Icebreakers allow group participation, so they are an excellent way to get people interested in an event or activity and relax. Our list of quick icebreakers takes no advance preparation and can be played anywhere. Use them at the beginning, middle, or end of any activity. Most of our quick icebreakers work for any age and group size.
Table of Contents
Quick Icebreaker Meeting Openers
A quick meeting opening icebreaker works well if you have a limited time for your meeting or a very large group. The first listed takes almost no time at all and the second only takes ten minutes and avoids advance preparation of nametags. The last one encourages prompt arrival.
Hang a large map of the world on the wall. As people enter, give everyone a pushpin. Have them pin the location of their birth on the map. Remind people at the start of the activity or meeting to check out the map later.
Creative Name Tags
Give everyone 10 minutes to make his or her own nametag. They can list hobbies, draw a picture, or write a self-profile.
- As each person arrives, tape a 3 x 5-index card on his or her back with the name of a famous city or person.
- People must circulate the room asking questions that only answerable with a yes or no.
- The goal is to identify clues that will help them find out the name of the person or city on their index card.
Examples: London, New York, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and John Wayne. Stop putting index cards on backs when it is time for the meeting or activity to start, and then give 5 minutes more to finish the activity. You may wish to set aside the easiest names for the last few individuals to receive cards.
Quick Introductory Icebreakers
Not all meetings and activities require that people get to know each other – they may know each other already or other activities may serve this purpose. These quick introductory icebreakers are not always quick to complete, but preparation is.
Name Backwards Introduction
Ask the each person to say their name backwards when they introduce themselves. If you wish, part or all of the backward game is used as a nickname throughout the activity. The funny part is that there is usually someone whose name is the same backwards, i.e. Anna.
This quick icebreaker is a fun and interactive way to learn everyone’s name. The group stands in a circle facing each other. Choose a person to start by introducing themselves by doing an action for each syllable of their name. The entire group repeats the name and motions. This continues until everyone has introduced themselves.
- Everyone makes a paper airplane and writes their name and two questions to ask someone else.
- On cue, everyone throws their airplane around the room, picks up others’ airplanes, and keeps throwing them.
- The leader says stop after one or two minutes.
- Everyone must have one paper airplane.
- They must find the owner of the airplane they have and answer the questions on the airplane.
- Each person then introduces the owner of the airplane they have to the group.
- Everyone sits in a circle.
- One person starts by using an adjective starting with the same letter as their first name, followed by their first name, for example Sweet Silvia, Handsome Hank.
- The next person repeats the adjective and first name of the first person, and then adds their own.
- Continue around the circle, with the last person having to repeat all the names in order and adding their own.
Give each person a piece of paper with instructions to write words or draw pictures that describe themselves without talking. Then they are to pin their paper on their chest, walk around, and look at each other. Pictures are collected and shuffled and participants try to identify to whom each picture belongs.
Ask the participants to move around the room and find someone they do not know or who they know the least of anyone else. When everyone is in pairs, the facilitator announces the topic partners can talk about, and a designated amount of time to do so.
Who Is It?
People write down something about themselves they think no one knows. The leader reads the slips of paper and others guess whom the person is. It is amazing to see the things some people reveal about themselves.
Two Truths and a Lie
Have participants say three things about themselves. Two should be true and one should be a lie. Have participants guess which response was a lie and give their reasoning.
Have everyone form a circle. Instruct the participants to put one piece of information about themselves on a small slip of paper, fold it, and put it in a blown up balloon. Throw the balloons in the middle of the circle and then have people take turns popping a balloon, reading the piece of paper, and guessing to whom the information applies.
Divide people into four groups: youngest, middle, oldest, and only children. After they have gathered, have each group write down the pros and cons of their particular birth order. One of the youngest children might say, “I always got stuck with hand-me-down clothes, but I was allowed to get away with more.” This offers people a chance to connect quickly over shared experiences.
Everyone selects one talent or special ability that they possess and can show the group. Then each person introduces themselves, explains what their special talent is, and then perform their special talent for the group.
- Have everyone put his or her name on a small piece of paper.
- Everyone draws a name (not their own) from a bag, basket, or box.
- Participants stand in a circle and look down.
- The leader explains that he will count to five and then each person must make eye contact with the person whose name they have, but cannot look directly to their right or left.
- Those who make eye contact with someone take a step back from the circle.
- Those who do not make eye contact with their specified person are still in the game.
