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20 online energizers for virtual teams and remote meetings

Engaging participants of an online workshop can be a challenge for all facilitators. Meeting in an online environment and working at a screen all day can be draining and have an effect on the energy level of your participants. 

In live settings, facilitators often use energizers to increase energy in individuals and groups. Energizers might include elements of physical activity, encouraging fun and laughter, or engaging participants with games.  

Here’s a secret: the same can be true in online workshops and remote meetings. While teams may need to connect over video chat and collaborate in online tools for workshops, you can still engage and enliven your team by using remote-friendly energizers that have been tailored or adjusted to the online setting. 

In this post, we’ve collected 20 remote-friendly energizers alongside some tips for running them and also included some thoughts on the benefits and approach of using online energizers at your next remote meeting. Let’s dive in!

Contents:

Running more remote sessions?

Purpose of remote energizers 

Meetings and workshops can only be at their most effective when your participants are engaged, have energy to get involved and bring their A-game to the session. In an online workshop, maintaining and energizing your remote attendees can be crucial in making it an enjoyable and productive experience. 

Particularly for people new to participating in remote workshops and online meetings, it can be hugely beneficial to help them have fun and engage with one another in a virtual space. Zoom meeting games like those below can help people loosen up and get to know each other while removing some of the awkwardness that can come from meeting on video chat.

Online energizers can also be the difference between a workshop being productive or feeling like a waste of time for those involved. Let’s look at the various benefits of using these activities before jumping into our collection of energizers!

What are the benefits of online energizers?

Online energizers have a variety of benefits, some obvious and others less so. Keeping the energy and engagement levels up in any workshop is important though when working remotely, it’s even more vital to include space for this in your agenda. Here are some of the main benefits of using online energizers. 

Engagement

Keeping a team engaged in an online meeting is important in ensuring that your team finds them valuable and productive. Meetings that feature lots of unfocused discussion, difficult tasks without sufficient variation, or lots of information heavy sessions can be draining for any team – even more so when participants are all logging in to their computers and chatting over webcam. 

In remote settings, it’s much easier for participants to become disengaged or distracted, just for the simple fact of not being physically present in the space, and the potential of having other tabs open in their browser. It can also be difficult for a facilitator to effectively gauge the energy levels of the room without the benefit of physical cues and body language. 

Using online energizers with an emphasis on engaging different skills, doing physical activity, having fun or injecting energy into a group can be an effective way of keeping participants engaged throughout.

Create variation in your agenda

Some of the best workshops and meetings benefit from variation in the methods or exercises employed. This might mean shifting between creative and critical skill based activities, or encouraging small group discussions after leading a training session. In an online setting, the possibility for meaningful variation is limited, just for the fact that your remote participants are all likely seated at their desk and watching their screen. 

A virtual energizer that encourages people to get up from their desk, engage in a game or stretch skills that aren’t being worked out during the main workshop can really help keep things fresh and create a dynamic workshop. 

Energizers are often a good way to bookmark or prepare for particular tasks: if you need a palette cleanse after a tricky group discussion, do a fun energizer. If you know the next task is going to require your participants be fully engaged, do a more restful activity. While you should try and plan for energizers in your agenda – particularly in longer workshops – it’s also good practice to have a few tried and tested energizers in your back pocket, just in case your group needs a lift.

Make it fun 

Online meetings can be notorious for being a drag. Particularly under challenging circumstances such as self isolation, helping inject some fun and creating space for teams to bond and get to know each other can really help elevate a workshop and make a team more cohesive and motivated. 

Good online energizers are great not only for boosting energy levels but for helping boost the tone of the entire session and improving the perception of remote meetings in your organisation overall. If you are facing tough organisational challenges and have workshop tasks to match, it can be good to provide a counterpoint and balance in your agenda.

In remote environments, remember that virtual meetings or online workshops are often the only time your team sees and speaks to one another directly without text. Use this opportunity to bring your team together with a fun energizer that can help them work together more effectively not only in the immediate workshop but throughout their remote career.  

