Ten energizers for your online workshop

August 2020, by Esther van der Storm


Online energizers are a little out of my comfort zone. I don’t use them very often, not even during face-to-face workshops. That really is a pity, because online energizers can literally provide renewed energy in a group. So we organized a ZomerStorm session (our summer experiments) entirely dedicated to online energizers. We tested ten of them, which we would like to share with you in this blog.

Before we dive into the 10 online energizers, first something about the difference between energizers and icebreakers. We use icebreakers very often at STORMPUNT. Although the effect can be the same, the goal is somewhat different. An icebreaker is used to ensure that people get to know each other better, feel comfortable with each other and ‘land’ in the session. An energizer can be used at any moment of your session and is meant to give the group new energy. So, use energizers when you feel that the energy in the group is getting low.


Online energizers: which one do you choose?

Online energizers come in all shapes and sizes. During the ZomerStorm we tested a diverse palette of energizers: with a lot of energy, in small groups or in silence. My tip: just pick one that you think fits well with the setting of your session and test it out. But pick one your feel comfortable with. If you think an exercise is ‘stupid’ or ‘not useful’, chances are that your group will not cooperate and you may experience pushback. But if you introduce the energizer as a fun and quick exercise, then your group will participate. And the good news: an energizer usually lasts no longer than five minutes. Fast and effective!


#1   Mouth cap on, mouth cap off

Okay, okay, technically, you might want to put this first online energizer among the icebreakers. But by giving it a playful touch with the mouth cap, this exercise brought a lot of hilarity. The exercise is a simple variation on the ‘hat on, hat off’ idea. You present a number of propositions to the group. If you agree, take off your mouth cap. If the proposition does not apply, you keep your mouth cap on. The questions were all light-hearted in this exercise, such as the question: ‘Who used to want to participate in a Mini Playback Show?’


We did get the remark afterwards that mouth caps can be sensitive in some cases. We hadn’t thought about that at all, but of course you don’t want to hurt peoples feelings while doing an energizer. A safer version, which we also use often, is sticking a post-it over your camera. Take it off when you agree, leave it on when the question does not relate to you. Works on the same principle and those post-its have no relation at all with Covid-19.


#2  Three in a row… Bingo!

This energizer requires a bit of preparation, but that is totally worth it. We made a bingo card with nine boxes on it. These boxes contain all kinds of objects that everyone has in their house, but usually not near their computer. The goal: to be the first to get BINGO. This can be done horizontally, vertically or diagonally … if you manage to collect three items in a straight line, you score BINGO. The clever participants in the ZomerStorm chose the line containing the ice cream and we saw them eating a cold ice cream not long afterwards. 😉


online energizer bingo


#3   Sell it

Since everyone has gathered special items, it’s extra fun to do a new exercise with them. Via Zoom we created break-out rooms with pairs. With one simple task: sell the object in front of you in 30 seconds with all the passion you have in you. When you return, the other person should desperately want to buy it from you! The participants returned from the break-out rooms laughing, so we concluded that this online energizer generates a lot of energy. In addition, it allows you to practice how to pitch a product or idea right away!


#4  Zen moment: draw a spiral

I once did this energizer in a session at Ruben Clerkx and found it wonderfully soothing. Plus that we needed an exercise in the program to prevent people from looking at their screen for a moment. This fitted perfectly. Ask participants to have pen and paper at hand. The exercise is simple: start in the middle and draw a spiral. The goal is to draw a spiral for two minutes without removing your pen from the paper. Funny is that some of the participants liked this exercise (can’t wait to draw again!) and some didn’t like it very much. Make sure to share the drawings afterwards for those who want to. “I really wanted to show my work of art to the rest”, was the feedback we got from a number of participants.


online energizer - drawing a spiral


#5    Hide and seek

When I came across this online energizer it seemed brilliant to me, but in terms of feasibility it turned out to be quite a challenge. The idea is that at the start of the session one of the participants is asked to take a screenshot of their screen with his or her own head on it. During the Zen energizer, he or she replaces the background of the Zoom screen with the photo and then secretly disappears from the screen. The group is then instructed to sit very still and look at the camera. The aim is to guess who is in the picture.


We just couldn’t find a participant who could organise this quickly, so co-host Sonja volunteered to do this exercise. Next time I would ask a participant in advance to prepare this. Otherwise it really is too much hassle. This exercise works best with a maximum of 25 participants in Zoom, as then everyone is visible on one screen.


#6    Shake it off!

After all that sitting down, it’s time for some exercise! One of the hosts – in our case Sonja – took the lead and asked everyone to stand up and unmute their microphones. The idea is to move as one and count aloud at the same time. You do eight shakes with your right hand and then eight with your left hand, eight shakes with your right leg and eight with your left. Then you add a nice wiggle. Repeat the steps four times, twice, once and finish with a yell. To be honest, Sonja’s pace was a bit high for me: I lost count immediately … But despite my granny-mode it was great to move around a bit! Guaranteed success with your participants.


#7    Secret bookclub

In advance of the session we asked all participants to select a book from their bookshelf that they think everyone knows. We divided the group in teams of four and used break-out rooms again. The assignment is to describe the book to the others without mentioning the title or author. The others have to guess which book you have in front of you. When all four books have been guessed, the group returns to the main room.


This energizer was a bit too easy: the first group returned within a minute. Tip: make the exercise a bit more difficult by, for example, using less known books, or that people might have to portray something. People did find this an incredibly nice energizer to do, so we’ll keep it in!


#8   Toilet paper construction

How creative can you get with toilet paper? Very much, it turns out! To be honest, this exercise was a ‘in-between-energizer’, because we had to adjust the Zoom settings for the next energizer. In just a few minutes, we challenged people to create an artistic structure with WC paper rolls. This resulted in beautiful works of art: from the tower of Pisa to a snowman, including an artistically drawn face.


#9    Break-out room tag

Yeah, then it was time for playing break-out room tag! In the meantime, our tech-host had made all participants in Zoom ‘co-host’. This energizer is literally an online version of playing tag, where you hop between break-out rooms to stay out of the hands of the tagger. This works as follows: two participants became the tagger and the other 28 participants we divided over five break-out rooms.


When entering a break-out room, the tagger first counts to ten and then calls out the name of a participant who is still in the break-out room. This person is then the new tagger and has to count to 10 again. The goal is to leave a break-out room as soon as someone starts counting. It’s a nice way to let people practice switching between break-out rooms themselves, but if you participate with an iPad or phone then it doesn’t work well. The only condition is that people log in from a PC. In hindsight we could have used more taggers with a group of 30 people.


#10    Mini Playbackshow

This one is for everyone who secretly wanted to perform at the Mini Playback Show as a kid. The Online Mini Playback Show! Microphones on mute, some fancy tune on the shared speaker and let’s playback all together! This energizer also got a high popularity vote and it was a nice way to end to an hour of hilarity. Really a must to do, because this makes people very happy!


We have searched high and low for great energizers for this ZomerStorm session. Thanks to Jeroen Bakker and Ruben Clerkx for the inspiration. We got a lot of tips from this overview of Irene van der Spoel. Finally a big thank you to Sonja Werners, who, as Positive Bemoeial, facilitated this ZomerStorm together with us. 


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Check out our previous blogs below, in which we share our experiences in facilitating online creative workshops. Do you want to learn how to guide an online session after which people leave the digital room fully energized? Check out our online trainings, in which we teach you all the (facilitator)tips and tricks so you can get started yourself!

10 great online energizers for your workshop

15 online brainstorm tips for large groups

12 essential tips for a successful online brainstorm

Online brainstorming: do's en don'ts