According to Business Insider, one-third of meetings are unproductive, costing companies more than $37 billion in wasted time and resources.

We’ve all been in meetings where glancing at the clock is the most interesting way to pass the time. Whether your meeting is internal or external, bringing people together to talk and share ideas is critical in the development of any business. The meeting professionals at Lessing-Flynn know our client meetings are most productive when everyone can share ideas. Kicking off a meeting creatively can help better facilitate that goal by helping people let their guards down.

Step up your meeting game with a fun icebreaker to set the tone for a productive, engaging (might we say fun) and inclusive meeting.

1. My two cents

This quick and easy icebreaker is a great way to get to know people better. Start with a collection of pennies (enough for each person to have two) and allow everyone to randomly draw their two cents. After all have drawn, go around the room and have each share what they were doing during the years their pennies were minted. It could be a notable memory, a goal they were working toward or a job they held. Give time for each participant to elaborate on their story, asking for details where need be. Allow time for laughter, compassion, cheers or sympathy as participants tell their stories.

Tips from the author:

  • As a facilitator, share your two cents first and set the tone with detailed stories. Others will follow suit.
  • If there are large age disparities among your group, encourage participants to trade pennies if they drew one minted before they were born. Have extra pennies handy in case.
  • To maximize the value of this fun icebreaker, deliberately give participants pennies that you know are significant years for them (high school graduation, the birth of their first child, etc.).
  • This can also be a virtual icebreaker where participants are asked to bring two pennies to the virtual meeting.

    Time to complete:

    • Allow two minutes at the beginning to provide direction and distribute pennies, and one to three minutes per person to share their two cents.

    2. A picture’s worth a thousand words

    This simple, fun icebreaker requires little preparation. Simply give participants time to choose a photo from their phone (or wallet, or office desk) and go around the room to allow each person to share the significance of their photo. If using a digital display, present photos on a screen so all can see or pass around physical photos brought to the meeting. The goal is for participants to provide a detailed explanation of why they chose that photo. So don’t be afraid to ask those who may be short-winded to elaborate.

    Tips from the author:

    • Give participants just one minute to select a photo, otherwise, it’s easy to lose group members to their phones.
    • This icebreaker can also be completed virtually.

      Time to complete:

      • Allow two minutes to share directions and for the group to select their photos. If sharing photos digitally, allow an additional two minutes to facilitate technology. Participants should spend about one minute each discussing their photo of choice.

      3. Food for thought

      This fun icebreaker is sure to jumpstart group bonding, spark hilarity and fuel energy. First, have each group member share their least favorite food. Once everyone has heard what they are, each participant speaks for 30 seconds about their food and why that food is actually their favorite. This is an excellent icebreaker for a brainstorming or creative meeting, challenging participants to think outside the box. Obviously lying through their teeth, each must share how much they love what is actually their least-favorite food item.

      Tips from the author:

      • This icebreaker requires no preparation.
      • If a participant struggles to speak for 30 seconds, ask them questions about their food, like “what specifically about the taste of chopped liver do you love?”
      • The goal is to promote positivity, laughter and encouragement for team members to complete the challenge.
      • This can be completed as a virtual icebreaker.

        Time to complete:

        • Allow approximately 1-3 minutes per person. This carves time for the inevitable laughing fits.

        4. Ducks in a row

        A fresh take on a classic activity, this icebreaker challenges group members to line up according to different prompts — and with different challenges while doing so. First, select the prompts for how you want your meeting members to line up. Examples include: by birth month, alphabetically by name, alphabetically by favorite book, by how old they were when they got their first job, size of pet, etc. The possibilities are endless. After selecting two to three prompts, decide what challenges they must overcome while sorting themselves. Examples include: only one person can talk, nobody can use arm/hand gestures, everyone is blindfolded, etc.

        Tips from the author:

        • This is a fun icebreaker for groups that do not know each other well. It’s also a great way to get people moving and break the monotony of a work/meeting day.
        • If the group contains new people, it’s also a great way to see personalities come through — is there a natural leader? Do you see people using a particular strategy? Take notes for future projects.
        • Add some background music to ramp up the energy and a time cap to increase the stakes.

          Time to complete:

          • Depending on the size of the group, give meeting participants two to three minutes to sort at each prompt. If using a more complex challenge (like the blindfolds), allow an additional minute or two.

          5. Cow pies in a pasture

          This final fun icebreaker is a minefield for physical movement, engagement and teamwork. Start by splitting the meeting attendees into two teams (this works best with groups of eight or more). Give each team a blindfold and have them select who will be blindfolded first. As the groups are determining this, place a goal object that teams must reach. Lay random objects on the floor in an open area, between the teams and their goal object. These obstacles represent cow pies, and it is the blindfolded person’s job to listen to their teammates as they guide them from the sidelines through the “pasture.” If a person touches a “cow pie” (even a small brush of their shoe) while trying to get to the goal object, they must take off their blindfold and pass it to the person next in line.

          Tips from the author:

          • Use wacky objects for the cow pies. Examples include little knick-knacks, dog toys, stuffed animals, etc. The object at the end each team is trying to pick up can also be creative. Perhaps it’s a box of donuts to share, a week-long VIP parking pass, or a mock trophy for bragging rights.
          • Be sure to space out the room for participants. There should be no concern of anyone tripping over anything while blindfolded.
          • This activity can often end in a head-to-head as both teams slowly make their way to the end. The first teammate to physically touch the object at the end is the winner.
          • Don’t allow participants to cheat by going around the “pasture” — establish clear boundaries to avoid this.
          • Be sure everyone is participating from the sidelines. If someone isn’t offering guidance to their blindfolded team member, make a rule that for the next 30 seconds, only that person can speak for that team.

            Time to complete:

            • Allow 10 to 15 minutes to divide the group, distribute the blindfolds, lay out the objects and watch the teams compete.

            Need a meeting facilitator or more creative inspiration to get the most out of your company meetings? Contact the meeting professionals at LF for more!