Relieve awkwardness

If the participants of your online workshop don’t know each other well, working in a remote environment can be challenging. For those introverts or sufferers of anxiety on your team, speaking up in an online meeting with the whole company present can be daunting. Online energizers are great for encouraging people to speak up and engage, and can often help lay the groundwork for more difficult conversations later on.

In some online energizers, you might end up looking a bit silly, but if you’re doing so with everyone else on your team, it can be an equalising force that helps people get on the same page. This can be particularly useful if you have people at different management levels interacting in the same session. Seeing your executive team be silly, or working together with your CEO on a simple game can really help make those later conversations easier to initiate. 

Online energizers for workshops and meetings


When selecting an online energizer, it’s worth looking at your agenda and figuring out what style of energizer will be most effective. If you’re doing quite a discussion-heavy workshop, your virtual energizer might benefit from being non-verbal or physical in nature. If your team is made up of a lot of visual thinkers, perhaps try an energizer than involves drawing. You might just decide that your team needs some light relief to have fun and recharge!

Remember that energizers are designed to lift spirits and provide counterpoint. While many of these energizers will work for any remote meeting, it’s worth tailoring them to your group where possible. 

Warm-up energizers

Some energizers are great to warm a group up or introduce new team members. Get to know you games, and online icebreakers shared some DNA with this category. Though these online warm-ups could be run at any point in your virtual workshop, they’re particularly useful for warming up your group and energizing them for the exercises ahead. 

Looking around

Running a virtual workshop or meeting online does not mean you cannot physically engage your participants. In fact, we’d recommend that you do! Energizers that incorporate bodily movement can really help lift the energy level after lunch or an in-depth exercise!

Looking around is an easy-to-perform energizer with a simple online variation. Get everyone on their webcams to stand up in the room where possible (sitting down is fine) and follow along with the instructions. This is a great remote energizer for generating laughs and teaching a valuable lesson about learning new concepts and procedures. 

Looking Around #thiagi #concepts #remote-friendly #energiser 

Here’s another jolt that explores one of our favorite themes: You have to unlearn something old in order to learn something new. A nice thing about this brief activity is that you don’t need any supplies or equipment.

Story around the circle

Human beings are naturally born storytellers. With this online energizer, you’ll take some time to connect to one another through telling a shared story and be encouraged to have fun while improvising too!

The organiser starts with a line like “Once upon a time, in a land far away, 5 people got together to solve all the world’s problems. Everything seemed easy, until one day one of the people saw on the horizon…” and invites the next person in the group to continue the story and add the next line. This keeps going until everyone’s contributed to the story.

This one needs no other tools than video software and someone to write down the story as it develops, and can be used just for fun or with a purpose in mind. If you want people to explore a certain topic such as company communication, start the story with an appropriate line. If you want them to just have fun and be energised, maybe start with something ridiculous! 

When it comes to recording the story – do so either in Google Docs or in your online whiteboard tool. If someone wants to draw images to go with the story, that’s great too!

If you want to keep participants on their toes, add rules like the lines have to rhyme in couplets, or have a word that people can’t use or must use. You could even choose who does the next line, rather than going around in order. We love this exercise as it’s simple, engaging and can be easily amended to your needs.

Story Around the Circle #team #storytelling #teampedia #remote-friendly 

Creating a story together can be merely for fun, or it can help the team imagine its future or recall its past.

Shake down

Some of the best energizers for meetings and workshops are super simple and are primarily designed to get people moving and serve as a palette cleanser between more complex tasks.

Shake down is a tried and test energizer for live settings and works well with a webcam too! Start by inviting people to stand if they have room, though let them know staying seated is fine. It’s also worth checking with your participants that they’re in a suitable location! As a group, perform 8 shakes of the right arm, 8 shakes of the left, 8 shakes of the right leg and 8 shakes of the left leg. Each time counting each shake as a group from one to eight. 

After a sequence of four shakes, two shakes then one shake of each limb, you end the exercise with a big cheer while inviting everyone to do a signature move – whatever feels right for them! It is worth confirming with all participants that they are comfortable with a short activity that requires physical movement while standing/sitting in front of the screen. Have a plan B in your back pocket if people can’t perform this activity or aren’t comfortable – energizers work best when everyone is onboard!

