Offloading: the BEST icebreaker


“What’s on your mind?”

This is a SILENT icebreaker. That may seem strange, but it’s so effective, it’s the only icebreaker I use. It gives give everyone a few minutes to “offload” what’s in their heads. And usually, that’s a lot.

Why it works:

The silence allows everyone to slow down and mentally pivot. Introverts like it because they don’t have to launch right into group discussions. Extroverts like it because they get some much needed quiet to just think.

And I like it because I don’t have to compete with whatever came in the room with everyone. Yes, it’s a calculated stalling tactic. And by the time we start, everyone’s more in sync and relaxed.


Have everyone get a blank sheet of paper and a pen.

Answer the question, “What’s on your mind?” (Everything is fair game. No one’s going to see the paper.)

Keep pens moving for 5 – 10 minutes. (For longer working sessions, I do 10 minutes. 5 minutes works for shorter working sessions, especially if teams have done the exercise before.)

At the end, have them turn the paper over.

Now you can start the meeting.


But the times I’ve skipped it, I’ve always regretted it.


Side-note: for virtual meetings, I now have people leave their mics ON. It’s a silent icebreaker, but not a solo one….