Enter a keyword into the search field (in the top navigation).
If you have a paid subscription, you can also browse prompts by clicking “Select Prompts” for a particular deck.
To choose the right content for any conversation-starter exercise, consider your goals:
- Break silences and build energy – choose easy to answer prompts on one of these: Icebreaker; Energy Break; Favorites; Icebreaker; What If?
- Get to know each other – look for prompts that scratch below the surface – Common Ground; Favorites; Getting to Know You; Session Openers; Shaped by our Past; What Makes You You? Which are You?
- Build deeper relationships – Get Happy at Work; Shaped by our Past; What Makes You You?
- Address specific challenges – Be a Leader; Building Bridges (trust); Diversity; Get Happy at Work; Onward & Upward (change); Stress Management; Team Dynamics; Toolbox Talks (safety)
- Reinforce learning – Create Your Own; Debriefs; Closers
- Ramp up Energy – consider if your group needs a mindfulness break, brain gym puzzle, or to get the blood moving.
- Before you start your meeting, pick your themes and prompts.
- Pick up to 6 themes.
- Within each theme, “SELECT ALL” prompts or choose only your favorites.
- Click LET’S PLAY. (If you do this before your session is live, you’ll be already to go when your participants view your screen).
- Share Screen: When meeting online, with the tool of your choice, click the button to share your screen.
- Explain: You’ve selected a range of themes. You will invite players to choose a theme. When you click on the theme name, they will see a random prompt from that theme.
- Show and Example: Choose a theme and model how participants might answer a question.
- Pick a Player: Choose a first player randomly, or ask for a volunteer.
- Ask: Do you want a prompt from the same theme, NEW PROMPT. Or, would you like to choose a NEW THEME?
- Easy Pass: Invite players to take a “pass” or “request a new prompt” if they find a question particularly challenging.
CREATIVE FACILITATION OPTIONS
- Virtual ball toss: to choose a “next player,” invite the last responder to toss a virtual ball to another player who has their hands up, indicating they’re ready to catch. Have players answer one at a time.
- Chat: have everyone type in their answers.
- Chat storm: Ask all player to think of an answer to the question. Request that after they write it in Chat but DON’T SEND. Have them show two hands up, to indicate they’re ready. When you say “GO” everyone can send their answer at once.
- Whiteboard Share: Using a whiteboard tool like Miro, Mural, or the like, have everyone write in answers on the board.
- Breakout Rooms: After you select a question, divide participants into breakout rooms to discuss their answers in smaller groups. When they get back, you can ask a delegate to summarize their group’s discussion.
MORE QUESTION VARIATIONS
Once you’ve selected a prompt, you can answer it in a variety of ways:
- Guess how another player might answer.
- Have multiple players respond to the same prompt.
- Discuss similarities or differences in replies.
- Ask players to choose a prompt they really want to answer.
- Specify that answers should relate to personal or workplace experiences.
- Have players recall answers given by previous responders, before adding their own.
Every set of prompts should follow these 7 guidelines:
- Keep questions open-ended – stay away from yes/no questions and always ask, “Why?”
- Focus on experiences, interests, and wishes –construct easy-to-answer questions.
- Understand your goal –develop each prompt to serve a specific need.
- Make the questions “safe” – never make players feel they’ll be judged or put on-the-spot.
- Inspire dialogue and sharing – be sure questions don’t have a right or wrong answer.
- Mix would and should questions – consider the format that will promote positive discussion.
- Balance reflective and appreciative questions – ask about prior experiences and forward thinking.
- Shaped by our Past
Appreciate that this Thumball may remind participants of both happy and challenging moments in their past. If one question feels difficult, invite them to take a pass, trade questions with another player or toss again.
- Which are You?
This ball requires players to choose between two opposite characteristics. They may find it’s easy to choose one extreme or the other. If it is, or if it’s not, encourage them to explain where they fall on the continuum and why. Invite them to share examples or expand on their answer with analogies to their personality or work style.
- Energy Break
- Energize the group after lunch — Toss the ball to a recipient and have them read the prompt and demonstrate the movement to the whole group. Encourage all who can to join in for 1 to 3 minutes.
- Learning review – Pick a movement and relate it to something the group has just learned. Alternatively, toss the ball and have the recipient perform the movement while they think up their answer to a review question.
- Break the ice – Have the ball recipient do the movement described the panel, then have others in the group share a moment that the movement reminds them of.
- Toolbox Talks (safety)
- Be prepared: Toolbox Talks are likely to raise questions about proper safety checklists or “correct” techniques for first aid, fire prevention, CPR, etc. Several websites provide such information sheets with ready answers pertaining to a variety of work situations: cpwr.com * safetytoolboxtopics.com * ehs.harvard.edu
- Take notes for follow-up: While this is a discussion-starter tool, it may surface organizational issues or uncover gaps in knowledge about recommended safety protocols. Keep a list of follow-up actions that are identified during discussions.
- Workplace Ethics
Your goal is to make conversations about ethics interesting and productive, without judgement or finger pointing. To explore these touchy questions most effectively, remind your group that there are no right answers. Be transparent about these goals and explain your interest in opening discussion and having rich conversations — about morals, handling sticky situations, evaluating fairness, and exploring the organizational practices that enable or inhibit ethical behavior.
- Ask recipient to select a prompt to which all players must respond or contribute.
- Survey players on several question panels, then create charts or graphs that reflect the cumulative responses.
- GIVE RELUCTANT PLAYERS AN “OUT”
- Some may be able to give quick or pat answers to a prompt; others might want to take some time to discuss or brainstorm best practices
- Some might benefit wish to discuss why the prompt is difficult to answer.
- As needed, invite players to take a PASS, ASK A FRIEND, or GROUP CHAT an answer.
- SET AN EXAMPLE
- As facilitator, you start. Model the types of answers you’re looking for.
- TAKE NOTES
- Create a parking lot of ideas. For more in-depth conversations, keep a notepad handy in case you happen on an issue you’d like to revisit later.
Explain that conversations can be emotionally charged. The goal is to share experiences and feelings. So that everyone can feel safe, have the group set up their own Ground Rules. Here are some that you might want on the list:
- Only one person speaks at a time
- Speak only for yourself; use “I” statements
- No personal attacks – critique ideas, not people
- Agree to disagree; disagree without being disagreeable
- Listen – make sure everyone feels heard and validated
- Be positive and non-judgmental; open to new ideas
Expert facilitators suggest these techniques to ease difficult or emotional situations:
- Pause the conversation so you can review the ground rules with the group.
- As the facilitator, share how an experience made you feel.
- Ask others how an experience made them feel.
- If two parties disagree, suggest that they switch roles and make the counter argument.
- Keep a flip chart of difficult topics that can be addressed later.
- Allow attendees to volunteer their participation as they feel comfortable.
- Ask others for input on how they have handled similar situations.
- Be ready to share some of your own personal stories.
- Take a break. Stop for a while and regroup.
- Thank participants for sharing their personal stories.