Shake Down #hyperisland #energiser #remote-friendly 

In this short and very physical energizer, the group shakes out their bodies one limb at a time. Starting with eight shakes of the right arm, then eight shakes of the left, eight shakes of the right leg, then eight shakes of the left. It continues with a round of four shakes of each limb, then two, then one, ending in a big cheer. A good energizer when time is limited and the main aim is to get people moving.

Three wishes

Talking about wishes and dreams can be a great way to energise a room and get people talking. In this virtual energizer, participants are encouraged to choose three wishes and discuss them with the group. 

We find one great approach is to use an online whiteboard or Google Doc and invite people to post a GIF or an image that best represents each of their wishes. Other participants can then leave comments or sticky notes to guess what they represent! Encouraging your group to be creative and find GIFs or images that speak to them personally can be a great way to help a team bond and generate conversation. Timebox this part of the exercise to create a bit of pressure and get people moving quickly!

Three wishes #get-to-know #ice breaker #remote-friendly 

The activity serves as a brief energiser during a workshop, and helps to get creativity flowing. At the end of this method, each team member will be a little more familiar with each other.

Who’s the artist

This is a great, creative online energizer you can have your team prepare beforehand or during the online meeting. Invite each participant to draw an image that tells a unique story or fact about their lives. They can use pen and paper, draw it digitally or directly into your online whiteboard tool.

If you want to make it more challenging, give participants only thirty seconds to draw their picture, or have them use a desktop drawing app and do not permit any erasing or editing. Drawings that are drawn at speed and contain mistakes can help this exercise generate extra laughs.

We love this exercise as it encourages people to be creative, changes up the flow of the workshop and allows people to share personal experiences in an effective, safe environment. It’s also very easy to run and can be amended to suit your online workshop setup. 

If you’re using an online whiteboard tool, have everyone post their images and curate them into a gallery. The result will be a nice reminder of what you’ve accomplished that day! If you’re using video conferencing software alone, you can also have participants hold their images up to the camera. 

Who is the artist? #get-to-know #icebreaker #creativity #remote-friendly 

How well do you know your colleagues? Encourage your co-workers to share an interesting fact or story about themselves while flexing their artistic and creative skills!

The Time Machine

Everyone has had dreams of going back in time to particular periods – whether they’re into pirates, dinosaurs or knights on horseback. The Time Machine energizer is a fun exercise that can encourage some interesting discussion and can be run in a variety of ways depending on the needs of the group and the tools you’re using.

In its simplest variant, you can conduct The Time Machine as an open group discussion. As with all online activities, it’s useful if the facilitator controls these discussions and invites people to speak in turn to avoid crosstalk or frustration. 

If you’re using online collaboration tools such as an online whiteboard or Google Doc, invite people to spend five minutes to find an image or GIF that best illustrates their chosen period of time (funny is best!) and have other teammates guess the time period. 

The Time Machine #get-to-know #ice breaker #remote-friendly 

Encourage creative thinking and getting to know each other better with a short round of ‘time travel’ questions to each of your participants.

Count up

Reducing crosstalk and promoting good online meeting etiquette is one of the tasks of the remote facilitator. Count up is a great energizer in itself but can also serve to highlight the importance of structured and thoughtful conversation in an online environment. 

In this short virtual energizer, a group must count up to a number (usually twenty), taking turns at random, with no two people speaking at the same time. If two people speak at the same time, even for a second, the group must start over at number 1. The group has succeeded when they have counted up to the set number. 

The key with this energizer is that people cannot communicate beyond saying the numbers, and so must work together non-verbally. It’s a great exercise for helping people work together in a calm, focused manner and gently teaching the importance of speaking purposefully when collaborating online.

Depending on the group, this exercise may fail and that’s okay: the failure itself can be instructional! Debrief this exercise to highlight some examples of good meeting etiquette, and to emphasize the importance of good communication.

Count Up #hyperisland #team #energiser #remote-friendly 

In this short exercise, a group must count up to a certain number, taking turns in a random order, with no two people speaking at the same time. The task is simple, however, it takes focus, calm and awareness to succeed. The exercise is effective to generate calm and focused collective energy in a group.

