Breaking the ice with a large group can be tough — but it's worth it! There's a lot of science that says that spending a few minutes ice breaking gives great returns for your team or group cohesion, and for later retention of your upcoming information.
“Ice breakers are helpful to encourage participants to bond, form a new team, get to know people from different backgrounds, and become involved with learning about new subject matter."
- Jill F. Kilanowski, PhD, APN, CPNP "Breaking the Ice: A Pre-intervention Strategy to Engage Research Participants"
Struggling to figure out what to do with your big audience to get them talking, laughing, and ready to listen and engage? We've got you covered. Here are 12 great options to warm up your big group before a meeting, class, conference, or event, so you can get them ready to be open to your content. The more engaged they are to start, the more engagement you'll get!
All of these icebreakers work remote, in person, or hybrid. In other words, whether you're all in a video call, conference hall, or a mix of both, these ideas will work. So get your Zoom / Microsoft Teams / Google Meet / Webex / Hopin group together, or book your local convention hall, and get icebreaking.
The best way to get everyone feeling like a cohesive group that has things in common? Show them what they have in common! Ask fun live poll questions and do a show of hands or use live polling tools to let your audience answer as a single block.
Here's a list of great poll questions to get you started:
The best icebreaker poll questions will have something to do with your content, so if you can come up with "this vs that" or "who here has ever --?" types of questions that fit with what you're speaking on, that's golden.
Poll your Audience Icebreaker Questions Game
A short, ready-to-play game of fun and safe-for-work (but still interesting) poll questions. Great for large groups!
Or, if you want to make your event smoother and easier on yourself, here's a pre-made poll question game you can run to let everyone respond to already-created poll questions. It has questions and automatically shows off the responses (that your audience can send in from their phones) in an interactive chart. It's free to use with up to 10 players!
If you're in person, divide everyone up into groups or pairs ("look to the person sitting next to you"), and if you're remote, send people out to a breakout room in groups of 2 or 3. Tell them they'll each have 30 seconds to answer a round of speed "this or that" questions.
Then announce spitfire "This or That" topics of discussion one by one every 45 seconds, either out loud or through zoom room "broadcast" announcements. Have the smaller groups share their preferences with each other in this speed "which would you rather" format!
Some good "This or That" questions:
Letting folks interact and share their own experience as a large group can be tough — but wordclouds are great for this. There are lots of good wordcloud tools out there (try Slides With Friends, Poll Everywhere, Aha slides, and more). Ask your audience to send in a word or phrase, and then have them vote on responses they like from others. More-submitted and highly-voted words will grow and appear larger. This is great for brainstorming, getting a read of the room, and more.
Word Cloud Game
4 quick, fun word clouds for any audience. Free to play with up to 10 players
Here's a ready to play game that has word clouds already entered and ready to use with your audience. It lets your audience join in, sned words, and vote for words from others to make them live-update and grow in real time, displaying live feedback from your group. You can update the text of the wordcloud questions so you can ask your audience anything, especially things relating to the event you're running!
If you're in person, this is easy. If you're remote, have everyone turn their camera on! You can also use the Zoom chat or the "raise hand" function in zoom. Then take informal, fun polls by asking the group to raise their hand if they've ever done the thing you're listing. Here's a few office- and professional-conference-safe "Never Have I Ever" questions:
Pro tip: Get creative and specific with your questions, tailor them to your group and content. So, if you're giving a talk about recruiting or hiring workflows, you could ask:
Have your audience find an item or two, and bring it back!
Video / Remote
This is especially good for large-audience video calls where you can call people up on center "stage" screen (and where people can get out of their home office chairs to go find something).
In Person in a conference
If you're looking for a good list, here's a full blog on virtual scavenger hunts with a pre-made interactive scavenger game, downloadable hunt lists, and tons of ideas!
