Whether you're a lawyer or a teacher, a therapist or a student, chances are you're using Zoom almost every day at work or in class. So many aspects of our lives are locked down that a brief hour sitting at your desk with an array of digital faces may be the most significant form of social interaction we may have.

That's how important Zoom meetings have become in 2020 – the social life of the workplace or classroom is all contained in the breakthrough video conferencing app. And as with all social spaces, first impressions matter. So whether you're trying to bring a new class together or strengthen the team dynamic in the virtual workplace, engaging icebreaker activities can help everyone feel welcomed, heard, and at home with their new group. Here are 5 creative icebreakers that can be played completely over Zoom:

  1. Virtual background icebreaker collage
  2. Friendly Pictionary
  3. Lightning-round show & tell
  4. Virtual games
  5. Breakout room "things in common"

1. Virtual background icebreaker collage

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This option is the simplest, easiest type of Zoom icebreaker you can use. If you don't want your whole meeting to be centered around icebreakers, but you think it's important that members get to know each other and become comfortable, simply send this grid template out to your attendees and have them fill it out with their own answers, so that everyone in the meeting can get to know them before they say a word.

What's best about this option is that people can break the ice on their own terms. You can replace any of the items in the template with your own questions, or have your students and coworkers come up with their own grid of any number of things they want people to know about them.

2. Friendly Pictionary

Zoom virtual backgrounds are a terrific feature. Really. You're probably familiar with the classic cooperative board game Pictionary, but there are dozens of ways to use the same concept in a non-competitive, stress-free environment, using nothing but multimedia editing or drawing software and Zoom virtual backgrounds.

Intense competitions rarely make the best icebreakers, though. A better idea is to make a friendly personal trivia activity with icebreaker questions. You provide a question to the whole group, like "What's your favorite book?" and each member of the meeting puts together a graphic representation of their answer, using a digital drawing tool or multimedia editor like Kapwing to quickly put together a graphic representation of their answer. They then make it their Zoom background, and everyone tries to guess what their answer is.

3. Lightning-round show & tell

The classic format of show & tell can be fun, allowing everyone to share just a little bit about what makes them them with a new group. But there are tons of variations on the generic show & tell format.

One is lightning-round show & tell, which is basically exactly what it sounds like. It takes advantage of everyone joining the meeting from the places they live. Come up with a list of show & tell items before you start your meeting – things like "your favorite spatula," "your craziest pair of socks," or "the oldest item in your bedroom." Give everyone a short amount of time, 30 seconds or so, to find the show & tell item you prompted and bring it back to the meeting. Once everyone is back on screen, go around, let everyone present, explain, or tell a story about their item briefly, and move on to the next round!

4. Virtual games

Breaking the ice over a Zoom call means a lot more than just sharing trivia and hobbies. Getting to know things about your coworkers and classmates is important, but becoming comfortable as a member of the group takes a whole lot more icebreaking. You're probably familiar with the IRL icebreaker games that are supposed to build comfort and camaraderie: the ball game, zip-zap-zop, etc.

But over Zoom, the most common icebreaker games are a lot harder to play. Luckily, there are tons of online games you can play as a group with no more than a Zoom call. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, for example, is a great way to get your group to work together as a team in an intense but fun environment. Jackbox Games also has a ton of fun, creative games that are perfect for bringing a new group closer in no time – it's the perfect investment if you're a team manager or teacher.

5. Breakout room "things in common"

Zoom backgrounds may be Zoom's most fun feature to use, but they're not the only useful, high-level tool that separates Zoom from the rest of the video conferencing pack. Zoom's breakout rooms are a necessity for many industries, but they can even provide fun ways to start breaking the ice with a new team or class.

Before you set up your rooms, make sure you've enabled Breakout Rooms in your Zoom settings – this can only be done in the desktop browser, not the app or mobile browser. Start by creating random groups of 2-3 people using this random group generator. Put each of the groups in its own breakout room during your Zoom meeting, where they come up with 3-5 things they have in common – the more specific the better. Each group of 2 or 3 decides on the most specific thing they have in common before returning to the plenary group, where each group shares the thing they found in common, adding context, stories, and personal details.  


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