Fun online energizers 

The primary purpose of these online energizers is to have fun, create laughter and break up more complex tasks. Fun energizers can be a vital element of meetings for any virtual team and mixing things up with more involved energizers and some designed just to get a laugh can be a good way to go. Let’s take a look!

GIF challenge 

GIFs are the lifeblood of the internet and when working with virtual teams, they can be a great way of injecting humor and creativity into an online meeting.

For this online energizer, set-up an online whiteboard or shared Google Doc and post a phrase or statement that participants then have to search for a suitable GIF in response. It might be something as simple as, “That Monday morning feeling,” or “Good management looks like this.” You can have a couple of questions just for fun, then include some that invite people to creatively respond to organizational challenges and prepare them for the next exercises.

After each round, you can invite everyone to comment or vote on their favorites, and have additional rounds to crown a winner if you wish. One great way to use this energizer is by sprinkling several rounds of questions throughout the workshop to keep energy levels up and create some moments of fun and creativity as counterpoint to other exercises.

GIF challenge #energiser #fun #remote-friendly 

Create space in your agenda for a fun online energiser where participants are encouraged to find creative GIF-based responses to your questions.

Touch Blue

Touch blue is an energizer that’s been around for decades, and it works equally well in an online environment!

Start by having the facilitator calling out something to touch such as “touch blue” or “touch something warm.” Each participant then has to move and touch something that is blue or warm. This might be something on their desk, an item of clothing, or something they have to go and find on their bookshelf. The last person to find an object then has to select the next attribute.

If you want to make it a little more competitive, give everyone fifteen seconds to find something and eliminate those players who don’t find anything in time. Keep playing and make things more complicated or reduce the time until one player remains. It can also be effective to do quick-fire rounds of this energizer throughout a workshop to keep participants on their toes! 

Touch Blue #energiser #fun #remote-friendly 

Touch Blue is a classic energiser that is quick and easy fun for remote teams too! Challenge participants to find objects on their desk that match the attributes you select and have fun doing so!

Dance Dance Dance

Energizers in traditional live workshops often include physical activity to get the blood flowing and mix up the activities: there’s no reason online workshops can’t do the same! 

In Dance Dance Dance, explain that when the music starts, one person in each group starts dancing on the camera and the others follow the leader. When the song changes, another member in each group becomes the new dance leader. Change the song every twenty to thirty seconds and try to play enough songs that everyone gets a chance as leader. Encourage participants to dance in their chairs or with their upper bodies only if room is an issue!

This energizer isn’t for all teams and certain working conditions, but can be a fun and ridiculous way to energise a virtual team and have fun before moving onto the rest of the workshop. You might have this as an optional exercise during a break if you want to let people sit it out, or you can keep it short by having one or two songs that people on your team love that you play in full. 

Start a team Spotify playlist where people can add songs that they’d like to hear and dance to! Doing this exercise online often requires people to be creative in trying to dance in their chairs or home offices, though we’ve found this activity works best with groups who already know each other well and are comfortable being foolish together! 

Dance, Dance, Dance #hyperisland #energiser #remote-friendly 

In this short and physically active energizer, participants dance playfully in small teams. Periodically, the music changes and members take turns leading the dance. The aim is to generate fun energy and playfulness in a group, often as a counter-balance to more “serious” group work.

What are you doing

Improv games can be highly effective when it comes to engaging and energising a team while also allowing for an opportunity to encourage fun and teambuilding. 

In this energizer, you begin by inviting a participant to mime an action in their webcam screen. The first person to guess the action correctly then mimes an action themselves. This one is simple and fun, and can be a great way to bring people out of their shells.

Want to make it a little more interesting? When someone guesses correctly, the last person to mime private messages them with an action to mime next. Be sure to set ground rules for what actions are acceptable for the group to mime and which aren’t! Encouraging the use of imagination is useful for many workshop groups, and just because you’re facilitating online doesn’t mean you can’t get people to engage with their silly, creative sides!

