Over the past weeks we have experimented with new ways of meeting up and socialising, despite the distancing directives in place. Many of us discovered new tools and apps, enabling us to organise our operations with young people online. Tools for Digital Youth Work proposed a number of tools for getting organised online. In this article we shall focus on a crucial step to getting your meetings online started.
As with every meeting, online and offline, a good start sets the tone for a meeting. Sitting in a room, by yourself, while facing a computer screen can be impersonal and daunting for some. The following icebreakers are aimed at getting young people attending group meetings you set up online involved in your meeting and help them interact with one another. Icebreakers during an online conference also get both facilitators and young people familiar with the particular software being used during that meeting.
There’s no reason to miss out on fun during online meetings. With a little creativity, both classic icebreakers – and the ones you make up yourself – will get the ball rolling so young people feel more relaxed in front of the camera.
Set a timer to give young people 30 seconds to one minute to show an item close by that might interest others, tell “the story” of that item, and why it is meaningful to them. Instead of the actual object, you might ask the young people to share a picture of something specific and speak about it (the shoes – or lack of shoes – they are wearing at the moment can be one idea; the house pet the other). You may also ask participants to share photographs from their childhood, or other photos of themselves they particularly like, although this would require instruction to young people at least a day ahead of meeting.
*Ideal for a first meeting with a group of young people, or discussion starter*
*Prepare young people at least a few days ahead of meeting*
Easing the pressure of the live session: It may be daunting for young people to speak about themselves in front of a screen with eight other pairs of eyes looking on. A way around this situation is to have each participant pre-record a short (about 1 minute) video message introducing themselves and broadcast them over the videoconference. You can formalise or loosen the instructions for this introduction as you deem best, although if using for a first meeting, you would probably wish to advise young people to be themselves. On the other hand, you may be tempted to ask a group of young people who know each other quite well to introduce themselves via video, prescribing a 1 minute funny presentation, or a 1 minute presentation introducing their opinions on a certain topic.
Set up a quick internet, or home based, scavenger hunt with questions including simple navigation and uploading procedures aimed at getting young people used to the software being used. You may find a number of templates and ideas online.
*requires instruction to young people at least a few days ahead of meeting*
Ask young people to come up with a few lines from a popular song to introduce themselves to the rest of the group. Make it more challenging: ask them to use a specific song but make up their own lyrics – make it mandatory to include their name, or to have an interesting fact about themselves, or make it about a specific topic (might be a good way to have them introduce the day’s topic). Young people should be asked to prepare a few days ahead of the meeting for this exercise (It might be easier for some to record the song and share it during the meeting).
Start a story and ask participants to contribute to it, adding a few lines at a time. First, you might throw out a starter, such as “Once upon a time, Ben tried to make it to his online meeting on time.” The next participant would add to that beginning, and so on until the story is complete or you run out of time.
Ask young people to use a paper, or a paint app, to draw a colour and shape that indicates how they are feeling at the moment. Encourage young people to say why they are feeling that way. It is nice to get the young people to stop and think and be creative about showing their feelings, however, another way of doing this is to use emojis and GIFs available in some online meeting apps. Allow some time for you and other members at the group meeting to react and empathise, making sure every group member feels included.
Ask each attendee to finish the following sentence: “When I look outside my window, I see … .” Once everyone has a chance to share what he sees outside of his window, ask additional questions to draw out details.
*requires instruction to young people at least a day ahead of meeting*
Ask young people to share pictures of things they liked doing before the pandemic, and what they are doing now during the pandemic – a sort of before and after discussion. (Egs. Before I enjoyed attending concerts, now I am spending more time gardening). Can be done instantaneously without sharing of pictures through discussion.
Ask everyone the same question, or different ones if you want more variety in the responses.
Here are some more examples of what you might ask:
- Give an example of something you’ve done this week that you feel proud of.
- If you weren’t on this call, what would you like to be doing?
- If you could eat anything right now, what would it be?
Give this exercise a spin – use a theme to guide your questions. Examples:
“If you were able to travel through time, either forward or backward… :
- Where would you go?
- If backward, to which time period? Why?
- If there was a person you could go back in time and meet, who would it be, and why?
- Would you just want to visit and come back, or would you stay?”
Set up Quizzes, Surveys or use Polling apps to ask questions.
You may wish to keep it light with a stream of “Would you Rather…?” questions. Another option would be to ask simple, content related, questions to kick start discussions or training sessions. A show of hands might work well in some cases. Otherwise, try Survey Monkey, Mentimeter, Kahoot, Voxvote or Quizizz.
A classic icebreaker that can be easily used for online meetings. Ask each team member to prepare a list of three interesting “facts” about themselves, two of which must be made up. These could comprise anything, from a pet they own or a hobby they love to a famous person they say they’ve met, and so on. The other meeting attendees have to decide on the facts they think are true. The team member who receives the most incorrect votes “wins.”