See also

See also: Fun games.

General tips

  • Make it relevant if you can
  • Think about what zone / frame of mind you want people to be in
  • Gauge the room. Some groups love wacky icebreakers, some are completely turned off by them

Creating pairs or groups

When working in person, you often want to mix groups up so that people interact with people they don’t know (online meeting software generally has the capacity to randomly assign people to breakout rooms). Here are some ideas for that.

  • Get everyone to form an ordered line around the outside of the room
    • The order will be based on something they have to determine by talking to or interacting with each other. For instance:
      • Alphabetical order of first name and/or last name
      • Birth date order, but NOT including year of birth. So, 1st Jan at one end and 31st Dec at the other.
      • From north to south, either the place they were born or the place they currently live. This will lead to some interesting conversations and disagreements!
    • Once you have a line, you can form groups from this line by splitting them into chunks of the size you want, or by calculating the number of groups you want and giving everyone a number.
      • For instance, if there are 20 people and you want 4 people in each group:
      • 20 / 4 = 5
      • Give everyone a number from 1 to 5 by just counting along the row: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
      • Label five areas 1 to 5
      • Tell everyone to go find the area with the number they’ve been given
  • To rotate pairs in person, see rotating pairs in person

Rotating pairs in person

  • Have pairs of chairs facing each other (with or without tables).
  • Every 5 mins a timer goes off and the people on one side of the desk move round one space.
  • If an odd number of people, on each rotation a different pair of consecutive people on the fixed side of the desks get just one person opposite them. The pairs rotate in the opposite direction:
    • For instance, if you have 11 people:
    • People numbered 1 to 6 are on one side of 6 desks. They don’t move.
    • People numbered 7 to 11 go on the other side of the desks, and after 5 mins they move on.
    • On the first iteration, people numbered 5 and 6 are paired. Person 11 meets both of them at once, to make a three. People 7 to 10 are paired with people 1 to 4. Like this:
      • 7 goes with 1
      • 8 goes with 2
      • 9 goes with 3
      • 10 goes with 4
      • 11 goes with 5 & 6
    • On the second iteration, people numbered 4 and 5 are paired. People numbered 7 to 11 rotate. This means:
      • 11 goes with 1
      • 7 goes with 2
      • 8 goes with 3
      • 9 goes with 4 & 5
      • 10 goes with 6
    • On the third iteration the two rotations happen again, resulting in the following:
      • 10 goes with 1
      • 11 goes with 2
      • 7 goes with 3 & 4
      • 8 goes with 5
      • 9 goes with 6

Useful getting-to-know-you questions

There are a couple of activities below that benefit from these types of questions. Take your pick or come up with your own:

  • What’s something small you find satisfying? (eg cycling over crunchy Autumn leaves - but it’s amazing how many different things people will come up with)
  • What part of the world do you currently live in?
  • What takes up the majority of your weekday time?
  • What’s the last TV show you watched, and would you recommend it?
  • What do you hope to get out of this course / job / project [add / delete as appropriate]?
  • What would you recommend a visitor to do or see, if they were planning to visit the place where you live?
  • Tell us about your pets. If you don’t have any, what is your favourite animal? If you don’t like animals, what is your least favourite animal?
  • What was the first piece of music that moved you?
  • What is your current favourite music track? Who is the artist?
  • What’s the last TV show you watched, and would you recommend it?
  • What do you hope to get out of this course / job / project [add / delete as appropriate]?
  • What is your favourite dish that gets cooked by a relative or friend or restaurant?
  • What was the best holiday you ever had?
  • What’s your favourite (or most-recently acquired) gadget?
  • What’s your favourite food?
  • What was your first job?
  • What was the best job you ever had,and why?
  • What was the worst job you ever had, and why?
  • What was the biggest challenge you ever faced?
  • What was your first childhood pet or favourite toy / game?
  • What food do you hate?
  • What’s your favourite holiday destination?
  • [if all software developers] What was your first computer language?
  • What’s the oldest piece of tech you still own?
  • If you could teach somebody one thing, what would it be?

