Online Energizers to Activate Your Group | Online Facilitation Tools

Online Energizers [Bantersnaps via unsplash]
Image: Bantersnaps via unsplash.com

Spending a long time in front of the screen during online workshops and trainings can be very tiring. Online energizers can help to maintain attention and engagement of participants. They help to keep the energy up. And they can be very fun.

“Online Energizers to Activate Your Group” is part of a series of blog posts about online facilitation tools. A follow up on online energizers is here. Other blog posts about online facilitation tools are about online activities to get to know on another and for group- and team-building (coming soon!).

Actually, there is not such a thing as online energizers. Most of warming-up and energizers are activities adopted to the online environment. And this is how most of them appeared. However, a lot of activities do not work online, because of the physical contact they require.

Why use online energizers?

Meetings and workshops are most effective when our participants have energy to get involved and are able to actively engage with content and other participants. Especially for people new to participating in virtual workshops and online trainings, it helps a lot to remove some of the awkwardness that can come along a virtual meeting and turn it into a positive experience. One that invites them to get to know and engage with one another and have fun!

Seven activities to activate your group

Here is a selection of warm-ups and energizers:

  • Touch Blue
  • Morning Streches
  • Remote Fitness Check
  • Shake down
  • Take a picture of your shoes
  • Holiday Background Battle
  • Count UP

Touch Blue (aka “Bring something blue!”)

Touch Blue is a classic energiser. It’s quick and fun to play and works also online. The facilitator calls out an object, participants try quickly to find one and bring it to the meeting. 

Step-by-step

  1. The facilitator picks an object or describes a physical or visual attribute of it (for example: “Bring something blue!”, “Bring something wooden” or “Bring something warm” or “Bring something soft.”)
  2. Participants try to find something with that attribute and bring it.
  3. Whoever is last (or anyone else of the group) chooses the next object to find/bring.

Reflection – Identifying some of the participant’s favorite items and encourage the owner to talk a little about it.

Variations – You may introduce a time-limit, e.g. 15 seconds. After a while, introduce a second attribute, like “Bring something orange that you can wear,” or “touch something red that you can eat.” For experienced groups, you can get even more complex: “Bring something warm and touch it with your left foot”, or “Touch something on your desk… while doing that, with your right elbow, touch something yellow!”

Source: adapted from various sources; via: SessionLab by James Smart or via trainings.350 by Sarah Gough, Play for Peace


Morning Stretches

Short stretching exercises to wake up. Participants show/propose different stretching exercises that are performed by the group.

Step-by-step

Switch to “gallery view” so that all participants can see one another. Then the energizer starts:

  1. One person a movement, a stretching exercise.
  2. All other participants repeat this movement/stretch two times.
  3. The initiating participant calls out the next person.
  4. The next person performs a movement, and so on…

Variations – This short exercise can be also played to introduce and remind participants of names. The person performing the stretch says his/her name. Whenever the group repeats the movement, they call out loudly the name. With every repetition the name is called out louder and the stretch is preformed more intense.

Source: Trainer Pool European Solidarity Corps, Poland


Remote Fitness Check

Short physical exercises to wake up. Participants show/propose different movements that are performed by the group.

Step-by-step

Switch to “gallery view” so that all participants can see one another. Then everyone moves out of the camera’s view. When nobody can be seen, the energizer starts:

  1. One person “jumps” into the picture and shows a movement.
  2. All other players jump into the picture and join in repeating the movement.
  3. If the initiating participant stops, everyone leave their screen.
  4. The next person jumps in and performs a movement, and so on…

Variations – It might be chaotic, because more than one person jumps into the picture. If you want to avoid this, the initiating participants calls out the next person.

Source: Online Warm-Ups by Caspar Siebel


Shake down

Short and very physical energizer. Participants shake out their arms and legs.

Step-by-step

Everyone needs some space around him-/herself to do this exercise. Participants may stand or sit and whether they feel comfortable! The participants perform the “shake down” all together, counting “1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8!” loudly together as they go:

  1. 8 shakes of the right arm, 8 shakes of the left arm, 8 shakes of the right leg, and 8 shakes of the left leg.
  2. Next, 4 shakes of each limb. 
  3. Then 2 shakes of each. 
  4. Then 1 shake of each.
  5. The shake down ends with a loud cheer and a big ninja kick in the air.

