The rules of the meeting icebreaker

Next to brainstorming and teambuilding, icebreaker may be the most dreaded compound word in a professional setting. But provided they can be kept from being too stressful or aggressive or lengthy or hokey, icebreakers really do work for helping people get to know each other.

Tips:

Mind the time involved. The purpose of an icebreaker isn’t to prolong the actual meeting for as long as possible, as tempting as that notion may be.

Don’t make people perform. People have comfort zones for a reason. The goal is to invite them to open up without being pushed.

No physical contact. Don’t ask people to touch each other.

Nothing athletic. Icebreakers shouldn’t require prowess, speed or strength.

Make it fun, but not too silly. There are benefits to getting in touch with our inner children, but honestly, you’re working with adults.

Split into groups. If there’s friendly competition involved in your activity, it can be more fun to do.

Try:

Game-ish activities. Have groups come up with movie pitches they’ll present for votes to get “greenlit.” Write questions on Jenga blocks, and answer when you withdraw them from the stack. Challenge participants to “BYOI” (bring your own icebreaker). Try a few of them out on the spot, or collect them for future meetings.

Questions. Favorite stuff questions: favorite food or candy, preferred last meal, three things to have on a desert island, dreamed-of superpowers … these should reveal personal things in a fun way without pressure or too much seriousness.

Quizzes. Trivia is always there for you, as are personality tests. The sky’s the limit, but try not to be too generationally alienating.