What are you doing? #hyperisland #energiser #remote-friendly 

This is a simple drama game in which participants take turns asking each other “What are you doing?” and acting out the various responses. Though simple, it engages the imagination and gently challenges participants out of their comfort zone by having them mime a range of different actions.

Hello Kitty

Some of the most effective energizers are also the most fun. We love this energizer as it’s really simple, generates laughter and can help equalise a room of people instantly. Running this in your online meeting or workshop whether people are strangers or long term colleagues can be really effective when it comes to bringing up the energy levels!

First, separate the room into two groups: puppies and kitties. You can have the groups either use nonverbal feedback icons or put their hands up to delineate which team they’re on. If you’re being particularly creative, have them change their background image to either a puppy or kitten! This game works well on an honour system

The aim of the game is for the puppies, one at a time, to say hello to the kittens in any way possible and try to make any of them smile or laugh. Use speaker view in Zoom so that each puppy is seen and heard clearly when it’s their turn. Whenever a kitten smiles or laughs, they join the puppy team. Continue until only one kitten remains or everyone becomes a puppy!

This online energizer is quick and easy and encourages people to overcome their shyness and be silly: particularly useful for remote teams that may be stressed or anxious over current world events.

Hello Kitty #hyperisland #energiser #remote-friendly 

A simple and short group game all about trying to make each other crack a smile. Participants take turns being ‘kitties’ and ‘puppies’. The puppies try to make the kitties crack a smile or laugh. The last kitty standing is the winner! An original from The Northern Quarter Agency.

Skills-based online energizers

These virtual energizer games and exercises are great for challenging your team and encouraging the use of certain skills such as active listening, memory or critical thinking. They tend to be more in depth and a little more complicated, but can see great results in longer remote workshops or could even be run as one-off exercises to engage a remote team.

Remote Pencil Pitch

Many of us will have seen a movie where one salesperson asks another to try selling them a pencil. How about we take that idea, add some potential for hilarity and move it online?

In the online pencil pitch, we recommend setting up a slide deck of weird and wonderful objects and then, inviting your participants one by one to pitch whatever comes up on the next slide to the rest of the group. Time it so participants have thirty seconds to pitch and keep things moving – bonus points if participants can think outside of the box while pitching. This is a great online energizer that encourages improvisation. 

If you’re looking for a variation, why not try using fictional characters and have each participant sell the group on why they should be president? If you want to integrate this exercise into a focused workshop, have your team pitch new features or solutions for your product or organisation to the team. Depending on your needs, this exercise can easily be adapted to serve multiple purposes.

Remote pencil pitch #energiser #skills #improv game #remote-friendly 

Help your team practice their pitching skills while having fun with this improv activity perfect for remote teams or virtual meetings.

Powerpoint Karaoke 

Powerpoint Karaoke is a great way to not only energise a group but also improve team bonding and communication skills. For this online meeting energizer, create one or more slide decks that none of the participants have seen before. You can use random slides that don’t relate to one another, are just for fun, or form an actual company presentation depending on the needs of your group.

Once your team is ready to start, find a volunteer who is ready to present and start the first random slide deck. The volunteer must then present on those slides to the group. You can give people an entire slide deck each or have them tag out to other members after a few slides. We recommend keeping text information on the slides to a minimum or using just visuals. The key is getting people to improvise, have fun but also practice their communication skills under pressure!

Powerpoint Karaoke #improv game #communication #presentation skills #skills #remote-friendly 

Powerpoint Karaoke is an improv game where volunteers take turns presenting slide decks that they’ve never seen before, in front of a live audience.

Empires

Fancy something a little more competitive and in-depth for your online energizer? Empires is a great game for large groups that encourages critical thinking and really stretches the memory!

Begin by having everyone pick a famous person and sending the name to the facilitator as a private message. It’s important no-one shares the person they’ve chosen. Want something different? Try a favourite food or the first album they bought. The facilitator then reviews these and reads them out to the group. Once the game has begun, this list should not be read out again – everyone has to remember them!