Put together a trivia game to play with your group. Bonus if the game is trivia specifically themed around your content. Make the answers either/or and you can use the Zoom chat or "raise your hand" style answer method. Or use tools that are made to play group trivia: You can share your screen and use a live async trivia website for free like Useful Trivia, or Buzzfeed (but you won't be able to make your own trivia questions and will need to use what's already provided). Ask the audience to vote on which multi-choice option is correct, and select the most popular response for them to see if the crowd group-sources the right answer.
Or you can make it easier on yourself while also enabling each individual to play using interactive trivia tools like Slides With Friends, Kahoot, Mentimeter, and more. With SlidesWith you can use pre-made games as-is, change a pre-made game however you want to make it your own, or create your own quiz from scratch, it's up to you. There's lots of great trivia options out there!
Quick Trivia Game
A quick round of trivia for any group, work and conference-safe and fun for all.
Here's an already made, ready-to-go trivia game. You can update the questions if you want to make them more tailored to your group, or just play as-is. You audience can join in on their phones and send answers, and you can show winners at the end.
If you're looking to get a larger group to know each other better, a great way to do this is "two truths and a lie" format. This option takes a bit more pre-event work, but it's worth it!
Template slide deck — "Two Truths and a Lie"
A form for you to fill out with your team's "two truths and a lie" content. Add pics, and their truths/lies to the multiple choice slides, and use this already-formulated deck to play a great game!
Here's a template you can use to get started: It's got placeholder slides for you to input questions, and will show off winners at the end.
Get individual hot takes! Announce a topic, and have people raise their hand and call on them to give you their special "hot take" on the topic, or type it in the chat. This can be a great, silly, and surprising way to get people laughing and connecting.
To break the initial barrier to entry of large group ("Oh no, I don't want to talk in front of this many people, I'm definitely not raising my hand") and help people want to volunteer, it will be helpful for you to give a good first example or two ("For instance, my Hot Take on the best cartoon character for president would be Ursula from the Little Mermaid, because she's a real motived go-getter") Or, have a plant in the audience ready to provide the first answers ;) Or you can let people type things in the chat or share through interactive tools.
Some good "Hot Take" Topics:
Survey your group to find out the things you want to know about them and you'll kill two birds with one stone: Get people engaging and participating, while also getting important data for yourself. If you're in person make sure there are mics around for individuals to speak up, and if you're remote let people type in the chat.
Great topics to start with:
Here's an interactive session template: update it with your desired questions, throw in a few polls, and play with your conference audience!
Session Kickoff Template
Survey and get a better understanding of your conference, meeting, or team call attendees.
Settle your group into feeling like they're part of the whole, and help them feel closeness even though they're in a large crowd.
You can ask yes or no questions (see above for some good "never have I ever" and "this or that" get to know you type questions) and ask for show of hands. You can also use the chat or the "raise your hand" functionality if you're on Zoom. Or you can take polls or do wordclouds with specific "tell us about yourselves" vibes.
Some good "get to know you" large group questions:
Or you can simply play a ready-made game like this one:
"Get to Know the Group" Mini Game
Great for networking or getting to know who's all in the room.
10 min, 3-250 people
This is a great way to get people invested in what you're talking about — by giving them the chance to participate and contribute and talk about *their own* content. You can do this in advance by sending out a prompt for folks to bring a specific item or topic of item (see the list below). Or you can spring the questions on them and see what they come up with!
Topics for "what to bring" to a great show & tell:
Conference Icebreaker Show and Tell Game
Or, here is a ready to play interactive "Show and Tell with pictures from your phone" game that offers topics and gives people a few moments to search their camera roll for great photos to upload.
It will go through, one by one, however many photos you select (from just 1 to every photo submitted) at random from the pics uploaded by your players. This works great remote or in person anywhere that you can share your screen!
We hope we gave you some good ideas, and want to hear about if you try them out. Or do you have great ideas you want to add? Let us know! If you've played great, simple games with large groups that should definitely be on this list, shoot us an email letting us know what has worked for you.