5 icebreakers to make your next large team meeting better than ever

Icebreakers are important for several reasons. They help ease tension and make people more comfortable, leading to better communication. They also help people get to know each other better and can set the tone for the rest of the meeting or event. Icebreakers can be fun and help to energize a group.

But, what do you do when you're trying to accomplish these things with a group of 20, 30, or even 50 people?

That's precisely what this article is going to discuss. First, we'll go over some of the challenges we've seen in using icebreakers with large groups, and then we'll provide you with a list of icebreakers that you can use successfully, no matter the size of the group.

The challenges faced with large groups

An icebreaker is a game or activity that is used to help people get to know each other. It is a good way to break the ice and make people feel more comfortable. Icebreakers are especially useful with groups of people who don't know each other well.

When meeting with a few people, it's typically easier to reach everyone with a good and clear message, keep the flow of the meeting going, and not have to worry about a lack of participation. That all changes once the meeting gets larger. Depending on the meeting's purpose, this can cause some serious issues. After all, the larger the meeting, the more it costs the company's time and resources. If you aren't able to accomplish what you set out to, then the meeting becomes a waste of time and money for everyone.

Let's take a look at some of the challenges large group meetings can usually face.

Lack of familiarity

The first and most obvious challenge is that people may simply don't know each other. In a large group, it's not uncommon for there to be only one or two people that everyone knows. This lack of familiarity can make it difficult for people to feel comfortable enough to participate fully. In a small group, it may be easier to get over these differences or quickly find common ground that could lead to being more comfortable. But in a larger group, people might be more closed off and resistant to putting themselves out there.

Differences in personality and communication style

Any sized group will have personality and communication style differences, but these differences can be amplified in a larger one. In a small group, people may be more likely to let their guard down and share more personal information. But in a large group, people may feel like they need to protect themselves more and keep their distance. As human beings, it's natural to worry about whether or not the things we say are understood, and if there are language or cultural barriers, we may be even more stressed or nervous about speaking up.

Speaking up is uncomfortable

There's a natural anxiety that comes from speaking up in a group. In fact, public speaking is regularly listed as the top fear for many people. So, when we ask our colleagues to speak, it's essential to understand their fears, and it's best to involve them more slowly in the group, and encourage other forms of participation that might be available in the meeting.

Departmental cliques or politics can take over

When you have a larger group, there's always the potential for departmental cliques or office politics to take over and prevent some people from feeling like they can participate. If there are differences in rank or power, people may feel they need to choose their words carefully or not speak up at all.

Boredom and lack of participation

If not designed and run well, large-group meetings can be incredibly boring. If people don't feel like they're being heard or that their time is valued, they can easily tune out or multitask by checking their emails or doing other work.

Some icebreakers aren't inclusive enough

One of the most common icebreakers is asking everyone to go around and introduce themselves, typically saying something “interesting” about them. But what if someone isn't comfortable speaking up or believes they aren't interesting enough? This can lead to a lot of wasted time with no real reward by the end of it.

The meeting flow stutters

Keeping everyone on track and focused can be hard when you have a large group. There may be side conversations, people coming in late or leaving early, and a general feeling of chaos. This can make it difficult to accomplish anything substantial.

A lack of useful online tools

In today's remote-work world, having access to the right technology and tools has become table stakes for leaders and managers. Simply hopping on a Zoom meeting is simple but not nearly as engaging as it could be. Fortunately, more and more digital tools are becoming available that help organizations have better meetings and keep their teams more interested.

Now that we've looked at some of the challenges, let's take a look at some icebreaker ideas that can help overcome them.

#1 - The unicorn

The "Unicorn" icebreaker is designed to create a relaxed atmosphere and have a good time together. It is meant to get people into the right mood for what's to come. It's especially helpful in creative meetings, where you ask teams to develop outside-the-box thinking.

How it works

The team joins the Board and opens the videoconferencing tool (built into the whiteboard). Using the correlation chart, members create their unicorn names, determined by the initials of their first and last names. The unicorn name combines a noun with an adjective, which leads to fantasy names, like "Gleaming Fur" or "Bright Flake."

The team comes up with new ideas by posting them on a whiteboard. They then vote on their favorite names by clicking on a heart symbol above the idea they like the best. The team then decides on its name based on the idea that has the most likes. 

