Zoom-compatible warm-ups and icebreakers (2023)

Bck in the day, myd.schoolFriendstania anaissiejTaylor Kegelcreated the "Stoke-Deck' - A collection of activities designed to increase energy, encourage camaraderie and encourage creativity among students in college design classes. Since then, I have used these and similar activities religiously to help my students find the right mindset for creative collaboration.

However, activities like these were designed for face-to-face physical interaction. Today we teach and learn in a different world.

Zoom-compatible warm-ups and icebreakers (1)

As my colleagues and I rushed to transition our classroom design courses to an online format, I asked members of the Future of Design in Higher Education group a question:

Because our goal is to create engaging online experiences for our students,

What are all the zoom friendly warm up/feed activities we can do with our students to start the lessons orAdd moments of pleasurethrough?

Below is what we came up with.

Feel free to use them for your online courses, meetings, and webinars to add a little extra joy to those experiences.

Name tag

A very quick and easy way for everyone to recognize each other at the start of a meeting or lesson.

(Video) Warm Up Any Meeting With These 8 Icebreakers

  • Everyone must have their name visible on screen (ie make sure your name is set to your real name in Zoom).
  • One person calls the name of another.
  • The person whose name was called yells "Hey!" (or however you choose). That person then calls out the name of another person.
  • Continue until all have been "tagged".


Classic "Sound Ball" game, except that it can be played on Zoom with a spin.

  • The premise is that you throw an invisible/imaginary ball.
  • Someone begins by forming their hands as if they are holding an invisible ball and saying the name of the person they are going to "throw" the invisible ball to.
  • The pitcher must make a specific sound with his mouth when pitching (can be anything... "whee", "buing", "puof", "blah", "shayayayaya", whatever).
  • The catcher must make the same noise as the pitcher. The catcher then names a new person to throw and throws them at him with a newly invented sound.
  • Continue until everyone has had the ball once.
  • Tip: Have everyone raise their hands to the camera if they haven't already had the ball so the remaining pitchers know who to pitch to as the game progresses (if the goal is to get everyone involved).


This one is super easy and gets people in a good mood quickly. It can take less than a minute or up to 5 or even 10 minutes if you want to continue.

  • The moderator should shareAudio only(in Zoom's "Advanced" screen sharing options).
  • The presenter plays a song (using Spotify or any other source you like)
  • Participants run to identify the song in chat. Whoever guesses correctly first gets a point.
  • Points may simply be Pride Points or may be redeemed for prizes of Promoter's choice. Someone can "win" by being the first to score e.g. 3 points, or you can wait a few minutes for it's time to move on.

Variation: You can split the contestants into teams (have everyone change their display names to start with team number/name so you can keep track of them) and teams can compete against each other (e.g. first team to 5 points wins). .

Tip: Vary the genres of the songs to make it fun (e.g. play something from a Broadway musical, followed by a recent Billboard hit, followed by an old song, etc.).

*Travel suitcase fromShazamjZoom. Credit goes to Espy Thomson, Human-Centered Design Fellow at Dartmouth College.

love happen

The goal is to get everyone up and moving to re-energize and re-engage.

  • Have everyone set their zoom screen to the "Gallery View" setting, which allows you to see everyone as a series of tiled video screens.
  • Ask everyone (with the video on) to stand up and stretch their arms from side to side. Then step back until your arms touch the edges of your video frame (imagine you're in a frame bounded by the webcam).
  • Each person needs to come up with something nice/friendly to share with another person and hold that idea in their hands like a ball.
  • Then everyone will "pass on" this love to a person in the frame on the left, right, top or bottom of the frame ... And when someone gives something to you, you "receive" it on this side of that side of the video. frame and "pass" it to the other side of the video frame.
  • So they "receive" and "give" love through the video group. All move and pass (and also grab, stretch, etc.).

Do you remember when...

This usually results in delicious hilarity and is a great example of collaborative creativity.

  • Show the order in which people will speak (putting everyone's name in order in the chat works well).
  • The first person begins counting the beginning of a false shared memory, beginning with the words "Remember when..." (e.g. "Remember when we all went surfing in Hawaii together?") .
  • The next person continues the story by adding a sentence that ends with "Yes! And then..." (e.g., "Yes! And then we meet some talking dolphins...")
  • Continue with each additional person adding another sentence to the story until everyone is gone.

