11 Best Icebreakers for Large Groups

Post by
Cecilia Razak
11 Best Icebreakers for Large Groups

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.

1. Ask Icebreaker Poll Questions

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:

  • Who here is a "morning person"? "Night time person"?
  • Who here is already an expert on this topic? Who's totally new to it?
  • Which of these are you here to learn? [Put in 2 or 3 of the takeaways of your talk]
  • Which of these problems are you most interested in solving? [Put in 2 or 3 of your audience's pain points you would be addressing in your talk]
  • Which is better: sweet brunch (pancakes!) or savory brunch (huevos!)
  • Raise your hand if you've ever done a conference call in your pajamas.
  • Who's at this conference alone? (Person next to them — make friends!)
  • Raise your hand if you played a sport in school. Lower your hand if it was basketball. Football. Baseball. Volleyball. Swimming. Track. (those left — what did you play?) [This format works well with many things — travel destinations, food preferences, living location styles, and more]

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!

8 minutes, 3-250 people

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!

2. Pairs / Breakout Room "This or That" Speed Round

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:

  • Coffee or tea?
  • Hot or cold weather?
  • Savory or sweet brunch?
  • Beach or mountain vacation?
  • Dentist or annual physical?
  • Chocolate or fruity candy?
  • Puppies or kittens?
  • Late nights or early mornings?
  • Woodsy cabin or fancy condo?
  • More time or more money?
  • Driving or walking?
  • Music or podcasts?
  • In your free time: relaxation or personal projects?

3. Make a Live Word Cloud

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

8-10 min, 3-250 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!

4. Never Have I Ever - Show of Hands

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:

  • Never have I ever broken a bone
  • Never have I ever quit a job without planning it
  • Never have I ever spoken in front of a large group
  • Never have I ever taken an exercise class

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:

  • Never have I ever done a video job interview without pants on
  • Never have I ever social media stalked a job applicant candidate before hiring them

5. Scavenger Hunt

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).

  1. Come up with a list of 1-4 "find-it items" (here's some great ideas)
  2. Post a list in the chat or share your screen with the items outlined, and give everyone a countdown clock
  3. First person to return with the items and send a "got it"note in chat, call them up to the main stage and have them show off what they found
  4. Or, here is a pre-made interactive scavenger hunt game you can just launch and play, it's already got a great list of find-it items

In Person in a conference

  1. If you're in a large conference room, ask folks to find things on their person / in their bag.
  2. Some item ideas folks are likely to have: a pen, a legal notepad, a second cell phone, a phone/computer charger, a business card from someone else, a sugar packet, a snack, a beverage,
  3. The first person to hold up the item wins!

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!

6. Play a Tiny Trivia Game

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.

8 min, 3-250 people

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.

7. Two Truths and a Lie

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!

  1. Reach out to your attendees in advance and get each of them to send you: their preferred name, a headshot, two truths, one lie (marked as the lie).
  2. I suggest creating a simple 4-column excel or google spreadsheet to keep track of everything as it comes in.
  3. Put together a slideshow using Powerpoint, google slides, or an interactive tool like Slides with Friends or Mentimeter.
  4. Play through it! If you're using a static presentation mode like PPT, use "show of hands" or the chat to get answers. If you're using an interactive tool, this is much easier.

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!

Time depends on how many questions you add, 3-250 players

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.

8. Hot Takes

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: 

  • best cuisine
  • best cough syrup flavor
  • most surprisingly attractive actor
  • most surprisingly attractive cartoon character
  • best villain
  • worst hero
  • worst ice cream flavor
  • best celebrity for president
  • best food to eat as leftovers

9. Get Audience Feedback and Information

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:

  • What do you want to learn from this session?
  • Which of the following describes you: [offer a breakdown of demographics likely to be in your talk, eg. "What's your role: teacher, speaker, hiring manager, etc"]
  • What are the problems you're trying to solve?
  • What would success in attending this conference look like for you?
  • Are you already well versed in this subject? (hold up fingers, 1 is total newb, 5 is expert)

Here's an interactive session template: update it with your desired questions, throw in a few polls, and play with your conference audience!

Timing depends on how many questions you add, 3-250 people

Session Kickoff Template
Survey and get a better understanding of your conference, meeting, or team call attendees.

10. Play a "Get to Know You" Game

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:

  • Who here is a [role/job position likely to be at your event]?
  • Are you here for work or not for work?
  • Who here has experience with [your topic]?
  • Who here is a coffee drinker? Who prefers tea?
  • Who here lives within 20 miles of [current location]? 100? Who here is on a different continent?
  • Do you prefer to be a sports player, or a sports watcher? Or are you totally uninterested in sports?
  • Raise your hand on which of these is the best genre of music: Rock, Hip Hop, Country, Classical, Pop.
  • Raise your hand on which of these is the best cuisine: French, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, American

Or you can simply play a ready-made game like this one:

5-10 min, 3-250 players

"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

11. Show & Tell for adults

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:

  • Your favorite mug
  • Your pet (if you're remote) / Photo of your pet
  • Your favorite snack
  • Something that you brought home from a trip
  • Something that reminds you of your school days
  • Something that reminds you of a good time in your life
  • Something you're grateful for
  • Something you got unexpectedly / that was a surprise to you
  • Something that makes you laugh when you see it
  • Something you love
  • Something that no one but you understands

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.

10-20 min, 3-250 players

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!

Get icebreaking!

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.

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