Recommendations – This energizer is very short and efficient. The facilitator needs to role model a high level of energy to make it effective.

Source: Shake Down by Hyper Island (via SessionLab)


Take a picture of your shoes

Take a picture of your shoes and let participants take a guess and/or share a story about their shoes.

Step-by-step

  1. Ask everyone to take a picture of his/her shoes and upload them to an online board (like Padlet [padlet.com]).
  2. Share the online board with the pictures and let participants guess.
  3. Invite participants to tell something about their choice of footwear and share the “story” behind their choice.
Who is who? | Image: Michael Kimmig

Variations: Take a picture of your desk

Recommendations: You can ask participants to take their photographs during a break, if you want to keep this energizer short and neat. However it can also be very fun for people to take photographs during the session.

Source: adopted from Take a picture of your shoes by Andy Pearson


Holiday Background Battle

With this energizer you can inspire short conversations about travelling

Step-by-step

  1. Ask participants to bring a picture form their vacations (or staycation).
  2. Participants upload this picture before the meeting and use it as their background image in zoom.
  3. When the meeting room opens, we all enter various holiday places.
  4. One-by-one share a story about his/her picture.

Variations: Depending on the topic or the context of your online event you might focus on various things: holiday, free-time, flat, neighborhood, workplaces, coffee places, favorite food, and so on

Recommendations: Please take some time to show and explain how to exchange the background image on zoom (take some screenshots in advance).

Source: Urlaubsphoto Hintergrund Battle (Holiday Picture Background Battle) by Caspar Siebel


Count UP

The group counts up to a certain number, taking turns in a random order without interrupting one another.

Step-by-step

The goal is to count to 20. Only one person may say one number at a time. If two people speak at the same time, the group must start over from the beginning. The game is over, when the group reached the set number.

The task is simple, however, it takes awareness, focus and calmness to succeed.

  1. Introduce and explain the rules
  2. One person starts…
  3. Reflection

Recommendations: The exercise is effective to generate calm and focused collective energy in a group. Sometimes it helps the group to focus, if they close their eyes. Either or, the exercise very challenging to play it online. And the group might fail several times. Take a brief moment to debrief the exercise.

Source: adopted from Count up by Hyper Island


Tips for running online energizers

Most recommendations for energizers on- and offline, do not differ very much from one another. However there are a few things worth taking into consideration, when doing them online.

Keep it simple

If you are transfering an activity from remote workshops to an online space, some tasks might be more complex than necessary. Try to simplify where possible. Online energizers should be easy to explain, deliver and carried out. They should ensure the flow of your workshop and keep participants from becoming frustrated.

Instructions should be clear in terms of the activity that is going to happen and the digital tool that is going to be used. We all love digital tools, at the same time using a new tools should not take away the fun of the energizer.

Shape the communication within the group

Engaging and interacting with one another also helps to shape the overall communication: communicating verbally and non-verbally, deciding on the order of who is speaking, expressing reactions (through non-verbal signals or emoticons), commenting in the chat, etc. All this contributes to a meeting etiquette, that helps that your workshop is running smoothly and keeps everyone happy and productive.

Introducing digital tools. Enhancing digital skills

With an energizer it is also possible to introduce a new digital tool, like a pin board or whiteboard. In that way participants can try out a new tool in a playful way and get more skilled in using digital tools.

Think of what tools you want to use throughout your course during group work and projects and introduce them during an energizer so that later participants already know the tools and can fully concentrate on the group task.


More Online Facilitation Tools

“Online Energizers to Activate Your Group” is part of a series of blog posts on online facilitation tools. My other tools recommendations for online workshops are here:


Additional resources

Alvensleben, Laila von (2018): Online Warm Ups & Energizers; via: mural.co

Mind Tools content Team (w.Y.): Virtual Ice Breakers. Bringing Remote Workers Together; via: mindtools.com

Smart, James (2020): 20 online energizers for virtual teams and remote meetings; via sessionlab.com

Hyper Island: Methods & Tools (energizers, action, innovation, team, self-leadership); via: toolbox.hyperisland.com

Siebel, Caspar: Online Warm-Ups; via: workshop-spiele.de [DE]

Michael Kimmig

trainer | coach | life-long learner

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