Getting to know each other

(Each bullet point represents a different activity! This is not all one activity. The ones in more detail are listed below this initial section)

  • Lots of great ideas in the energiser section of
  • See section above for ideas on how to create random groups
    • Not generally an issue when remote / online, but useful when in person
  • Speed networking
    • Based on the concept of speed dating, but DON’T call it this
      • If you do, you create the idea that people might be flirting with each other - which can make people feel uncomfortable.
    • Simple but very effective!
    • Put pairs or threes together
    • Give them 5 minutes or less, depending how many people and how much time you have.
    • Give them starter questions to use if they’re stuck for conversation topics, but it’s not mandatory to use them. For suggestions, see Getting-to-know-you Questions.
    • If remote:
      • Put people into breakout rooms, randomly assigned.
    • If in person, see rotating pairs in person
  • Write down something nobody knows about you, then we have to guess which one is who.
    • In person:
      • this goes on folded pieces of paper.
    • Remotely:
      • Get people to add cards to a Trello board or similar
      • Or you can use a spreadsheet and just agree to not pay attention to who’s writing what. The more people, the less likely people will register who wrote what.
  • Use paper and crayons (and glue and whatever else you want to give them) to introduce yourself.
  • Composite superheroes
  • Say three surprising things about yourself (two true, one false), then everybody asks you questions to find out more, then everyone has to guess which one’s false.
  • Get everyone to paste a baby pic of themselves into a spreadsheet (give them a few days to get this part done).
    • Then everyone has to guess who’s who.
  • Pair intros

Pair intros

  • See section above for ideas on how to create random pairs or groups
  • Split into pairs and share the answer to a question. Then share your partner’s answer with the rest of the group.
  • For question suggestions, see Getting-to-know-you Questions.
  • If in person:
    • postits round the outside numbered 1 to n, one postit per pair, each postit has a different warmup question
    • tell each other answers to questions
    • tell each other names
    • then introduce each other to the rest of the room

Composite superheroes

  • In groups of 3, design a superhero. You get to choose one super power each and combine them into one hero. Draw a collaborative picture of the result.
  1. 1 minute:
    • Choose a superpower you would like to have
    • and a backup!
  2. In groups of 3, 5 minutes:
    • Go to Miro or whichever tool you’ll use
    • Introduce yourselves to each other
    • Create a drawing of your superhero.
    • It will have three or four superpowers!
    • Explore Miro (or whatever tool you’re using)!
    • Be imaginative - use colour if possible
    • Delegate different jobs - eg googling for good images
  3. Look at the results:
    • Zoom out so they’re all visible
    • Google “random number generator”
      • Enter min and max depending on how many groups
    • Pick two numbers randomly, and focus on the results

Simple icebreakers

  • If still stuck for ideas, just google “icebreakers”
  • Use to play a game
  • Use costumes! Or just hats. A lot easier when everyone is remote.
  • More ideas in detail below

blind drawing

  • prep:
    • either write down names of simple objects, one card each
    • or print out simple pictures of objects
    • or get links to simple picture of objects
      • you can use this handy list of links:
      • Follow this link to know what the above images are.
      • You can use this wheel link to get a random image link selector (expires ater 365 days), or create a new one copying in the above list of links.
  • everybody gets a different simple object / image
  • in person:
    • stand back to back
  • otherwise just do it remote
  • one describes the picture using only the following words:
    • left, line, right, square, circle, middle, down, up, bendy, big, please
  • the other(s) try/tries to draw the picture.

The Counting Game

  • People take it in turns to say (or type in the chat) numbers
  • You can’t talk over anyone
  • You can’t say more than one number
  • You have to go back to the beginning if those rules are broken
  • You’re trying to count from one to ten
  • Play14 has a lot of games listed here, and some remote-friendly games here

The Dictionary Game

  • Prep: You need to find some unusual words, so you need googling skills or a big dictionary.
  • Split into groups of three.
  • Each group is given an unusual word, plus its definition.
  • Between them they have to come up with two false definitions of the word and decide who will read out each of the 3 definitions (false mixed with true).
  • Back in the main group, each sub group presents the true definition plus the false definitions, and everybody else has to vote on each of the definitions. Finally for each group the true definition is revealed.
  • This will take some time so you might want to save some of the words-plus-definitions for later in the day.

