When you are choosing a five-minute icebreaker for your next meeting, the main thing to keep in mind is that it should be just that: a quick get-to-know-you activity. The participants at your meeting may know each other or they may not. Even if they are employed by the same company, they may work in different departments or even in different parts of the country. Regardless, five-minute icebreakers are not team-building activities, which can last for half an hour, half a day or even several days. Instead, these brief activities should be short, to the point, and mostly, fun. Use any or all of the suggested activities, or feel free to modify them to meet your needs.

Find Your Number

Assign each participant a number from one to four. You can either count out the numbers, depending on how many participants are at the meeting, or simply write the numbers on the meeting agendas. After making any necessary introductions, instruct all the "No. 1' participants to find another person with the same number. Tell participants they will have one minute each to tell the other person something about themselves. If there are a large number of participants, use a bell or timer and let them know when it's time to switch. After both partners have had a chance to share, have the group gather together again. Go around the room or table and let the partners share what they learned about each other.

If the meeting is a long one -– say, one to two hours or more -– repeat the process by assigning different numbers to mingle, for example, tell each "No. 1" to find a "No. 4." Then use a new prompt such as: "Where did you go on your last vacation?" Or, "What's the best meal you've ever eaten?" Or, "What's your favorite hobby and why did you choose it?" There are enough possible numerical combinations that you can repeat this five-minute icebreaker several times during the meeting.

Birth Map

The website Icebreaker Ideas offers 34 quick ideas, including the following one. Before the meeting, buy a large map of the world. Organizations such as, National Geographic, offer a variety of such maps for sale. On the day of the meeting, but before it begins, hang the map on the wall in a prominent location in which participants will easily see the map when they enter the room or conference hall. Position an assistant or assistants at the entrance doors to hand everyone a pushpin as they enter. Have participants pin their birthplace on the map. Depending on the size of the group, you can go around the room and ask everyone to name the city, state, region or country where they were born and tell the group one thing about it. If you have a large number of participants at the meeting, have five or six people state their birthplace before each break, and continue throughout the meeting until all attendees have had a turn.

Hockey by the Numbers

This next activity comes from Britain and shows a wry sense of humor. Make sure the meeting participants all share a sense of fun and are willing to get a bit physical. David Priestly writes on the website Venture Team Building that before the meeting, you should place a "goal" at each end of the room – such as a table and two chairs. Place a balloon in the center of the room, and make two "hockey sticks" out of rolled-up newspapers. Immediately after the participants enter, divide them into two teams and have them sit or stand on opposite sides of the room. Give each team member a number; you can count off numbers as you did in the first activity. Call out a number that corresponds to a member of each team. The player with that number from each side then runs up, picks up a "hockey stick" and tries to propel the balloon through the opponent's goal. After a goal, or at any time during play, call out another number. When you do, the current players immediately drop their sticks and two new players enter the game and take over. The team with the most goals wins. (Have some small prizes ready to hand out to the members of the winning team.)

People Bingo

Another British website, called Insight, suggests this activity for new groups. It's a variation on the first activity, but it shows how easily you can create a quick, effective icebreaker by using numbers and inexpensive supplies. Have participants make a 5-by-4-inch grid on a 5-by-7-inch index card. Then, tell the participants to list items in each grid square, such as:

  • Has brown eyes
  • Has eaten a weird food
  • Plays tennis
  • Is wearing blue
  • Speaks a foreign language
  • Has two or more pets

Once participants have completed their grid cards, have them mingle and try to find at least one person who satisfies the requirement for each grid. Tell participants they'll have three minutes to complete their grids. Tell them to sit down when they are finished. If there's time, pick three or four participants to share the name and activity or interest of the people they found.

The Toaster Game

GovLoop, a free website for local, state and federal government officials (but open to anyone), came up with this tasty game. Place a pop-up toaster in the middle of the conference room table with a single slice of bread sticking up from one of the slots. Press the handle down to toast the bread. While the bread is toasting, go around the table and ask each person to say something about himself. "Whoever is speaking when the bread pops up has to eat the toast with whatever toppings the team decides to add," says GovLoop. Just make sure they’re not allergic to anything on the piece of toast.