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Are Your Meeting Icebreaker Questions Falling Flat? Here’s Why

Are Your Meeting Icebreaker Questions Falling Flat? Here’s Why

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of meeting icebreaker question lists out there. After just one Google search, you’ll have options upon options to choose from. 

Typically, the goal of asking icebreaker questions in meetings at work is to get the conversation going, establish connections, and set the stage for the rest of the agenda. But what if they don’t have that effect? What if you ask icebreaker questions only to be met with blank stares, sarcastic half-answers, or passive-aggressive comments?

If that’s the case and you find your work icebreaker questions falling flat, you might consider this your sign to reevaluate your approach as a meeting facilitator. In fact, here are some of the most common reasons why icebreaker questions don’t have the intended impact that you should account for going forward.


Wrong Time

An ill-timed icebreaker question can easily do more harm than good. If you’re going to ask them, you must consider the timing first. Ask yourself: 

  • Is this a meeting about serious matters? Could the outcome of it impact someone’s livelihood?
  • Are you meeting in the aftermath of a significant mistake or incident?
  • Did a major event happen in or outside of the workplace that has emotions unusually heightened? (Ex. Layoffs)

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then it is the wrong time to ask any icebreaker questions. Instead, keep them in your back pocket until you host a meeting under better circumstances or one that is more lighthearted, such as a team event.


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Wrong Place

You might have the best intentions when it comes to asking icebreaker questions at meetings. Your hope might be that they will bring everyone closer together and jumpstart a lively discussion about the matters at hand. However, this is not likely to happen if you ask them in the wrong place. To figure out whether it’s the wrong place to use ice breaker questions, ask yourself: 

  • What is the goal of this meeting? 
  • Is the meeting agenda already full of pressing work-related matters? 
  • Is it hard to get a time scheduled with certain participants? If it is, is it worth it to spend part of the meeting on icebreaker questions? 
  • Do your participants work together often? Or is this a one-off where they will have little to no contact after the fact?


Wrong Audience

Whether or not your meeting icebreaker questions fall flat can come down to who your audience is. With the right audience, icebreaker questions can have the exact effect you want them to have. While they can cause the wrong audience to become tense, irritated, or impatient. To determine whether or not you have the right audience, ask yourself:  

  • Are your meeting participants introverted or extroverted?
  • How busy or stressed are your meeting participants?
  • What is the relationship between participants? Is there any pressing conflict between colleagues?


Wrong Purpose

If you use icebreaker questions for your meetings, you must do so intentionally and purposefully. You cannot simply do so to fill up the time. So, before you begin selecting icebreaker questions at random or based on how funny they are, think about what purpose it serves. Is it to break the tension after a stressful period? Is it to create an emotional connection and a sense of psychological safety? Once you know, you can intentionally select questions that actually align with that purpose. 


Conclusion: Learn to Lead Better Meetings With Niagara Institute

Just because your icebreaker questions have fallen flat in the past doesn’t mean you can’t use them in the future. The key to doing so is to ask yourself the questions listed above to be sure you’re using them at the right time, in the right place, with the right audience, and for the purpose. 

Looking to take your ability to lead meetings to the next level? If so, we have you covered with resources on the topic, including:

Meeting Agenda Template

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