Meetup is an excellent resource for learning a new skill or networking in your industry, but the most common reasons people join are to socialize and make friends. It’s a lot easier to accomplish these goals when you feel comfortable and welcomed from the very start of a Meetup event. That’s where icebreakers come in.
Posing a group question or creating a simple activity for people to get to know each other may be the best tool in your event hosting toolkit. The value of getting everyone involved and talking from the get-go is that you immediately develop a sense of community. Plus, that structure makes it easier for shy people to speak and for conversations to flow after the icebreaker is finished.
At your event, more talking equals more socializing equals more fun. The more fun people have, the more likely they are to attend another event in the future. Explore a few icebreaker ideas to maximize the social potential of your next event. If you’re just attending (i.e., you’re not organizing) an event where the host hasn’t prompted an icebreaker, there are still plenty of useful icebreaking tips you can employ on your own.
Icebreaker ideas for hosting in-person and online events
Whether you’re discussing Jean Baudrillard’s theories on hyperreality or just taking a stroll through the local park, short and simple icebreakers will help any kind of group connect on a personal level.
There are so many different kinds of icebreakers, but one thing they have in common is that they’re all easy to understand. You should be able to explain the premise in 30 seconds. You also don’t want your icebreaker to dominate a large portion of the total event time—that’s not what people RSVP’d for. Quick, lighthearted, and simple should be your guiding lights. With that in mind, here are a few icebreaker ideas for inspiration:
- Two Truths and a Lie — Every attendee gets a turn making three statements about themselves: two of them true, one of them false. It’s up to the rest of the group to guess which of the statements is the lie. This is a great way for people to share little anecdotes that other attendees will want to follow up on with further conversation.
- Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament — Split the group into pairs and have each pair play a game of rock-paper-scissors. The winner of the match will go on to the next round, and the loser becomes a traveling fan of the player who beat them. If the winner then loses in the next round, both they and their fans become fans of the player who beat them. Eventually, you’ll have a final showdown between two undefeated players with giant fan bases cheering them on.
- Would You Rather — This one’s great for getting shy people into the mix. The game is super simple: give a person two scenarios and ask them to choose one of them. The fun part is making the scenarios totally bonkers. It’s easy for people to get involved because they’re not improvising small talk, just responding to a bizarre question like, “Would you rather have hands for feet or feet for hands?”
For smaller events, many of the same in-person icebreakers can be translated pretty easily online. Just be sure to call on each participant, because it can be hard for people to know when they should chime in on Zoom.
Otherwise, a classic online icebreaker is to ask each participant to tell the group where they’re dialing in from. Maybe have them add a fun fact about their city. It’s a great way to feel more grounded in the digital space, and to see the power of community working across countries and continents!
How to break the ice when there isn’t an icebreaker activity
As an attendee at an event where the host hasn’t prompted an icebreaker, there’s still a lot you can do to get conversation going. When you’re meeting people for the first time, greet them with a smile. Simple acknowledgments such as “Nice to meet you” and “How are you?” go a long way.
Asking basic questions is the best way to get someone chatting. At a Meetup event, some fundamental questions are, “What brings you here?” and “Is this your first time with the group?” From there, you can get a little more in depth. If it’s a beers and board games event, ask someone what their favorite games are and why.
A general rule of thumb is to keep your questions light. Don’t begin a brand new acquaintance by asking what someone’s biggest regrets in life are. By that same token, try not to overshare about your own life too soon.
Overall, be interested in people. Offer non-invasive compliments about their style (“Your earrings are really cool”). Try to discover some common interests in music, sports, movies, education, work, food, and more. When the conversation is winding down, remember to excuse yourself politely.
Find an icebreaker that suits you
There’s no right or wrong way to kick off an event. Try new things until you find what works for your group. The most important aspect of whatever icebreaker you choose is that it makes people feel comfortable at your events, so they want to come back!
Last modified on June 28, 2023