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20+ Online Warm-ups & Energizers to Try With Your Team

Written by 
Laïla von Alvensleben
 and 
  —  
September 1, 2022

Let’s face it: online meetings can be awkward — especially when you don’t know anyone in the video call. You might still be waking up with your first cup of coffee while someone else is bouncing with energy in a later time zone.

But they don’t have to be so uncomfortable. With a few simple exercises, you can make any remote participant feel at ease within seconds. 

In this post, find 20+ warm-ups and energizers (also known as ice breakers) you can bring to spice up your next team meeting.

Use warm-ups and energizers to make meetings fun, spark creativity with your team, boost energy, and even build trust — no matter if your team is remote, in the office, "hybrid," or wherever!

What are warm-ups? 🔥

Online warm-ups are short exercises performed at the beginning of a meeting to introduce new team members, conquer awkwardness, and help teammates get to know each other.

Distributed teams need to adapt their team culture to take their geographical distance into account. The physical separation often entails a slower process of getting to know everyone in the company, especially when new hires join the team. This doesn’t mean they can’t have an enriching and supportive culture, though.

‍When to do warm-ups

Online warm-ups are particularly useful at the beginning of a virtual meeting, workshop, or any virtual collaboration session that takes place in a video call with a group of people. Think of them as an introduction to let people know who they’ll be collaborating with during the session.

‍Benefits of warm-ups

Virtual warm-ups are a perfect way to:

  • Introduce new team members
  • Get to know colleagues better
  • Team-building exercise
  • Reduce shyness
  • Make people feel comfortable
  • Help participants familiarize themselves with digital tools
  • Keep participants focused and away from distractions
  • Encourage individual self-expression
  • Bond with co-workers on an emotional level
  • Develop empathy and strengthen team dynamic
  • Improve and increase team-wide communication
  • Boost creative thinking

Preparation and tools for warm-ups

A little preparation and the right tools can make all the difference. These exercises can be done entirely online using a variety of digital tools, such as video conferencing software (Zoom, Microsoft Teams), team chats (Slack), and online whiteboards

Using warm-ups along with your collaboration stack can help people get comfortable with different technology and digital environments used for online collaboration. Once your team is familiar with doing warm-ups and energizers, incorporate them regularly into online or remote meetings and workshops.

PRO TIP: Send the participants some information ahead of the online session. Having the agenda and the requirements to join the call can help set expectations.

For example, tell everyone to join the call from a quiet space with a webcam, headphones, and a good microphone and ask them to reflect on a question that you'll bring up during the warm-up. Keep in mind, though, that not everyone will be willing to share personal stories or experiences in a work environment.

‍Below is a comprehensive list of lighthearted yet engaging activities that can be prepared ahead of your next online session with your team.

10 online warm-ups to try with your team

Here's a selection of our favorite warm-up activities that you can start using with your team today:

Check-in

‍Tools: Laptop

Objective: Check the pulse of your team.

  1. Ask everyone to start the online session by taking turns saying how they’re feeling today. Answers should be limited to one sentence or one word (tip: the facilitator can go first). Alternative: Ask people to share their expectations for today’s outcome. For more inspirational check-in questions, explore this check-in generator.
  2. If you notice any patterns, you can discuss the general vibe and how the session’s agenda will impact it.

Try visual team check-ins using MURAL. Visual check-ins make building connection with your team fun, and much less awkward. This kind of check-in takes the form of everyone in a meeting putting a dot on a line or marking on a custom "mood" how they're doing at that moment.

An example of two similar — but clearly different! — visual check-ins using funny cat and dog photos. Ask team members to "paws," and place a marker on the photo that represents their current mood.


Sketch Your Neighbor

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard  

Objective: Get everyone acquainted by having your team attempt to draw each other. 