Why this works with large groups

The Unicorn is a great icebreaker no matter the size of the group because it allows some time for silliness while also giving team members a chance to be creative. It's not asking for personal information (outside of initials), and it allows bigger groups to break into smaller groups to accomplish the task.

#2 - Two truths and a lie

Getting to know your team in a large group setting can be difficult. But, this icebreaker can make it easier to discover lesser-known facts about each other. Making funny confessions to your peers quickly warms up the group and creates a climate of trust between them. This makes it easier for everyone to work together efficiently during the remainder of the meeting.

How it works

Ask everyone to think of three facts about themselves. Two of them should be true, while one should be a lie. These can be small things like, "I have a pet iguana named Ralph." Or something larger like, "I was featured in BlackBelt magazine for "Best 30 Under 30 in competitive Tai Chi."

Once each participant has been given a couple of minutes to post their ideas, ask someone to start by giving their answers. The rest of the group votes on which is the lie. Eventually, the truths are revealed, and everyone gets to learn something interesting about the person sharing.

This icebreaker is available as a Board template to help remote teams easily perform it as well.

Why this works with large groups

If the group is too large, it can be very time-consuming. But, there is also room for customization. You can ask just a few people to share their two truths and a lie, but the entire group can participate in guessing which is the lie. It's also great for big groups that don't know much about each other outside of their work interactions. If done well and kept flowing, this icebreaker can help everyone to know their team members differently, even beyond this one meeting.

#3 - If I were...

When starting a workshop, training, or meeting, it is helpful to introduce yourself. But, it's more memorable to go beyond your name, title, and something you've accomplished in life. Instead, "If I were..." is an icebreaker that helps people show their personalities to others and discover commonalities quickly.

How it works

Using an online board, or chat box, the animator  asks questions that begin with "If I were..." and everyone puts in their answers. For example, one of the prompts might be, "If I were a city..."

And an answer may be, "I would be New York City because I feel like I'm going 100 mph all the time."

Another example:

"If I were a piece of music..."

"I'd be the penny whistle solo from the movie Titanic because I love to travel on boats."

The possibilities are endless, and the answers should come quickly.

Why this works with large groups

This is a great large group activity because we aren't asking for super personal information, and everyone can easily participate, even without speaking to the group. The information they are sharing says so much about them, and others can look for like-minded answers, leading to greater camaraderie.

#4 - Colorful Candy Confessions

Colorful Candy Icebreaker is a great way to learn more about each member of a group. It is a fun activity that can help improve team spirit at the start of a project or workshop.

How it works

This digital whiteboard activity starts when everyone picks a colorful candy from the candy jar and places it next to their picture in the designated area.

There are different messages hidden in different colored candies. After the message is revealed, team members can discuss the shared messages and try to guess the sender of the message. Everyone takes turns speaking, and it's important to listen to the answers given by the group and try to ask questions to get to know the participants.

Why this works with large groups

Some projects require us to know more about each other, and this one is a sharer! Not only do you reveal information about yourself, but you learn a whole lot about the answers other people give. Getting to know a large group quickly might be necessary to do deep work together.

#5 - Birdie Birdie

The "Birdie Birdie" template helps players learn about the Scrum project management method. The goal is to create a specific figure using seven differently-shaped pieces that fit into a square.

The game helps teams learn how to use the Scrum method. This is an iterative process that is based on the Scrum sprints. The stages are similar to agile ceremonies, such as Sprint planning, reviews, and retrospectives.

In order to complete a project successfully and introduce a continuous improvement process, it is important to learn how to work effectively as a team. This involves implementing actions rapidly and collaboratively.

How it works

"Birdie Birdie" is based on a puzzle called Tangram. The goal is to recreate a square using seven pieces, including five right isosceles triangles, a square, and a parallelogram. There are specific specifications you need to follow. This can be a fun and efficient way for teams to learn how to work together.

To start, give the team some time to get used to the Tangram pieces. There is one basic rule: all of the pieces must be used, and they can't overlap.

Why this works for large groups

Sometimes, the best way to get a team going is to give them a task to focus on. Instead of asking them to share personal information, you have them complete some challenges and open themselves up with a little friendly and collaborative competition.

Icebreakers come in all shapes and sizes, and many can be catered to fit large or small groups. All it takes is a little creativity and some easy-to-usedigital tools like the templates in Klaxoon’s library.

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