Fun with virtual backgrounds

Have everyone set their Zoom "virtual background" to something fun, playful, or beautiful, such as:

  • The place you would like to be right now
  • your favorite scent
  • A frame from a movie or cartoon that you love
  • Your favorite food/dessert
  • A photo of you from childhood.
  • something that makes you happy
  • your favorite city
  • Etc... You can even share group ideas

You can then walk around and let everyone talk for a few seconds about what they voted for and why.

Saying one word at a time

This is a classic improv game that survives the transition to Zoom very well.

  • Show the order in which people will speak (putting everyone's name in order in the chat works well).
  • The first person begins by saying the first word of a (non-existent) proverb.
  • Continue as a group, each person adding a word (for example: He...who...slices...radishes...loud...must...always...etc.) ;
  • Once the group feels that the natural end of the sentence has been reached, everyone nods and says "yes, yes, yes, yes, yes."
  • You can walk around the group several times and come up with different proverbs.

Oh, come on!

Another "oldie but goodie" that works great online.

(Video) What Is A Good Icebreaker For A Meeting?

  • One person says “Let's ____” and suggests something the group can all do together (e.g. wave their hands in the air, do a high five, do 3 jumps, etc.).
  • Everyone else responds with "Yes, come on!" and performs the suggested action for a few seconds.
  • The person who just left chooses the next person who suggests a new action.
  • Go on for as long as you like - about 5 suggestions total is good (no need to go around and have everyone in a large group suggest an action... which might feel boring).

Where we are?

The synopsis is this: They average the coordinates of everyone's current location (latitude + longitude) to determine the geographic "centroid" of the group.

  • Set up a Google spreadsheetlike this. (You must have an automatic averaging formula for latitude and longitude and make sure that this shared spreadsheet is editable by everyone.)
  • All go tolatlong.netand look up its latitude and longitude.
  • Have everyone go to the table and fill in their name and location.
  • Once you have the averages, the moderator does a reverse lookup by going tolatlong.net/Mostrar-Latitud-Longitud.htmland enter the average values ​​to see the place name.
  • The moderator enters the name of the resulting place in the table.

Bonus points if you later look up something about where you ended up. When I tested this, the class average was in Shelton, CT. As it turns out, it's the birthplace of the original Wiffle Ball!

backbone of history

Everyone invents a story together, sentence by sentence. Start by setting the order in which people will speak (putting everyone's names in order in the chat works well) and post the bulleted text at the bottom of the screen. Then let everyone go and build the story, beginning each subsequent sentence with these phrases:

  • Once Upon a time…
  • Daily…
  • Until one day…
  • Because of this…
  • Because of this…
  • Because of this…north*
  • Until finally…
  • And since that day...

* Depending on the size of the group, you can have as many as you need.

give presents

This is another classic improv game.

  • Start by "presenting" a person with an invisible/imaginary gift. (It helps if you have a TA or shill for this first step so they can demonstrate the correct reaction.) Be as expressive as possible with your body language to indicate something about the potential size/weight/contents of the gift. When handing it over, all you can say is, "Here, [person's name], I brought you a present."
  • The person you gave it to must receive the gift and name it by responding to body language. ("Wow, thanks for that...bike! It's such a pretty pink color!")
  • And then they give the next person a present and so on until everyone is gone.

This can work well in a session where you are teaching interviewing and developing empathy, since the 'receiver' is like the interviewer and needs to respond to what the interviewer/interviewee brings up.

Jamboard playground

Google has an extension called "Jamboard', which is basically like a shared whiteboard.

  • open oneJamboardand share the link with all participants of your video call.
  • Pick someone to share one thing they're obsessing about that week or day.
  • When that thing is chosen (e.g. watch Netflix, send emails, dinosaurs) it becomes the inspiration for your community artwork.
  • In Jamboard, the tools on the left help everyone bookmark, add images, etc. create a single image inspired by that "obsession".
  • It helps to have a time limit (e.g. 5 minutes) and everyone is encouraged to contribute. Best of all, the picture at the end is a hodgepodge of interpretations that build upon one another.
Zoom-compatible warm-ups and icebreakers (2)

Break Room Charades

  • Randomly assign people to workspaces and ask them to come up with a short list of design principles or lesson plans (or whatever!).
  • Bring back the groups and turn on the mute. Have one person act out the concept while the other team guesses.

