Karyn Schumaker, president, Experience Unlimited Irvine, a professional networking group, has a favorite icebreaker version of Bingo. She used this game successfully at a corporate Quality Assurance meeting.

Using Excel, she created cards with categories across the top instead of the letters B-I-N-G-O. Under each category, she placed 12 squares. Below are her five categories, plus examples of what could fill the squares below each one. (She also notes that she used a random number generator to ensure all cards were different.)

• Appearance  
(long hair, green eyes, wearing red)

• Work History  
(has worked at more than one facility, has visited corporate HQ but does not work there, works in a different department from you, has been with the company for more than 10 years, has been with the company for less than six months)

• Common Traits 
(watches “American Idol,” prefers dogs over cats, is left-handed, an only child)

• On the Job 
(fill these squares with items specific to your meeting, your company, or your industry)

• Getting to Know You 
(lives within an hour of where he/she was born, has survived a hurricane, does charity work, went to school in a country other than the one he/she grew up in, speaks a foreign language fluently)

How to Play: The goal is for attendees to find fellow participants who can sign the appropriate squares on their Bingo cards. Offer prizes for the first Bingo and for the first blackout. “It got people really talking,” Schumaker says. “The CEO thought it was a blast.”


Toss a ball from table to table: Whoever catches it reacts to the prompt under his or her thumb. It might say “fantasy vacation” or “favorite childhood toy,” or the catcher may have to compare himself to a vegetable, superhero, or musical instrument. Or she may have to make a choice: summer or winter? Formal or casual? Then the ball gets tossed to another participant. Make your own with a beach ball or check out the Thumball collection at


Nothing gets a group’s energy up like a speed date! Paula Gurney, senior manager at U.K.–based Mazars, regularly uses a kind of speed-networking activity at the beginning of an international training course she manages. Delegates stand in two lines facing one another, and the moderator asks a question (some examples: What is your favorite vacation destination and why? What is your favorite tourist attraction in your town/country and why?). The two people opposite one another have 30 seconds to introduce themselves and answer the question. At a signal, one line of people shifts one place to the left and the process continues with a different question.

Gurney usually wraps up with a question like “What do you want to get out of the program?” or “What was the best piece of career advice you ever received?” to bring the content back to business. Following the last question, each delegate introduces the person he or she has just met to the rest of the group.