Why do warm-up games for virtual meetings?
These days, lots of us are spending most of our working hours in Zoom, Google Meets, etc. Virtual meetings have now become the norm for many teams and organizations. And how are we feeling about that? Well, although there are definitely benefits to interfacing remotely, I think we’ve all experienced the drawbacks – virtual meetings can feel disconnected, awkward, dull, and even draining.
Virtual meeting fatigue:
We know the most successful organizations of today are able to continually tap into the energy, motivation, and creativity of their people. But virtual meeting fatigue makes it especially challenging for leaders and facilitators to foster ongoing engagement and innovation within their teams.
What can you do?
One way to increase energy and connection in virtual meetings is to start with a simple warm-up game. These creative and playful activities stimulate interaction and engagement while setting a positive tone for the rest of your meeting.
I’ve gathered 15 of my favorite team warm-ups from around the internet that can be utilized in virtual mode. Thanks and credit to SessionLab, Hyper Island, Mural, and CityHunt for being resources for many of these ideas.
For this activity, the collective goal of the group is to count up to the number 20. Only one person can speak at a time (by saying one number out loud), and there is no designated order of who goes after whom. Plus, if anyone speaks on top of each other (even by a second) by saying the same number at the same time, the group has to start back at the number 1. To succeed, everyone will have to listen carefully, remain present, and tune in to “reading the virtual room”.
This is meant to be a fast-paced activity during which the facilitator poses a number of fill-in-the-blank questions to the group in quick succession. Participants can be instructed to say their answers aloud or share them in the chat box. Prompts might include things like: “My favorite food is ________,” “I’d love to travel to _______,” “As a kid, I dreamed of________,” “A hobby of mine is _______,” or “My favorite vacation was_______.”
This is a fun warm-up that involves physical movement and stretching, which can energize participants who have been sitting in lots of virtual meetings! Ask everyone to stand up (although sitting could work too). The activity involves first shaking the right arm, then the left arm, then the right leg, and then the left leg. Start by doing 6 shakes of each, while everyone counts together 1-2-3-4-5-6. Then do 4 shakes, then 2, and finally 1. At the end, have everyone cheer and clap. And, for a more playful approach, you could invite participants to strike a signature pose at the end of the activity.
Something About Me:
This basic prompt is meant to foster a more personal connection between team members. Each participant is encouraged to share a fun fact about themselves by completing the following sentence: “Something about me you probably don’t know is…”. After everyone goes, you can spice it up by voting on the most interesting or surprising fact and giving that person a small prize. Or, make this a guessing game by having team members email their answers to the facilitator in advance. Then, the facilitator can read out each fact and have everyone guess who it’s about.
Story Around the Circle:
This warm-up involves the collaborative creation of a silly story. The facilitator or leader starts the story with an incomplete sentence like, “One day, an undercover agent posing as a marketing executive entered a…”. Then, the facilitator “passes” the story to another person in the meeting, who completes the sentence, builds on it, and creates another incomplete sentence to pass to the next person. The final person wraps up the story with a concluding statement. Make sure you have someone writing down the story as you go. Or, you could ask that everyone type their statements into the chat room as a way to capture them. Then, after the story is complete, the facilitator reads the entire story back to the group.
Hasn’t everyone imagined going back in time at one point or another? In this activity, participants are asked to choose a historical event or time period to which they’d like to travel. Each participant shares their answer and explains why they picked that particular time period.
One Word Check-In:
During this warm-up, team members are given a prompt and asked to select and share just one word that represents their answer. Words can be shared out loud or in the chat box. Example prompts could include: “How are you feeling right now?,” “What’s something you need most from the team?,” or “What’s something you’re thankful for today?”.
What am I Doing?:
To start this warm-up game, one person begins silently miming an action (for example, opening a jar). The rest of the team tries to guess what activity that person is doing. The first person who names it out loud will go next by miming another action (for example, brushing their hair). This continues until each person has had a chance to act something out. Note: Once someone has correctly guessed an action (and subsequently mimed another action), they are “out” and can’t continue participating.
The Story of My Name:
This activity can be done with the entire group or in virtual paired breakouts. Participants are asked to share something about the story of their name – why they were named what they’re named. Answers can range from straightforward (I was named after my grandpa) to unique (My name is the Italian word for cheerful). If done in breakouts, come back to the large group and have each person explain their partner’s name instead of their own.
For this game, the facilitator provides a prompt to the group, such as “Me in work mode,” “My perfect Saturday,” or “How I do coffee.” Participants use Google image search to find a graphic or meme that fits the prompt, and everyone pastes their chosen image into a shared Google doc. Team members then talk about what image they selected and why. Note: the image selection could either be done prior to the meeting or during the meeting itself, depending on the time available.
In this simple warm-up, each person is asked to pick their ideal imaginary friend, either fictional or real, alive or dead. Participants are then asked to share who they picked and explain one reason why they chose that person.
Name that Sound:
For this game, everyone will deactivate their webcam and only use audio. One person will begin by making a sound, either with their voice or with surrounding objects. The rest of the group tries to guess what the sound is (for example, the sound of an animal or the sound of rattling keys). The first person who guesses it by naming it out loud will go next by making another sound. This continues until each person has had a chance to go. Note: Once someone has correctly guessed a sound (and subsequently made their own sound), they are “out” and can’t continue participating.
2 Truths and a Lie:
This is a classic get-to-know-you style game that helps team members build connections and learn new (and surprising) things about each other. Each person takes a few minutes to think about two interesting facts about themselves and one lie. Then, participants take turns sharing their three statements and having the rest of the team guess which one is the lie.
Guess that Throwback Song:
To prep for this activity, the facilitator needs to find or create a playlist of songs from 10 or more years ago. Then, during the meeting, the facilitator will play a snippet of each song and have the team guess the name of the song or artist. To create some friendly competition, simple prizes could be awarded for the winners, or the group could be divided up into two teams that play against each other.
Show and Tell:
In this activity, team members are asked to select a favorite item from their desk or home office and are given 1 minute to share the item on camera and explain its meaning to the group. Participants can select anything, from a favorite book, to a figurine, to a framed picture.