Guess who musical

This works best with small groups (less than 10).

  • The moderator asks each participant to submit the title of their favorite song or the name of their favorite artist. This can be done in advance (via email or google forms) or in real-time via a private Zoom chat. It is important that the other participants do not know what everyone has said.
  • The presenter plays ~30 seconds of each person's favorite song (by searching for it on Spotify or YouTube Music etc.) and everyone has to guess which person picked which song.
  • (For a fun/silly bonus, add 30 seconds of a random/weird/weird song that nobody listed, just to add a note of delicious unpredictability.)

Rapid Fire Teams

A great way to quickly build intimacy and community while giving couples something unique to connect with.

(Video) 5 Icebreaker Ideas for Your Virtual Meetings

  • Round 1: Create random break rooms of 2 people each. Give them 2 minutes to do the following activity: tell each other where you are from; then together they create a "secret handshake" (a series of air gestures over Zoom) that's somehow inspired by that information.
  • Round 2: Create random break rooms with new pairs. Give them 2 minutes to do the following task: Tell each other one of your earliest childhood memories; then, together, they create nicknames for each other, inspired by this information.
  • Round 3: Create random break rooms with new pairs. Give them 2 minutes to do the following activity: Tell each other about a recent failure (big or small); then they create a life motto together, inspired by this information.
  • Round 4: Create random break rooms with new pairs. Give them 2 minutes to do the following activity: Tell each other about a recent success (big or small); Then create a touchdown dance together inspired by this information.

give me five

  • Ask everyone to turn on "Gallery View".
  • Air high five with your neighbors.
  • Air high five with your diagonal neighbors.

30 second dance party

There are two variants of this:

  • You can share your audio and play a song for everyone (and you can choose to have the cameras turned off for the whole "dance like nobody's looking" thing, or have everyone's cameras on and watch each other's silliness together enjoy ).
  • You can encourage everyone to play their own song and dance to it while muting their mics, simulating a silent disco situation.

this is not a crumb

A game for everyone in a video call to make a synchronous movement from the waist up.

  • Person 1 starts with a movement, e.g. B. Shrug.
  • Person 2 walks in and says, "Hey, [insert name]! What are you doing?"
  • Person 1 replies "I fuck!"
  • Person 2 replies: "That isno shitIt ishe fucks." Person 2 now makes a new move and person 1 imitates.
  • Person 3 jumps up and asks Person 2, "Hey [insert name]! What are you doing?" etc. start a new move so that all three people make a new move.
  • This continues until everyone on the video call makes a similar motion, one person at a time, changing the motion with each person.

Feel free to contact us

The aim of this exercise is to get everyone out of their perception for a few minutes and to get in touch with the tactile and sensual experience.

  • First, ask everyone to observe their current state of mind. Notice how you feel.
  • Second, get up and move around your space by touching many objects in your space. Look how they make youfeelwhen you touch them choose one of themfeelas if it fits your mood today. When it's small enough, bring it back to your zoom.
  • Third, share. Depending on the size of the group, everyone can share or set up meeting rooms for small groups.

Instructions and notes for your group: "If you're an accomplished cognitive thinker, you'll find it easy to pick any object at random and invent a reasonable-sounding story (Narrative) of how this object suits your mood. Try not to do this, but really notice how you feel and how you feel when you touch the objects.”

Snap and Share / Show and Tell

  • When you're on a video call, let everyone grab something within reach.
  • Take turns telling a story about this item: Where/when did you get it? Is it significant?
  • If you have multiple conversations with similar people and choose this activity, make sure you pick up something new to share each time.

Bonus variation: For extra fun and creativity, participants can also have fantastic made-up stories told about the objects.


They all step out of the frame (but keep their cameras on). Moderator instructs everyone to return to shot as if _______ (insert mood/situation/facial expression here). You can do several of these in a row. Some fun prompts are:

Come back like you...

