Raise your hand if “icebreakers” give you the willies.
Yeah, me, too.
The very word brings up memories of unpleasant, awkward moments.
The goal of an icebreaker, of course, is to warm the room up. To foster human connection.
Which is why I prefer the terms “warm-up” or “connection activity.”
In a virtual space, it’s actually easier than you might think to foster a feeling of connection, even in a rather large-sized group.
My go-to activity on a platform like Zoom takes only five to ten minutes, and can be done with a team of eight, or a conference of 100.
It’s sometimes called “True for Me,” sometimes called “Spotlight” or “Show Yourself If.”
This activity is based on an in-person improv game sometimes called “Four Corners,” where players run to one corner if a statement is true for them, and the opposite corner if not.
It has infinite variations, both in-person and virtually, and I first learned a virtual version from John Windmueller.
The way I often run it online goes like this:
Step 1: Invite participants to grab a sticky note to cover their webcam (or play the variation I learned from Jan Keck, and invite participants to grab something within arm’s reach, and use that to cover their webcam).
Step 2: Tell everyone that you’re going to make a statement that is true for you, such as “I love cats,” or “I didn’t get enough sleep last night,” or “I haven’t had my coffee this morning, and I’m really craving it.” Any statement is fine, as long as it’s true for you.
Explain that everyone for whom that statement is also true should uncover their camera, but if it is not true for them, they should leave their camera covered.
Step 3: Take a moment to acknowledge who is “in the room,” then use your favorite technique to call on someone else to make the next true statement. (I like to throw an invisible ball their way, and have them pretend to catch it. 😁)
Step 4: Everyone else covers their camera while the next person makes a true statement, and again, participants uncover their camera or keep it covered, depending on whether the statement is also true for them.
Step 5: Take a moment to acknowledge that the people with their faces showing have probably changed. You may want to say something like, “This is the People Who Traveled to Europe Last Year club.”
Step 6: Prompt whoever made the statement to choose who takes the next turn, using your established turn-taking protocol.
- As a variation, before starting, have everyone change their video settings to “Hide non-video participants.” This will make it very clear how many people agree with each statement, as they will be the only ones to appear “in the room” each time. Everyone else will be hidden.
The most expedient way to change this setting is as follows: Hide your own video, then instruct everyone to click anywhere on your photo (or where your photo would be, if you don’t have a photo). A drop-down menu will appear — inside that drop-down menu is an option to “Hide non-video participants.” Have them click there!
- You may notice participants starting to say things that aren’t “true for me” statements. Gently prompt them to share something that’s true for them, like “I love…” or “I hate…” or “I visited…”
- There may be some statements that some participants feel ambivalent about. In these cases, they may wish to:
- alternate between showing and hiding themselves
- show themselves, but step in and out of frame
Suggested Debrief Questions:
- What was that like?
- How did it make you feel?
- What did you learn from this activity?
- How will you apply the learning?
- What do you feel changing?
What I love about this simple activity is how it enables a group to quickly discover commonalities and differences in a fun, low-stakes way.
The level of vulnerability is self-selecting — nobody has to share anything outside of their comfort zone — which is good for an opening activity.
And there’s a little bit of movement involved, covering and uncovering the cameras, which brings in an analog element.
The range of colors on the screen when everyone covers their camera adds a touch of delight, too.
It’s simple, but always rich. And you can adapt it to fit the theme of your meeting, simply by theming the questions.
Instead of just “What’s true for you?” for example, your prompt might be:
- What’s true for you when it comes to trust?
- What’s true for you when it comes to leadership?
Adapt as required to fit your particular event!
Then let me know how it goes.
Interested to learn more? Message me to chat about how I can use my signature system to help your employees infuse connection, joy and delight into virtual meetings, trainings and events at your workplace.
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