The energizer begins by the facilitator nominating someone to start. Player A asks player B if they are one of the names that has been read out. If player A guesses right, then player B joins player A’s empire. If player A is wrong, then player B gets control of the game and gets the chance to build their empire. If a player guesses the leader of an empire correctly, they take control of that person’s entire empire!

Players in an empire can confer on who they think is who – this is best done in a Slack room or group chat channel to keep audio chat to a minimum – though the leader is the only player who can make a guess. The game continues until everyone is part of one empire. 

Delineate which empire players belong by using Zoom icons, by raising a hand when asked which empire they belong to, or by having each user change the background based on their empire. 

Though this seems a little complicated, once you begin playing, Empires is actually pretty simple and flows quite quickly. You might do multiple rounds of this energizer at various stages of your workshop: people tend to like having another go once they get good at the game!

Empires #teampedia #team #energiser #ice breaker #remote-friendly 

This activity could work between sessions as an energiser or an icebreaker. It builds on participants’ memory and communication.

Energizers for online teambuilding

While all online energizers featured here are good for connecting remote workers and teambuilding, these exercises are more in-depth and expressly designed for promoting teamwork or helping your group get to know one another.

Virtual scavenger hunt 

Do you remember doing scavenger hunts as a kid during hot summers? We loved them too! While you can’t replicate the feeling of finding an object up a tree or buried in the dirt, you can get an online team working together and having fun trying to find the items on a list.

For this task, prepare a list of things you want people to find online. You can see an example of such a list in the instructions for this method. You can make the list purely fun – where people have to collect GIF or Youtube video responses to the scavenger hunt, or make it tailored to your work. 


Split your group into teams and set up a timer depending on the size of your list. This online energizer works best if people are under pressure and are then encouraged to share what they found! 

Virtual scavenger hunt #energiser #teambuilding #remote-friendly 

A fun team-building energiser that encourages groups to recreate the scavenger hunt experience in a fully remote environment! 

Guess the desk

A fun virtual energizer that helps teams get to know each other and share best remote working practices! In Guess the Desk, start by having each participant takes a photo of their desk or remote working set-up and send them to the facilitator who then puts them into a shared whiteboard or Google Doc. Don’t tell anyone whose desk is whose!

During the first round select one member to be the Desk President: they cast the vote on whose desk is whose after a group discussion. After each round, the previous Desk President elects the next and the group moves on to guess the next desk. Here’s the fun part. If your desk is up it’s your job to convince everyone belongs to someone else: if the group votes incorrectly on your desk, you get a point! If you successfully guess the right desk while you are Desk President, you also get a point.

After all the desks have been guessed, debrief and point out any particularly good remote working set-ups and best practices you notice and want to share!

Guess the desk #remote-friendly #energiser #teambuilding 

An energiser game for remote teams where participants share images of their work set-up and attempt to guess opponents’ desks while bluffing their own!

Doodling together

Drawing under pressure is a fun and engaging way to energize a group, allowing creativity to take precedence and provide counterpoint to the other exercises in a session. 

Doodling together in an online setting requires some creativity too, but can be very effective and fun. We recommend using an online whiteboard and setting up a virtual table where each participant is sat in groups of five – and have each participant put a post-it note with their name on and arrange them in circles large enough to support moving pictures around. 

First, everyone draws the first image and puts it underneath their name tag in the online whiteboard. Then, when the time comes to pass the drawing on, pass it along to the next person in the circle. Rinse and repeat! By the end of the five steps, each person will have the original image back.

Don’t have an online whiteboard? You can use Google Docs or Slack to pass your image to the next person and can even upload images drawn on paper or in digital drawing tools if you wish!

Doodling Together #collaboration #creativity #teamwork #fun #team #visual methods #energiser #ice breaker #remote-friendly 

Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.

Take a picture of your shoes

Online energizers don’t need to be complicated to be effective. Take a picture of your shoes is a quick and effective energizer that encourages participants to share a little bit of themselves and facilitates further conversation. This can be very useful when it comes to bringing a remote team together! 

Have each of your participants take a picture of their shoes and upload it to an online whiteboard or your meeting Slack channel. You can ask participants to take their photographs in the meeting itself or beforehand if you want to keep this energizer short and neat. That said, it can be very fun for people to take photographs in the workshop. Change it up by encouraging funny poses or use of extra props.