  • He walked into a room and found that everyone else was throwing a surprise party for him.
  • He had the most innovative idea in the world.
  • I just found $20 in your pocket.
  • Etc.

change of shape

This is a quick and easy game that is sure to put a smile on everyone's face.

  • Everyone turns off their cameras.
  • The facilitator announces that everyone has a short, specific amount of time (~3 minutes is good) to complete the activity and return. (The presenter can also share their screen with a countdown timer.)
  • During the "cams off" period, everyone has to find a costume for themselves. They will also need to change their Zoom "Display Name" to a new name that matches the costume/disguise.
  • When time is up, the presenter will count down 3...2...1...and ask everyone to turn on their cameras at the same time. There is hilarity when everyone sees each other's silly costumes.


Ask participants a question that can be answered in one word or short sentence. Each participant writes their answer and holds it up to the camera. Anyone whose screen has a row, column or diagonal with the same answers wins. Simple questions work best, like...

  • What was the last thing you had to drink?
  • In which city are you now?
  • What animal was your first pet?

It could look like that:

Zoom-compatible warm-ups and icebreakers (3)
(Video) 3 Easy Icebreaker Games to Play on Video Conferences

Right or Wrong (With Friends and Family)

Invite each student to bring a friend or family member to class. Walk around and let each guest introduce themselves. And then play "True or False?" Game:

  • Each guest takes turns telling a fact about the student who brought them, and it may be a true or false fact (e.g. "a pirate", etc.)
  • Everyone else is trying to guess if they believe the fact is wrong. (You can use Zoom polls for this and just set up a one-question poll with the options "TRUE" and "FALSE" and restart the poll each time.)
  • The person who stated the fact reveals if the group was right and expands on the backstory behind the fact a bit.
  • For added fun, enable a right (ringing) and wrong (buzzer) sound effect to play after the reveal.
  • The student who was only the subject of a true/false fact names the next person to go.
  • Keep walking until everyone is gone.

theme days

Make a list of topics (like High School Spirit Days): have students join in the brainstorming session, or choose from the list below and choose a topic each day. You can use polls on Zoom to have students vote for the next day's topic at the end of each day (among 5 choices each).

  • pajama day
  • Ugly Sweater Day
  • Funny/Favorite Hat Day (photo at the beginning of this article)
  • Superhero Day
  • Maltag
  • Bring a pet to class
  • Halloween costume day
  • Bring a sibling to class day
  • Primary Colors Day
  • Dress up as someone else (your teacher or a famous person) in a day.
  • Black Tie Day
  • Crazy hair day
  • funny shirt day
  • Dessert-/Snack-Tag
  • Bring a stuffed animal (or other toy/memorabilia from childhood) with you on the day
  • Time travel day
  • fun/funny sock day
  • Tell a joke day
  • Bad-Hair-Day
  • Bring something you made today
  • Etc.

For each theme day, at the beginning of class, take a few minutes to walk around and let everyone spend a few seconds talking about what they chose or brought with them.

Lots of great ideas fromAbby Sturges:

Specific heating kits for murals:

Are you interested in discovering more fun with improvisation and related activities? Here are some gems to check out:

This list was a team effort and I am very grateful to the members of the Future of Design in Higher Education group who worked together on it, including:

scared Wendy(Our Lady),Kate Burch Canales(UT-Austin), Katie Clark (Swarthmore),gray garmon(UT-Austin),Kim Hoffmann(Northwest), Tony Hu (MIT), Steve Krak (Denison),fred lighter(Claremont Colleges),Andrea Mecquel(Princeton), Jessica Leung (Princeton), Amy O'Keefe (Noroeste),Claudia Röschmann(State of Texas),Sarah Rottberg(UPen),Adam royal house(Columbia),Rafe Steinhauer(Tulane), Carl Sveen (Swarthmore) uScott Witthöft(UT-Austin).

and a Thank you to my brave and wonderful students at theDesign challenge for seniorsfor allowing me to try many of these activities with them! ...and for many great ideas, such as possibilities for our theme days and virtual backgrounds.

And of course for looking so fabulous in silly hats.

Tell us in the comments!


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