  1. Create a mural from the Sketch Your Neighbor template for this activity. Alternative: You can also do the exercises using pen and paper, and then share your drawings by showing them on the webcam. The facilitator should make sure everyone has a pen and paper ahead of the session.
  2. Assign each team member with another person’s name and send them a direct message to let them know — it’s important to send it privately so the others can’t see the names.
  3. Share the mural link with the participants on the call. Give everyone 1 minute to silently draw the person they identified in the mural (tip: play music during the silent moment in the background and make sure the sound can be heard by the participants through your microphone).
  4. When everyone has finished drawing, take turns guessing who drew who.
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Team Tour

Tools: Laptop

Objective: Each team member gives a tour of their working space. 

  1. Each person has 1 minute to give a tour of the place where they’re currently located using their webcam.
  2. Describe where you are (coworking space, office, home, outdoors), who else is there and what it’s like to work there.
  3. Let other participants ask you questions.

Show and Tell

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: Team members have to guess which workspace belongs to who. 

  1. Ask participants to take a photo of their current workspace before the video call and upload it to their computer for easy access later. Then, create a mural from the Show and Tell template and have it ready to share during the session. Alternative: Take photos of your shoes, meal, or personal object and let others guess who it belongs to.
  2. Ask everyone to upload a photo of their current workspace in a mural — don’t add people’s names next to their workspace yet!
  3. Take turns guessing which workspace belongs to who and why.

First Job

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: Have people share experiences from their first job.

  1. Ask everyone to describe their first job using sticky notes and images in a mural. Alternative: Describe your worst job and what made it so bad.
  2. Take turns telling stories about how you got the job, what you liked/hated about it, what you learned from it, etc.
First job


Genie in a Bottle

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: Everyone shares what they’d wish for. 

  1. Ask the following question: “If you had three wishes, what would they be?” (choose either personal or professional wishes)
  2. Let everyone add three images representing their wishes and take turns discussing your wishes.‍


Where Are We?

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: Learn where everyone is located. 

  1. Create a mural from the World Map template for this activity. Alternative: Ask people to point out where they’d like to travel and why.
  2. Ask people to write their name on a sticky note and add it to the world map where they’re located.
  3. Take turns sharing how long you’ve lived there and what you like about the city/country.
  4. Talk about time zones and how these impact the way you work remotely with your colleagues and clients.


Company Trivia

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: Test your team’s trivia knowledge.

  1. Research some company statistics that could be used for a quiz. Prepare a mural with questions that people will try answering during the activity. Alternative: make it a game with the Trivia Game template.
  2. Explain that you’re going to start a quiz about the company and that everyone should pick a different color sticky note to use for the warm-up.
  3. Guide the participants through the questions. Give them 30 seconds to add sticky notes to answer each question (use the timer in the mural to timebox the exercise). For example: When was the company founded? Who’s worked the longest at the company? How many nationalities/languages are there in the team? Who came up with a product feature/idea?
  4. After each question, have a quick discussion about the topic to reveal more stories.


Superpowers

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: Encourage your team to share their strengths. 

  1. Prepare a mural with sections where each participant can add their answers.
  2. Ask the following question: “What’s your superpower? What skill do you bring to the team?”
  3. Let everyone add images and sticky notes in their section.
  4. Once everyone is ready, take turns explaining your skills and how they’ve helped you in the past. Encourage other participants to ask questions about their superpowers.

Superpowes



Blast from the past

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: Try to guess who’s who from their baby photo.

  1. Before you start, ask all the participants to send you a photo of when they were younger in a private message. Upload them in a mural before the warm-up.
  2. Give everyone 1-2 minutes to add sticky notes to guess who is who in the mural.
  3. Go from photo to photo and ask each person to reveal themselves and share one good memory they have from that time of their lives.

Blast from the past

Too Many Cooks

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard 

Objective: Try and guess everyone’s favorite dish to cook.

  1. In private mode, have everyone add a photo or gif on a mural of their favorite meal.
  2. Show the meal photos and ask everyone to guess the cook of the meal and the ingredients on sticky notes.
  3. Once everyone is done, reveal the cooks and ask them to verify the ingredients used.


What are energizers? 🔋

Online energizers are fun icebreaker activities that help reload energy on your team and can involve some form of physical activity.