- Repeat having them look down and then attempt to make eye contact.
- When there are only three or four people left, they may look at whomever they wish and are no longer limited by the previous rule about the person standing directly to the right or left.
End the Sentence
Write the start of a question on the board (i.e. My Favorite job was …, My Hobby is…) and go around the room with each person finishing the sentence. When the group is finished, post another question and start again.
Quick Fun Icebreakers
Everyone stands in a circle. One participant bounces a ball to somebody else after saying the name of a movie. There is a five second limit after the ball is bounced. The ball continues to be bounced to individuals in the group. A person is out of the game if they repeat a movie name or fail to say a name within the five second time limit. Eventually there is a competition between two people for the winner.
Hot and Cold
Two members of the group are chosen to be “it” and sent out of the room. The remaining people choose a task for them to do (stand on the table, do a somersault, etc.). When the chosen two return, it is the group’s job to encourage them to perform the task. However, the only encouragement allowed is applause when they’re hot and booing when they are cold. You can repeat this as many times as you wish.
This quick icebreaker works to form pairs or teams. Distribute common song titles to each participant and make sure they do not reveal it to others. Have two or more duplicates depending on whether you are pairing or creating teams. Participants hum their song and find others humming the same song. At least two people should have each song title.
Word and Songs
Use this icebreaker to energize participants. Divide the group into at least two teams. The facilitator suggests a word (like dance, sun, happy, love). Each group alternates turns singing a song that contains that word. The game continues until a team cannot think of any more songs. Songs cannot be repeated.
Snap, Clap, and Slap
Form a seated circle and designate one person to begin by snapping their fingers. One by one, the rest of the circle follows suit. Once you have returned to the original snapper, the original snapper will change the sound to clapping hands. The clapping of hands continues around the group. Next, the leader slaps their legs, with the rest of the circle follows suit. You can add additional motions or continue with this pattern.
Extreme Rock, Paper, and Scissors
You play this energizer in the normal “rock, paper, scissors” fashion with a fun twist. Have the group pair off. Once the winner and loser are established, the loser must follow the winner around for the rest of the activity chanting the winner’s name. This continues until you are left with two people fighting with a large crowd of supporters watching.
Quick Icebreakers for Multiple Day Activities
On the second day of an activity, ask each person to share one thing they learned about someone in the group during the previous session/day. Have the rest of the group try and guess the person described.
The Morning After
If you have a two-day meeting and need a quick warm-up for day two, ask everyone to pantomime something they did the night before. Individuals or groups act out a movie they went to, describe a meal they ate, or recreate a scene witnessed at a bar.
Each person takes a penny or other coin out of their pocket and looks at the date. When it is their turn, they tell the year on their coin and try to recall something that happened that year.
After you explain that many companies have slogans or mottoes which reflect their values, ask each person to write (or borrow) a slogan to describe him or herself and share that with the group.
Ask each person to introduce him or herself and describe details of the ideal, perfect dream vacation.
Pass out dum-dum lollipops. For every letter that appears in their flavor, each person has to share something about themselves with the group.
Stupid Human Tricks
Ask each person to introduce him or herself and then do a stupid human trick.
The Four Cs
Ask each person to name a cartoon character, a color, a car, and a cuisine that best describes his or her personality and explain why.
In small groups, have participants come up with six things they have in common and have them share these with the large group.
Brainstorm background data that participants would be interested in knowing about each other (age, education, birthplace, etc.) Have each participant tell about who they are in reference to the demographics.
Nobody is permitted to smile for a set length of time. This is an effective because people start smiling or laughing because they are not allowed to.
This is the quickest icebreaker of all. Ask people their name and where they come from. That is it!
Ground Rules for Quick Icebreaker Games
- Set a time limit and stick to it. Some games are so much fun that participants often wish to keep going.
- The leader should be positive and lighthearted. Remember that you are setting the tone for group participation.
- If a quick icebreaker is not effective, stop and try another one.
These are all tried and tested quick icebreakers that will help your activity be a success. Give them a try!
Susan majored in English with a double minor in Humanities and Business at Arizona State University and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Liberty University. She taught grades four through twelve in both public and private schools. Subjects included English, U.S. and world history and geography, math, earth and physical science, Bible, information technologies, and creative writing.
Susan has been freelance writing for over ten years, during which time she has written and edited books, newspaper articles, biographies, book reviews, guidelines, neighborhood descriptions for realtors, Power Point presentations, resumes, and numerous other projects.