This is the picture. You’ve been planning your company’s sales and marketing offsite for months. You have navigated the complex web of accommodation booking. You have charted the map that the bus route will take. You’ve spoken to 5 different caterers, listened to 12 DJs, tested zip lines and jam-packed an event agenda full of exciting activities. The day is finally here, yet your entire team sits in the main conference room in complete silence. You can literally hear the crickets outside.
What are you missing? You’ve probably guessed it by now. You are missing an activity to break the ice. Getting staff engaged from the start is fairly important as it will set the tone for the rest of the event. One of the best ways to do this is to start with some icebreaker questions that 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 between a group of people, making them feel more comfortable communicating freely.
Icebreaker: A spoonful of sugar for an awkward silence
You might be thinking that there’s no way there’s going to be an awkward silence in your team’s activities. Why stay, when everyone talks to each other every day? Well, speaking in a professional capacity is not the same as a friendly conversation with a colleague. People talk every day, that doesn’t mean they ever talk about anything other than the work they’re doing.
What’s more, as the world becomes increasingly distributed, bringing together remote teams can mean that some of your team members are seeing each other in person for the first time! The transition from an entirely online relationship to one in real life can be as difficult to adjust to as you might think.
5 Reasons You Need Icebreaker Questions or Games at Your Next Company Event
1. They help people feel more comfortable
Not everyone is a social butterfly – and that’s perfectly fine. Coming up with a fun conversation that engages everyone right off the bat means that even the quietest teammates will feel more comfortable striking up a chat. You’ll help start the proverbial ice melt and warm people to each other and the day ahead.
2. They inspire team bonding
Fun icebreaker questions can start friendships between colleagues! Think about it – maybe they’ve never talked about their favorite TV show before, or they’re more into cats or dogs.
By opening the door to more personal questions (without taking it too far, of course), you lay the groundwork for colleagues to get to know each other beyond the confines of their daily work. And yes, you guessed it – this is exactly the kind of thing that increases employee engagement in the long run.
3. They help newcomers feel part of the team
Inevitably, you’ll have a few newbies in the crowd at your company event. While many team members have probably already known each other for some time, newcomers have a whole new world to discover. Having everyone play a “get to know you” type game will take your team members on a journey of discovery together, taking the pressure off newcomers to tackle it on their own.
4. They usually start the day with a smile
Chances are, the event you’ve planned is pretty content-heavy. For example, at an offsite, there will probably be a day of presentations, brainstorming and workshops. And yes, those activities are certainly fun and mentally stimulating—but they can be too much. Starting the day off with a smile is the perfect way to get everyone motivated and in the mood for what’s to come.
5. They will usually make a great anecdote later
One of the benefits of team events is that they foster a sense of belonging and bonding between teams. A key component of this is 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 she loves singing at Encanto, employees can remember and talk about for a while after the event. It just keeps this friendly, social atmosphere going for so long!
Icebreaker Question “Would You Rather”
This type of question usually gives people two different, and fairly extreme, choices to choose from. The idea is for people to make an emotional decision – the resulting differences can make for a lively and fun debate! Here are some examples:
- Would you rather eat burritos or hot dogs for the rest of your life?
- Would you rather be alone on a desert island or stuck with your high school principal?
- Do you want to go to space or explore the deepest depths of the ocean?
- Would you rather live in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings?
- Would you rather go to a rock concert or an opera?
- Do you want to speak in public for an hour or not speak for a day?
- Would you rather be the host of a successful podcast or be on a talk show for an episode?
- Would you rather go to a tennis match or a football game?
- Do you want to go back to high school or go back to college?
- Do you want to go back in time or go to the future?
With ice-breaker questions aimed at team building, what you want to achieve is that people enter into a conversation and discover something new about each other. That’s why leaving these questions open and encouraging someone to talk first will give you the best results. Chances are you won’t get through much, but you will find something interesting through it!
- Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet?
- If you could do any Disney movie live, which 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 will be the theme song of your life?
- What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
- What is your greatest pet?
- Which famous person would you choose to play you in a movie?
- What’s the weirdest thing that happened to you in a team meeting?
Deeper “get to know you” questions
This list of icebreaker questions is good for small 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 don’t answer questions that make someone uncomfortable!
- What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
- How did you meet your best friend?
- What is your favorite place to get away and recharge?
- What is your favorite way to wind down 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 would you do with it first?
- If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what would it be?
- How was your first day at your first job?
- What phrase or cliché do you dwell on the most?
Fun ice breaker questions
Of course, the questions themselves might not be so funny – but the answers might be!
- What’s the funniest fashion trend you’ve followed loyally?
- Who is your biggest celebrity crush?
- What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
- Which ice cream flavor would you ban and why?
- Who is your most hated cartoon character?
- What’s a trivia question you can never remember the answer to?
- What is 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 often?
- What’s the most embarrassing thing that appears 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 generally like to share anecdotes from their lives and their past – so this list of icebreaker questions is perfect for groups full of newbies as well as those who have known each other for a while.
- 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 that you look like someone famous?
- What was your favorite thing to study in school?
- What was your least favorite housework?
- Can you speak any other languages?
- What was your favorite meal to eat at home?
- Did you play any sports as a child? do you still play
- Which fictional character have you always admired and why?
Strictly professional questions
- What was your first job?
- What is the best team-building activity you have participated in?
- What do you want people to say to you as a new employee?
- What is the most important aspect of our company culture to you?
- How do you introduce yourself when you join a new team?
- Do you prefer remote work, hybrid or on-site?
- What is your favorite company event of the year?
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
- What is the most inspiring thing someone has said to you at work?
- Are you more of a Mac or Windows person?