How to Make the Most out of Icebreaker Questions

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
May 5, 2022
Updated on
Mar 16, 2023
Table of Content

There are different ways for you to get to know your team members. You can treat them to a meal and chat about their hobbies outside of work. Or, you can run get-to-know-you events with games every once in a while. However, the best way for people to get to know each other, even during work hours, is through icebreaker questions.

Icebreakers are a great way to get people talking, but only if used correctly. Whether it's a game of two truths and a lie or a quick round of asking everyone about their favorite things, icebreaker questions can be a fun way to get everyone in the office more comfortable with each other. But, as with anything, there is a right and a wrong way to go about it.

Here are things you need to know on how to make the most out of icebreaker questions.

What Is an Icebreaker?

An icebreaker plays a significant role in starting a conversation. It is a question or statement used to break the ice and get people talking. The purpose of an icebreaker question is to get to know the person better and find out common interests. The activity breaks down barriers and makes work more enjoyable for the team members involved.

When starting a conversation with someone, it is always a good idea to ask an icebreaker question. This is because it will help make the conversation flow more smoothly. However, it is essential to make sure that the question is not too personal or controversial, as this could make the person feel uncomfortable. These questions at the beginning of the conversation are called ‘check in questions’. 

Some good check in questions include:

  • What is your favorite TV show?
  • What is your favorite movie?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What is your favorite hobby?

Why Are Icebreakers Important?

It might be challenging to come up with topics that will keep everyone involved and interested. That’s where icebreakers come in! You can get everyone chatting by asking amusing questions that garner entertaining responses. This will not only make the conversation more pleasurable for everyone involved, but it will also allow individuals to get to know one another better.

So, why are icebreakers necessary for successful networking? Here are a few reasons:

1. Break tension and awkwardness

If the people involved in the meeting don't personally know each other, it can be difficult to start a conversation. As a result, there may be an awkward silence as everyone tries to think of something to say. By asking an icebreaker question, you can help break the tension and get the conversation flowing. Once the first check in question is asked, the whole group will get going – it just takes the first one!

2. Encourage people to participate

If you're leading a meeting or presentation, you may find that some people are hesitant to take part or contribute. Asking an icebreaker question can encourage people to speak up and share their thoughts.

3. Get to know each other better

Icebreaker questions can be an excellent way to learn more about the people you're talking to. You may find out things you have in common or discover something new about someone.  A team that knows each other's personalities, likes, dislikes and quirks is more likely to produce high quality outcomes. 

4. Build rapport

Building rapport is important in any interaction, whether personal or professional. Asking icebreaker questions can help you build rapport with the people you're talking to by showing interest in what they have to say.

5. Create a more enjoyable conversation

Let's be honest — not all conversations are interesting. If you're talking to someone and struggling to think of things to say, an icebreaker question can help mix things up and make the conversation more enjoyable for both of you.

Why Is It Difficult to Choose the Right Ones?

When creating icebreakers, things don't always go as planned. You can end up feeling like you're the only one in the room who doesn't know what to say. The goal is to get everyone to loosen up and feel comfortable talking to each other. But sometimes, the icebreaker questions can make people feel more uncomfortable than they did before.

There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right icebreaker questions. You should take into account the group size, the age of the participants, the setting, and the topic of conversation. You also want to ensure that the questions are appropriate for the occasion.

It’s difficult to choose the right icebreaker questions because there are no hard and fast rules. Instead, it's a lot of trial and error. And even when you think you've found the perfect question, it might not get the reaction you were hoping for.

For example, you tried asking someone from the team about their opinion on the company's new product launch. But instead of getting a lively discussion going, everyone just gives you blank stares.

You can't control how people react to your questions, and it's okay. The most important thing is to keep trying, so don't get discouraged if your first few attempts don't go as planned.

What Makes a Good Icebreaker Question?

Many factors determine a good icebreaker question:

  • Ability to elicit responses – The best icebreaker questions are ones that spark responses. They should be open-ended, allowing participants to disclose as much or as little as they like.
  • Relevance to the group – The question should apply to the people you ask. It should consider their age, hobbies, and history, among others.
  • Capacity to make connections – An effective icebreaker question should help people connect with one another. It should get them chatting about things they both like or are interested in.

What Are Some of the Best Icebreakers?

There are various possible icebreakers for every situation, so make sure you tailor your questions to fit the specific event you are attending. 

Getting To Know You Questions

“Getting to know you” questions can help get the conversation flowing by giving people something to talk about. They're also generally pretty tame, so they can be used with just about anyone.

Here are some good getting to know you questions you can ask:

  • What was the best vacation you ever went on?
  • If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
  • Who is your hero?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What is on your bucket list?

Common Ground Icebreaker Questions

Finding common ground is a great way to break the ice with someone you've just met. It can help build rapport and make conversation easier.

Here are some questions that can help get the ball rolling:

  • What's your favorite TV show?
  • What's your favorite movie?
  • Do you like to travel? If so, where have you been?
  • What's your favorite food?
  • What's your favorite hobby?

Check-in Questions

Check-in questions are perfect for team leaders or meeting facilitators who want to get a sense of each participant's comfort level and engagement. They can also help break the ice by getting people to talk about themselves.

Some check-in questions you might ask are:

  • What has been taking up most of your time lately?
  • What is your greatest challenge right now?
  • What tools could make your job easier?
  • How is everyone's current workload?
  • What do you need help with?
  • Do you have any interesting ideas lately?

This Or That Questions

“This or that” questions are simple to come up with and can help break the ice in a variety of situations. The great thing about these questions is that they can lead to some interesting discussions. You may be surprised by some of the answers that you receive, so be prepared to listen to their choices and opinions.

Some good “this or that” questions to ask include:

  • If you could have any superpower, would you choose to fly or be invisible?
  • Do you prefer physical or electronic books?
  • Would you rather have a pet snake or a pet tarantula?
  • Do you prefer to stay home or go out on the town?
  • Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Funny Icebreaker Questions

If you want to take it further, you can ask funny icebreaker questions, such as:

  • Why did the chicken cross the road?
  • Have you ever dreamt about being a cat?
  • What would be your weapon of choice if we were living in a zombie apocalypse?
  • What's the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you?

How Should the Team Use Icebreakers?

1. Don't ask too many questions at once

When the person you're speaking with is swamped with inquiries, they're likely to feel overwhelmed and uneasy. Stick to asking one or two questions at a time and allowing the other person to respond.

2. Keep it light

Icebreakers should let you get to know someone a little better, not probe them about their personal lives. Stick to topics like favorite cuisine, movies, or TV shows to keep the conversation light and entertaining.

3. Be aware of your body language

Your body language says a lot about you, so be aware of what it's saying when you're asking icebreaker questions. Smile, make eye contact, and keep your body language open and inviting to show your interest in the other person.

4. Listen more than you talk

Listening to what someone has to say is one of the best ways to get to know them. When answering icebreaker questions, pay close attention to the responses and ask follow-up questions to show that you're eager to learn more about the individual.

5. Have fun

Icebreaker questions are a fun way to get to know someone, so be sure to enjoy yourself when you're asking them. If you're not having fun, chances are the other person isn't either.

Final Thoughts

When used properly in a conversation, icebreaker questions can bring out interesting facts you can use to connect with a person. They can also help build rapport and create a more comfortable environment. The key is to use them sparingly and make sure that they are questions you genuinely want to know the answer to. With that in mind, go forth and break the ice!

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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