by Allison De Meulder
How many Zoom (insert virtual method of choice) meetings can one attend in one day or even one week? Apparently, the answer can be stunning. We start to dread the meeting invitation lurking in our inbox, as another disturbance in our productive day. Perhaps we have forgotten how valuable meetings can be, because much of the life has been sucked out of them. Meetings are essential to flush out problems and collaborate. So how can you make your meetings just a tad more enjoyable and not dry as a bone? Get to know your coworkers. No matter how long you have worked with someone, you do not know everything about them (nor should you). So why not break the ice!
Here are two reasons why you should incorporate icebreakers into every meeting, regardless of how long they are or who is in attendance:
Knowledge is Power
Through quick icebreakers you can learn snippets of information about a coworker that can actually benefit both of you. Through an icebreaker you can learn about their skills, talents, pain points and experience. Consider leveraging their skills and abilities next time you have a work problem. Build your network of those you can work with or seek help from at work by understanding what they bring to the table.
Perhaps Danielle in accounting is a superstar at Illustrator and you need a collaborator on a graphic design project. She could help your project. Don’t forget about elevators. Have you ever avoided an elevator for fear of the silence lurking in that small space? If you remember something from an icebreaker and you’re in an elevator, pull out your knowledge of the person you’re cramped in there with and strike up a quick conversation. You’re not only passing the time, you are building rapport.
Fun is Contagious
You may not know how funny David is in finance or how witty Rose is in Strategy, so icebreakers can surprise you. Not only are you building camaraderie and shared knowledge of each other, but you are having some fun along the way. Those that share in laughs together are more likely to turn to one another at work for collaboration. There is a trust that is built from sharing about yourself, even the smallest of details. If a question can elicit a laugh or a smile, you’re on the right track.
Don’t be pressured, not all icebreakers have to be funny. Here are a few examples of ways to easily break the ice at a meeting.
Here are two examples of icebreakers that are sure to warm the room.
Food is Supreme
People love talking about themselves first and food second. So, food is pretty important. You can be as simple or intricate in these questions as you like. You may even find out a coworker is pescatarian, allergic to cilantro, or ate chili in a hut in Norway. The food possibilities are endless.
Multiple choice questions: breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, which do you prefer?
“Or” questions: strawberry or mint chocolate chip?
Open ended questions: your favorite restaurant in any state or country?
Takeaway for later: See your coworker in the elevator who said brunch was their favorite meal, and ask for their favorite brunch spot recommendation.
Travel is Top of Mind
Besides food, people love talking about travel, where they’ve been and where they want to visit. You may even find out your coworker is an avid mountain climber, has sailed across the English Channel or swam with sharks.
Multiple choice questions: tropical island, big city, rural campground, surrounded by mountains, which do you prefer?
“Or” questions: Tahiti or Aspen?
Open ended questions: if you had a paid vacation for one month where would you go?
Takeaway: See your coworker in the elevator who said they ski every year, and ask for tips on the cheapest airline for your next ski vacation.
Icebreakers have many benefits and connecting with others is both personally and professionally rewarding. Consider an icebreaker like a primer, if most of the attendees are warmed up, then the mood is lightened and everyone is ready to solve issues and collaborate. So warm up that room!
As founder of Invitation Consultants and Matrick and Eve, she was a pioneer in the online invitation and stationery industry. As owner and CEO of the Ecommerce company, retail store and wholesale greeting card business, she managed, directed, created and collaborated. Building company culture, mentoring and empowering teams, and developing products are her passion. Allison sold her startup after 18 years and now through speaking engagements, consulting, writing a book, and hosting the podcast Emerson Built That, she has taken her experience, passion and challenges and built a voice that resonates with others who are aspiring to start a business, thinking about selling a business, and all of the fun times in between.