Did you know that if your team members are separated by as little as 90 feet, you have a virtual team? Physical separation between team members can lead to challenges that teams working in closer proximity simply don’t face.
Before we share some our favorite icebreakers, I am going to get on my soapbox and tell you that icebreakers are only the tip of the iceberg. Icebreakers alone do not build long-term, sustainable relationships. Building relationships is an ongoing process that requires time, attention, authenticity and trust.
That said, icebreakers do play a role in building relationships, but different ones serve different purposes for different teams. Ask yourself, “Exactly what kind of ice needs to be broken?” Here are the top five icebreaker tips you need to know for your virtual team:
1. Sharing is bonding
We’ve all been in a web conference with a group of faceless voices. Who exactly is everyone speaking to? What do they know about each other? If you are bringing people together who are working on a common goal the ice that you are melting may result in creating a bond.
It’s In The Mail is an activity for groups of up to 25. Before the meeting, team members should email a unique and unknown fact about themselves to the meeting facilitator. At the start of the session or during a lull in the meeting, the facilitator will pick an email to read and have the other attendees guess who the email belongs to.
2. Make time for face time
Even if you are bringing together like-minded people, the “ice” may simply reflect the fact that people have not yet met – and where teams are dispersed across different offices or continents, they may never do so in person.
Match Box is for groups up to 10 people. Prior to the meeting, create a slide with everyone’s pictures and post the slide onto the whiteboard. Ensure that each picture is numbered.
Then match people’s voices to their faces. Choose one picture at a time and ask the team to guess who they think it is. You can use the raised hand feature, chat or by giving verbal responses.
3. Anticipate culture shock
If you are bringing together people of different backgrounds, cultures and outlooks within your virtual team then the “ice” may come from people’s perceptions of each other.
Metaphor Magic is for groups up to 10 people. Have your team members come up with a list of words or phrases that have different interpretations or meanings. Ask your team members to define what they think that word or phrase means.
4. Know your team
Teams have different needs and preferences. Some teams may gravitate towards “fun” activities while others may be more inclined to link the activity to a purpose such as brainstorming or problem solving. Remember to personalize the activity for the needs of your virtual team.
5. Use the tools available to you
Web conferencing platforms enable your team members to express themselves and collaborate in new and creative ways, but many teams never use anything but the basic conference call functionality. Leverage interactive tools such as white boards, paired chat, the raised hand feature and polling to give everyone a variety of ways to engage with one another.
Interested in learning more about icebreakers for your virtual team? Register for our free webinar Building Relationships at a Distance for detailed advice and best practices, and get the most out of your virtual team. For a deeper dive, purchase the informative book Across the Hall, Around the World: Teambuilding Tips for Distributed Business from the Virtual Team Builders marketplace.