A short team building exercise is a great way to get a virtual meeting off to a flying start. Building momentum with an ice breaker can be just as important in a web conference as in a face-to-face catch up.
Just like teams working in the same office location bond over non-work related activities, geographically dispersed colleagues can form connections too with fun and games before proceeding to the meeting agenda.
Author and blogger Chris Higgins says although ice breakers are a smart way to warm the group up to each other, it is a path one must tread carefully. Using this technique with the wrong group could have the opposite effect.
Here are two instances where you should avoid using ice breakers:
1. A client is on the call
This is treacherous territory; you may have great rapport with a client, but think long and hard before you decide to start the meeting on a casual footing. If the activity is perceived to be unprofessional, it may be counterproductive.
For instances where you are interacting with a client for the very first time, experimenting with ice breaker activities may not be the wisest decision. It is likely to be what Mr Higgins calls a "hit-or-miss" situation.
2. Your team is already comfortable with each other
If you are running a meeting with team members who are already friendly with each other, then starting with an ice breaker may just turn out to be a waste of time, according to Mr Higgins. In fact it may even make some members feel uneasy.
What's more, avoid such an exercise if the participants have a conference call on a regular basis and seem to communicate with no issues - it is a sign that they do not need an organised and structured activity to get comfortable.
A brief but meaningful ice breaker may do wonders for your virtual meeting. However, be careful to consider the agenda of the web conference and the relevance of an activity before you set forth with the activity.