Quick and easy energizers, ice-breakers, check-ins, and check-outs. For meetings, workshops, training sessions, seminars, and larger events. Applicable in hybrid, online and physical contexts.
At inUse Academy we believe in radical generosity. With this in mind, I’m now sharing 9½ of our favorite energizers for online and hybrid contexts. You’ll be able to use most of these energizers regardless of whether you work with small informal team meetings, large professional events, or something in between.
The inUse Academy team incorporates these energizers into courses and seminars related to design, requirements management, and testing. We use the energizers as a means of engaging people and creating connections between audiences, participants, speakers, and presenters. These interpersonal connections help to establish trust and respect within a group, which in turn increases the potential for creativity, productivity, decisiveness, and innovation in times that demand all of the above.
1. What did you have for breakfast?
Whether we find ourselves in a formal och professional context, in smaller meetings, or mega-events, sometimes we just need a quick question that all participants can answer without having to think too much. This type of question is preferably used towards the beginning of a meeting, as participants are warming up and maybe even waking up.
For larger groups, digitalizing and visualizing the results as a word cloud can reveal an interesting spread of participant breakfast habits. For smaller groups, participants can take turns stating what they had for breakfast, and/or write it down as a Quick Chat Question.
2. Quick Chat Question
If you are running a meeting where it will be encouraged to use the chat, present a simple question early in the meeting and ask participants to write their answers in the chat. For example, “What did you have for breakfast” or “What city were you born in”. Seemingly simple on the surface, this energizer is subtle in its numerous strengths:
- Works for all group sizes, from 4 to 400 or more
- Low thinking threshold enables 100% engagement
- Immediate, visual results
- Stimulates participants through action and observation
- Reduces anonymity by visualizing participant names
- Gets everybody into the chat early
- Increases the chances of having an active chat during the rest of the meeting
- Works in scenarios such as webinars where participants' cameras and microphones may be turned off
- Instead of a “wall of silence” in larger, more anonymous meetings, this method provides live feedback to the meeting leader (or speakers, in the case of a webinar) confirming that remote participants actually exist and have a pulse.
3. Before and After
Early in the meeting, perhaps as a check-in, participants respond to a simple survey or multiple choice question, and the results are visualized for the group.
For example, a question could be “How likely are you to choose a vegetarian alternative the next time you eat out at a restaurant?” in the case of a meeting which will explore positive impacts of, and initiatives for, reducing meat consumption. Then, towards the end of the meeting, perhaps as a check-out, the exact same survey is performed again. The results are visualized and compared to the beginning of the meeting. Was there any movement? Why? Did it have anything to do with what took place during the meeting?
4. Mood Temperature
Participants state their moods one at a time using one or two words. This can be done vocally and/or in the chat, depending on the setup and how much time is available. Do not underestimate the value of writing something down, as it immediately also adds to the visual engagement of the meeting. This can be used as a “Before and After” energizer.
5. Group Mood
Participants rate their mood on a scale using a quick survey tool, the results of which are visualized on a graph, visualizing the average mood and the mood spread for the group.
Used in combination with other energizers, breakouts, exercises, or discussion questions, a randomizer simplifies and animates random selection from a list. This could be a list of names, a list of topics, a list of colors or even a list of energizers. The possibilities are endless. A randomizer is an engaging way to, for example, determine which person will speak next, which group will present next, or in which order agenda topics will be discussed.
For informal contexts, there are a variety of colorful, playful formats available, such as in this example (wheelofnames.com, free with ads):
7. “You Can Quote Me on That”-Quiz
As the actual meeting or activity progresses, the moderator makes notes of interesting things people say during the meeting. It could be something that sticks out as especially clever, relevant, creative, funny, or odd. These citations are then plugged into a quiz tool or a randomizer tool and can be used towards the end of the event.
As the quotes are presented, the participants try to remember who said them, either competing individually as a multiple-choice quiz or by discussing together as a group. This type of energizer is elegant because it builds on material happenings that occur “live” during the actual event. This makes the energizer much more customized and personal. It also creates a sense of achievement or memorable flashback as the group transitions into retrospective and summary mode for the event.
This type of energizer requires a more experienced moderator who can also handle multi-tasking during the event. If the meeting has a co-pilot then this is an excellent task for the co-pilot, freeing up the moderator to focus on the meeting itself.
8. Remote Bias Points
This energizer is especially applicable for meetings where most participants are in the same room and up to a few participants are online. Only the participants in the main room are allowed to complete. We can call these people the Roomies.
There is a natural tendency to favor these people over the remote participants, who we can call Zoomies, commonly referred to Office Bias. This natural phenomenon leads to Roomies being favored during meetings over Zoomies. This means that in addition to Roomies having the extra perks of small talk in the corridor and coffee machine mingling, Roomies often are given disproportionately more air time during meetings compared to Zoomies.
Outside of the meetings, Office Bias can even lead to Roomies being favored in the workplace. If left unchecked, Office Bias may even lead to more rapid career advancement for Roomies compared to Zoomies. So, in order to counter our natural tendencies toward Office bias, we need to favor Zoomies. We can call this Remote Bias.
So, this is how you play: Every time a meeting leader or Roomie favors a Zoomie, for example by letting the Zoomie respond to a question first instead of last, then that person gets awarded a point. Keep a tally and announce the winner toward the end of the meeting. This energizer introduces an element of competition to your meetings and helps to create an inclusive environment by shedding some meeting love on your Zoomies!
9. Two Truths and a Lie
A classic, which lends itself well to hybrid situations with a digital board and sticky notes. Participants write down two truths and a lie about themselves, and then the group tries to guess the lies for each participant.
9 ½. Two Lies and a Truth
A variation on two truths and a lie. Sometimes it’s more interesting to guess the truth, rather than the lie, about other meeting participants.
At inUse Academy, we sometimes plan energizers as part of sessions design, while at other times – quite often – we add energizers in real-time during a session, as needed to spice things up or help a group regain focus. Energizers can be used as ice-breakers, as calls to interactivity and engagement, or simply as transitions between different segments of a workshop.
I hope that at least one of these energizers or ice-breakers helps you in your mission to lead fun and inclusive hybrid meetings this year. The best of luck!