We’re all too familiar with that post-lunch drowsy vibe in meetings. When that happens, we need some invigorating action to snap us out of our sleepy state. 

In physical spaces, energizers often involve body movements and shouting, encouraging us to express our silly side and take ourselves less seriously. The same is valid in online activities, although the stimulation is often more focused on imagination and visualization.

‍When to do energizers

Energizers can be done at any time and they’re great for increasing engagement. They should be fast-paced and exciting, leaving everyone in a positive mood and motivated to move forward.

‍Benefits of energizers

Online energizers are an excellent way to:

  • Stir up the participants’ vitality when they lack energy
  • Transition from one exercise to another
  • Set the tone for an upcoming topic on the agenda
  • Discover people’s personalities and cultures
  • Contribute to a more relaxed team culture
  • Engage a group in a fun and memorable experience
  • Explore new ways of interacting and collaborating
  • Overcome social isolation from colleagues
  • Make space for casual conversations

PRO TIP: It’s quite common for people to feel uncomfortable in front of a webcam, even more so if they’re expected to do something nonsensical. To reassure the group, have someone who is more comfortable speaking go first and lead by example.

13 online energizers to try with your team

Here's a selection of our favorite energizer activities that you can start using with your team today:

Touch Blue

Tools: Laptop

Objective: Try to touch something that’s the called-out color.

  1. Pick a physical or visual attribute of an object and says it aloud (for example: “Touch something metal!”)
  2. Everyone else on the video call has to find something with that attribute and touch it (this usually leads to people stretching out or jumping out of their seats to touch something that matches the description).
  3. Whoever is last to touch an object chooses the next attribute to touch.


Name That Sound

Tools: Laptop (audio only)

Objective: Guess what sound they’re making.

  1. Ask everyone to turn their webcams off.
  2. Call out someone’s name and privately ask them to imitate a sound (for example, an old dial-up modem, the sound of a printer, Christopher Walken, a Star Wars lightsaber, ocean waves, a sports announcer, etc).
  3. Have the others guess what sound they’re imitating.


Shape Up

Tools: Laptop

Objective: Try and make a singular shape with your arms. 

  1. Before you start, select ‘gallery mode’ for your video conference tool so you can view everyone’s thumbnails in a grid format (all thumbnails should be the same size).
  2. Call out a shape (for example, triangle, heart, square, the letter “A”, tree, house, etc.)
  3. Ask people to move their arms and hands up/down or left/right to recreate the shape in the gallery mode you’re viewing.
  4. When the team has managed to make the shape, ask them to hold it so you can take a screenshot. Share it with the team and try to do another shape, progressively making them more complicated.


Virtual Charades

Tools: Laptop 

Objective: Guess what the other teams are mimicking.

  1. Pair each participant with someone else.
  2. Ask each person to choose a title of a book, movie, TV show or song that their partner will have to imitate in front of the webcam to the rest of the group. Alternative: Play emoji charades. Choose an emoji and act it out in front of the webcam. Everyone else has to guess which emoji you’re trying to be.
  3. Tell participants to send the title they chose in a direct message to their partner.
  4. In pairs, take turns acting out what your partner sent you. The rest of the group has 1 minute to guess what you’re mimicking.


Spin a Tale

Tools: Laptop 

Objective: Try and tell a cohesive story across multiple people.

  1. Assign numbers to each participant, starting with n°1.
  2. Ask person n°1 to start telling a story in a direct message to person n°2 (maximum two lines).
  3. Once they receive the message, person n°2 continues the story in another direct message to person n°3 (without including the first part), and so on...
  4. In the end, everyone needs to read out the story in the order you started.


Emoji Challenge

Tools: Laptop 

Objective: Guess the film, book, or song by the emojis. 

  1. Ask everyone to think of a title of a film, book, or song.
  2. Once they’re ready, tell everyone to describe the title in their chat tool using emojis only. Alternative: Use GIFs! But make sure the GIFs specifically call out the title. 
  3. Take turns guessing each title during a video call.


Time Machine

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: Have people share what time period they’d choose to go back to.

