As a member of Miro’s People team, I face the challenge of engagement every day. When my team and I design online learning workshops and all-hands meetings, our goal is to make them meaningful, memorable, and motivational. This is no easy task — in today’s virtual setting, we have a limited ability to read the room and connect on a personal level during video calls.
So how can you ensure that participants will be fully present and engaged? At Miro, we kick off meetings and workshops with collaborative icebreakers.
Icebreakers do more than energize the room — they can help participants get to know each other, gather feedback, spark conversations, and explore individual backgrounds and preferences. Today, I want to share how teams at Miro use icebreakers to accomplish their goals and have fun at the same time. Copy the templates for your next meeting or use them as inspiration to build your own!
Find out how your team is feeling
I created the Emotions Wheel Icebreaker to help facilitators sense how their participants are feeling. Simply ask participants to place a dot on an emotions wheel. Set a timer and allow people to reflect on their mood, share their emotional state, and unload any baggage they may be carrying.
Acknowledging emotions and recognizing similarities and differences helps people practice empathy. Also, visual polls like this can start meaningful conversations and help you gather valuable, actionable feedback. Smaller teams may choose to debrief this short activity in pairs or as a team to discover what problems might be holding them back.
Help people get to know each other
Activities that involve an element of randomness and surprise make our brains intrigued and happy. Engage your participants by adding an element of chance to your icebreakers.
A fascinating example is the Questions from a Bucket Icebreaker that our Head of Customer Success in the US, Jeremy Green, created for his team. Use it as a team-building exercise or reduce the number of questions for a quick icebreaker. You can also hide frames to keep questions hidden until you’re ready for participants to uncover them.
Understand people’s backgrounds
Our Onboarding Learning Designer, Dorothy Mankey, designed the What Shapes Us Icebreaker to spark empathy and understanding across an international team and help team members get to know each other.
You may use a variety of topics for fill-in activities like this: ask participants to “dress-up” their avatar with symbolic representation of their personal and professional skills, experiences, hobbies, identities, interests — anything that fits the purpose of your meeting! As a facilitator, you will be able to understand your audience better and tailor future activities based on the insights you gain.
Teach collaboration skills
Our brains are wired for solving problems, and most people enjoy simple puzzles and challenges. Our agile coach Pete Lim showcased the meaning of collaboration in “The Big Picture” Puzzle Icebreaker. He divided participants into teams and asked them to complete a puzzle he created using an online puzzle generator.
Pete then showed how each team’s puzzle was but a small part of a greater whole, the same way one team is part of a wider organization. Customize this using your own photo and challenge your team by rotating the pieces!
Map out the big picture
A great way to start an international conference or webinar is to ask participants to mark their location on the world map with an emoji or digital sticky note. Our event manager, Joanna Kim, kicked off a meeting with her Digital Event Icebreaker and it was both a fun and inspiring start to the day. She also asked participants to test their artistic skills while practicing using the pen tool.
You can customize this to fit your meeting goals. Have participants co-create a map of the group’s backgrounds, knowledge, or interests, then zoom out to see the big picture. Start your meeting by pointing out key patterns to help people get to know each other.
Spending 10-15 minutes of your meeting on a collaborative activity might sound like a significant amount of time. Yet in today’s remote world, I prefer to treat it as an investment. Co-creating something visual together gives people a sense of empowerment to be themselves and actively contribute to the meeting outcomes, making a positive impact on employee engagement and productivity.