Human rock paper scissors

  1. Whole group agrees on physical poses to represent rock, paper and scissors
  2. Split into two teams
  3. Each team has 30 secs to agree whether they’re going for rock paper or scissors
  4. Facilitator shouts “GO”
  5. Play for the best of 3 or 5 to see which team wins
  6. More info here

rock paper scissors championship

  • Works best with large groups
  • Everybody in the room finds a pair and plays three rounds of Rock Paper Scissors
    • Give rules! Otherwise some people do one, two, play and some do one, two, three, play
  • The winner finds another winner to compete against. The loser becomes their cheerleader and has to follow them round chanting their name
  • The number of players becomes smaller and each player gets a larger and larger group of cheerleaders until there are only two players left, and one of them wins!
  • We played this at the thoughtworks Away Day in Birmingham, and at the Agile Leadership meetup at Made Tech in London 13/1/20 - I won!

“1,2 … 3,1”

  • Everybody stand up.
  • When the leader says “One,” everyone else must say “Two.”
  • When the leader says “Two,” everyone else must say “Three.”
  • When the leader says “Three,” everyone else must say “One.”
  • Start by practising that, then when they’ve got the hang of it, tell them that every time THEY say “One,” they must clap (it’s harder than it sounds).
  • That’s it!

Spirit Animals

  • Everybody draw an animal or if in Miro, choose an avatar for your animal using Icon Picker (three dots at the bottom of the tool bar on the right). Write / add a post-it next to it something like “Hello, I’m Clare and my spirit animal is a hedgehog”. Take it in turns to explain why you picked your animal, then pick the next person to also explain their animal
    • Potential gotchas:
      • It’s hard to work out whether everybody has gone yet. One way to fix this is for the facilitator to simply call out people one by one, for instance based on the list of attendees.
      • If these are people who have only just met and you only ask people to describe their spirit animal and why they chose it, you still don’t know very much about each individual. You might want to ask people to do a quick self-intro as well, eg what they do for a living.
    • Alternatives:
      • A nice addition is to split people into pairs / small groups after they have created their avatar. They tell each other abnout their avatar and then you come back into the main group and everyone introduces somebody else, rather than introducing themselves.
        • If you do this and these are people who have not met each other before, ask people to also do a brief personal intro - eg describe what they do for a living - so people get a little more context on each other.

Balloons and Names

This could be a warmup exercise… (via Amanda Nicholls on LinkedIn)

“A wise teacher once brought balloons to school, told her pupils to blow them up and write their name on one. After the children tossed their balloons into the hall, the teacher moved through the hall mixing them all up.

The kids were given five minutes to find the balloon with their name on it, but though they searched frantically, no one found their own balloon.

Then the teacher told them to take the balloon closest to them and give it to the person whose name was on it. In less than two minutes, everyone was holding their own balloon.

The teacher said to the children, “These balloons are like happiness. We won’t find it when we’re only searching for our own. But if we care about someone else’s happiness…it will ultimately help us find our own.””

Drama Games

  • Some of these games designed for drama classes can work well as energisers.
  • There are some more drama games listed here - this list is a bit more generically play-focused, rather than specifically focused on acting skills.

Retro Games

  • Count to 3 repeatedly (1,2,3,1,2,3) but do it by taking it in turns between the leader and everybody else. So:
    • Leader says 1
    • Everybody says 2 (in unison)
    • Leader says 3
    • Everybody says 1
    • But every now and then the leader will throw a spanner in the works by saying a number out of sequence
    • When this happens everyone must follow the leader’s number. Like this:
      • Leader says 1
      • Everybody says 2 (in unison)
      • Leader says 1
      • Everybody says 2
    • Now introduce a new rule: Whenever the group says 1 they also have to clap their hands
    • Now another rule (introduce rules one at a time, with a practice round each time): Whenever the group says 2, they also have to cross their forearms and point diagonally upwards
    • Now another rule: Whenever the group says 3, they also have to do jazz hands
    • Now another rule: No words from the group, just actions. So the leader says words (and does no actions), but the group has to do actions only
  • Everybody does stamp, stamp, click, click, in the same 4/4 rhythm
    • At the same time everybody recites in unison the following 3 bars: my name is x, I come from (also begins with X), my favourite food is (begins with X)
    • …except not X but the first letter of the person’s name
    • The only bit not in unison is the thing beginning with X (or whatever letter)
    • take it in turns 
  • I went to the market and I bought …
    • take it in turns
    • each person has to repeat all the previous items
    • each item should begin with next letter in alphabet

Blind drawing answers

  • 01 - dog
  • 02 - house
  • 03 - tree
  • 04 - cat
  • 05 - fence
  • 06 - robin
  • 07 - face
  • 08 - phone
  • 09 - teapot
  • 10 - car
  • 11 - bottle