  1. Ask the following question: “If you could go back in time, which period would you go to?” Alternative: If you could meet anyone from the past, who would you like to meet and why?
  2. Have everyone share their thoughts using images and sticky notes in a mural.
  3. Encourage the other participants to ask questions to each other (for example: “Would you come back or would you stay?)


GIF Tournament

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: Have people select GIFs that best represent a popular phrase.

  1. Prepare some phrases before the session. These can be expressions, quotes, or any short phrase which can be described visually later.
  2. Pick a phrase (for example: “Actions speak louder than words”) and add it to a mural.
  3. Ask everyone to find the best GIF to represent this phrase and add it to the mural beneath the phrase (tip: GIPHY has a great selection of GIFs).
  4. Once everyone has added a GIF, start a voting session in the mural so people can vote for their favorite one.
  5. Do several rounds to turn it into a GIF tournament.
Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 18.09.10

Animal Speed

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: See who can draw an animal the best.

  1. Create a mural from the Animal Speed template for this activity.
  2. Ask someone to pick an animal.
  3. Give everyone 1 minute to draw that animal on a sticky note.
  4. Compare your drawings and let the person who picked the animal judge which animal is the best drawn. Alternative: Use the voting feature in MURAL to let participants anonymously vote for the best drawing.
  5. Do another round and reduce the drawing time to 20 seconds and then down to 10 seconds. Let the person who chose the animal judge the best drawing.

Two Truths and a Lie

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: Try and guess the lie.

  1. Ask everyone to think about three statements about themselves: two of them must be true, and one should be false.
  2. Make each person add their statements on sticky notes in a mural.
  3. Let others guess which statements are true and which one is false.


First Single/Album

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: Have everyone share the first album they purchased.

  1. Ask the following question: “What’s the first (music) single/album you bought?”
  2. Let everyone search for an image of the single/album cover and add it to the mural.
  3. Let everyone share where they bought the single, why they liked it at the time and what format it was (8track, cassette, CD, vinyl, mp3…)
  4. After the session, surprise the team with a music playlist of all the singles. It will mess up everyone’s Spotify algorithms. 🙂


If you were an animal ...

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard

Objective: Try and guess who represents what animal.

  1. Send a direct message in your chat tool to assign a participant’s name to each person on the video call.
  2. Ask the following question, “If the person you’ve been assigned were an animal, what would they be?” Alternative: Try the same exercise using car models, food, drinks, etc.
  3. Let everyone add an image of the person’s animal on the mural and add sticky notes describing that animal’s characteristics that represent the person.
  4. Once everyone is ready, let the team try to guess who each animal is meant to represent.


Broken Picture Telephone

Tools: Laptop, virtual whiteboard 

Objective: Test your communication skills. 

  1. Create a mural from the Broken Picture Telephone template for this activity.
  2. Assign numbers to each participant, starting with n°1.
  3. Person n°1 sends a direct message with a simple description to person n°2.
  4. Person n°2 receives the message and draws what they read in a mural.
  5. Person n°3 looks at the drawing and describes their interpretation of the drawing in a direct message to person n°4.
  6. Person n°4 draws the phrase they received in a mural, and so on.
  7. The cycle continues until everyone has taken a turn either describing or drawing. In the end, compare the final interpretation with the first description.


Now, give it a go! 🚀

Warm-ups and energizers are a simple and effective way to improve online collaboration. It gives participants the confidence to use the tools and get to know each other in a new way. The more activities you try out, the more you’ll be able to experiment and come up with your own exercises!

💡  Sign up for your free-forever MURAL workspace today and discover how combining visual collaboration with playful methods (and a bit of facilitation know-how) can help your team solve hard problems faster and make teamwork fun.

About the author

About the authors

Laïla von Alvensleben

Head of Culture & Collaboration
Laïla is Head of Culture & Collaboration at MURAL. She is also a remote work coach with a background in UX Design, helping distributed teams improve their collaboration practices and cultivate a remote working culture that will enable them to work from anywhere.