in comfy armchairs, with perhaps just a small coffee table in front of them - how would that feel for you? Again, this can support a relaxed atmosphere, leading to greater openness and honesty in your meetings.

5. Put in Pairs

If you are worried that the atmosphere might be "cold", getting people to talk from the get go is a great meeting icebreaker as it relaxes people. Put people into pairs/small groups to have a 5 minute discussion around the agenda. For example, ask them to discuss one of the following topics:

  • "Is the agenda clear/comprehensive?"
  • "What issue on the agenda are you most concerned about and why?"
  • "What is the biggest barrier to getting a resolution today?"
  • "Who do you think are the key stakeholders in the process?"

After the discussion, ask someone from each pair/group to quickly summarise the conversation and note key points on a flipchart if necessary. You can refer to this list as appropriate.

6. Draw the Detail

For a different approach, put people into small groups and give them a sheet of flipchart paper. Get them to create a mindmap of the key points around an issue and then have them present that to the rest of the group. This is great for coming up with new ideas, or discovering issues that people may have forgotten about. Not sure how to mindmap? Click here.This can lead to very effective business meetings.

Alternatively, give individuals a sheet of flipchart paper, and get them to draw where they see themselves in terms of the issue, and present that to the group. This can be fun as well as leading to self discovery - it gets people to open their mind in a different way.

So the next time you conduct a meeting, consider these meeting icebreakers to generate some new life and energy into the proceedings. If you keep attendees pleasantly surprised, as well as following good meeting etiquette, you will have effective business meetings with more creative results.

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