You then invite people to discuss their footwear and tell a story of their chosen shoes. It might be that they’re wearing comfy slippers they got for a recent birthday or running shoes they wore while completing a 10k!

Take a Picture of Your Shoes #energiser #teambuilding #ice breaker #remote-friendly 

Get to know the other members of your team and share something interesting about yourself in this quick energiser activity.

The Desert Island 

Like Tom Hanks in Castaway, teams often have to respond to difficult situations and changing conditions. This remote team energizer is designed to help participants to collaborate, demonstrate creative thinking and use decision making skills, all framed within a familiar concept that also allows for some interesting discussions!

First, create a list of items that have washed up on the island in a Google Doc or your online whiteboard – include pictures if you can! Then, split your group into teams and move them into Zoom breakout rooms or Slack channels. These teams collectively decide upon which three items they would choose to help their group survive. 

Encourage teams to write down which items and why, or if they’re feeling creative, draw their responses in the whiteboard – these kinds of artifacts can be crucial in making an exercise effective. After the groups have had time to deliberate, bring them back together, see what everyone chose and debrief.

The Desert Island #relationships #ice breaker #teamwork #remote-friendly 

Many of us have played a game similar to this before – if you were stranded on a desert island, what essential items would you choose to survive?

Participants are given a list of items to choose from and must work together to decide which items will help them stay alive.

A great, remote-friendly exercise for a team to work together and share opinions.

Tips for running online energizers 

Selecting the right online energizer is a great start, but great facilitators know that delivery and approach are vital in ensuring an energizer is successful. While every energizer has some unique elements that you should consider, there are some general tips and approaches you can use to help your virtual energizer be a success. Here are our tips for running online energizers.

Set good online meeting etiquette

Many facilitators set the expectations they have for participants both before the meeting and at the very beginning to help things running smoothly and keep everyone happy and productive. Online sessions are no different. Be very clear with your participants on online meeting etiquette by creating a list and distributing it with your invites. Reiterate this at the beginning of the meeting and if possible, have it present in your virtual whiteboard or collaboration tool. 

Here are some of the items you should have in your online meeting etiquette. 

  1. Set microphones to mute when not speaking.
  2. Webcams on where possible – it’s nice to see your face! Though bear in mind that in low-bandwidth environments, turning off the camera can help with call quality!
  3. Call in from a quiet, well-lit location: everyone should be able to see and hear you clearly. 
  4. Read the agenda beforehand and come to the meeting prepared.
  5. Use nonverbal means to indicate you would like to speak. Use the hand-up feature, icons or raise your hand in your video conferencing software.
  6. Arrive on time if not a little early so you can iron out any audio/visual equipment issues before starting. Test your audio so you can be heard just after logging in.
  7. Get familiar with the tools you’re going to be using. Have a quick tour of the video chat or online whiteboard tool so you can be productive in the session. 
  8. Be engaged. Listen to whoever is speaking, communicate in the chat channels and use the online collaboration tools. You get out what you put in! 
  9. Close down extra tabs unless necessary and remove distractions. You might need Google Docs, Mural or another tool for the work of the session, but you probably don’t need Facebook open!
  10. Shut down other devices taking up bandwidth if possible to help ensure a stable connection.
  11. Use a headset or earphones where possible to minimize echo and background noise.
  12. When speaking, do so slowly and clearly. Be conscious of time – practice brevity whenever possible.
  13. During presentations or longer discussions, try to add questions or thoughts to the chat channel and avoid interrupting. The facilitator will get to your questions and answer them when appropriate.
  14. Try not to repeat questions in the chat channel. Read what’s already there and add a like or upvote if you have the same question. 
  15.  Smile and nod! Let the speaker know you are listening!

Keep it simple 

Simplicity is king in an online workshop. In remote environments, simple activities that are easy to explain, deliver and run can help ensure the efficacy of your workshop and keep participants from becoming frustrated.

