In my work as a trainer and facilitator, I make workshops and master classes as interactive as possible, incorporating peer discussion, movement, and creativity. I feel this makes a better learning experience. The same goes for in-person meetings.
However, these days so many of my meetings take place online, typically on Zoom, and interactivity can be a challenge. But it isn’t impossible, if you follow best practices for virtual facilitation for meetings.
One design important instructional principle for trainings and meetings, whether online or face-to-face, is to start off with a fun way to ease into the work. These activities are called icebreakers. Bear in mind that some people, especially introverts, hate them so you have to design them so they are less awkward.
One of my favorite icebreakers in face-to-face workshops is called the Human Chart or SpectraGram created by Allen Gunn from Aspiration. You have a couple of provocative questions related to the topic you will be discussing or training on and have people line up as to whether they agree or disagree.
The next step is to facilitate a discussion. It is useful method for getting participants to express a point of view, engage in debate, listen to others and respond in how by be influenced by someone’s point of view in the room. And, not everyone has to participate in the discussion, so those who are introverted feel comfortable.
My colleague, Dirk Slater, has written about how he applies Gunner’s techniques in his own technology/activist trainings. Others have also documented and used the technique or taught others how to do it.
Can this technique work for an online meeting? Yes! Obviously, you can’t have people physically line up, but you can do something visually. Here is how it worked on a call recently with Leap Ambassadors where we discussed the Performance Imperative, specifically the pillar about boards. We started the meeting with a statement and we were asked whether we agreed or disagreed by showing a number of fingers from 1-5 (with 5 fingers being agree strongly and 1 finger disagree strongly)
This allows us to get into a deep discussion related to the topic. And it was fun!
Another fun and playful icebreaker that can also be done on zoom is called “Sketch Your Neighbor.” You begin your meeting by having your team sketch each other – the person next to them on the Zoom square. Most people can’t draw, so this activity levels the playing field and it positively reinforces group dynamics and builds a more open environment.
You can use the online whiteboard platform Mural for the drawing tools or ask everyone to use paper and pen and hold it up to the camera. Each person shares their drawing and you guess who it is. There is always lots of laughing!
Another icebreaker that can translate online is from my colleague Jen Bokoff. You ask everyone to introduce themselves and share a favorite photo on their phone.
What are some creative icebreakers that you have done online for trainings or meetings? Need some ideas for your next meeting or training? Check out the many icebreakers in these resources.
A Good Training Starts with a Great Icebreaker
Six Fun Nonprofit Icebreakers
Meeting and Greet Icebreaker Questions for Trainings
200 Icebreakers for Meetings
Icebreakers that Don’t Suck
Icebreakers that Rock
Win3 Icebreaker Collection
The Big Book of Icebreakers
Best Icebreakers for Training & Meetings