Depending on the workshop or meeting you are running, some tasks will likely be more complex by necessity. These should be simplified where possible, but there’s no getting away from the fact that design sprints, for example, have some more complex steps to make them successful. Counter-balance this with simple, easy-to-understand energizers that help people have fun and mentally recharge.

Think remotely 

While you might think this is a given for online energizers, it’s always worth bearing in mind that your participants are working remotely and activities should be designed and used with this in mind. Not every energizer is suitable for online workshops, but on the flipside, short activities that encourage people to engage in physical activity shouldn’t just be discounted because you’re at the computer.

Really take the time to consider which online energizers are suitable for your team in this remote setting and tailor your energizers to your tools, set-up and group. A good number of energizers can be adapted to work as well if not better in a remote setting – in fact, virtual meetings have access to lots of interesting tools and approaches live settings simply don’t have. Think remotely and use them to your advantage. 

Clearly explain the instructions before you begin 

Whether your online energizer involves breakout rooms, nonverbal communication or games, it’s always important to clearly articulate the instructions before you begin. Most things take additional time in an online environment, and needing to repeat yourself or clarify steps later on can use up precious time and energy.

Take the time to very clearly tell participants what they need to do and answer any questions related to the running of an exercise before you begin. It can be useful to prepare a summary of the instructions in your online whiteboard or collaboration tool for people to refer to if they get lost. This is not to say you shouldn’t help or correct people during the exercise – just that you should make this an efficient, effective process wherever you can. 

Timebox 

As with all activities in a remote setting, keeping things running on time in an online energizer is important. Some games and exercises have the potential to go on indefinitely and while you should absolutely engage in those and have fun too, set timers and reminders so you can stay on track.

It’s also worth practicing and running a few of your preferred online energizer activities and timing them. If you find your participants need a boost and you have ten minutes to spare in your agenda, you can pick an appropriate energizer. (Or pick one from our library!)

Choose the right tools 

While most online energizers can be run in a variety of formats and with a pinch of creativity, it’s worth selecting and developing activities that work well with the tools you are using. Conversely, if you’re still deciding which tools to use, work backwards and see what methods you would like to run in your session first. It might be that an online whiteboard is essential or you can use internal tools. 

All that said, every energizer is at its most effective when delivered in the right format by a comfortable and well-prepared facilitator. Some remote energizers will simply be most effective with a visual collaboration space such as Miro where they can draw and move things around in real-time, while others only require that participants are able to see one another. The key is that, where possible, you try and find a toolset that is sufficient for the task at hand, rather than make do with second best.

Over to You

In unprecedented times where many of us are working remotely and conducting meetings online for the first time, it’s important to remember what works. Energizers are a great way to keep your team engaged, high spirited and to have a little fun while also being productive. This is arguably even more important in an online environment where groups don’t get as much face to face time to have fun and feed off one another’s energy. 

We hope our list of remote energizer games and activities is useful! If you’re looking for more remote-friendly content, check out our library category and our full set of remote resources!

Do you have a favourite remote-friendly energizer or one you would like to add? We’d love to hear from you in the comments and share best practices with the community!

3 Comments

  1. Our version of the ‘shoes’ energizer was a ‘Mad Hatter Tea Party’. Everyone wore a hat to the zoom meeting and had 60 seconds to tell the story of the hat and why they picked it. The best hat/story combo won 4 rolls of toilet paper and bottle of wine to get them through shelter in place. If the hat didn’t have a good story, participants were told to make one up. Some stories were hilarious and others were heartwarming. We learned a lot about each other’s past vacations, themed parties, upcoming birthdays etc. through the hats and stories.

    Thanks for the other ideas! I especially liked the idea of using non verbals as a way to keep track of who is on each team.

    1. Hey Terra! Awesome – so glad to hear the above ideas were useful!

      Your Mat Hatter Tea Party energizer sounds great! 🙂 We love it and we think others would too! Do you mind if we add it to the SessionLab library of facilitation methods and attribute you as the creator? 🙂

      Get in touch at support@sessionlab.com if you want to chat more. Would love to hear from you!

  2. I love your website, is just what I need for developing my workshops and be more fun and engaging. I found lots of great ideas. Many thanks to your excellent efforts and work

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