(First published, July 2001)
You can use Whispers as a follow-up activity to any interesting experience among a group of friends. It's my favorite game to informally debrief my colleagues at the airport or during the drive back after a conference.
To reflect on a common experience and share insights with each other.
3 - 7. You can divide larger number of participants into smaller groups and ask each group to play among its members.
10 - 30 minutes, depending on the number of questions
A prepared set of debriefing questions. (See the sample set at the end of this article that I use to debrief the experiences at a professional conference.)
Brief participants. Ask them to think back on the common experience they had earlier. Explain that you are going to ask a series of questions. Encourage participants to answer these questions truthfully—and to preserve the confidentiality of the answers.
Add additional details. Explain that each participant will try to guess the answers of another participant in the group. This is to encourage people to learn more about each other and to expand their points of view.
Encourage reflection. Request that each person to take time to think of the answer to each question—without blurting it out.
Ask the first question. Select the most appropriate question from the prepared list. Pause for participants to reflect on their earlier experience and come up with an answer.
Ask for predictions. Instruct each person to turn to the player on her left and whisper a prediction of the response from the player on the right.
Ask for responses. Tell participants in each group to take turns to give their personal response to the question.
Score the prediction. If a participant's response matches the prediction made by the person on her left, then ask the predictor to give herself a point.
Continue the game. Ask one question at a time. You may ask questions from the prepared list or ad-lib spontaneous questions that probe previous responses. During later rounds of the game, you may invite participants in each group to take turns coming up with their own questions.
Conclude the game. Stop the game when you have used up the allotted time. Thank participants for their cooperation. Invite them to continue asking themselves more questions about and answering their own questions.
Bored of predicting the same person's responses? Alternate between predicting the responses of the person on either side. In the middle of the game, ask participants to switch seats. Or forget the whole idea of making predictions.
Sample Set of Questions
Here are the types of questions that I use for debriefing participants at the conclusion of a professional conference:
- What one word best describes your overall reaction to the conference?
- What grade would you give to the conference?
- What was the highlight of the conference for you?
- Who had the most impact on you during the conference?
- Approximately how many new ideas did you get at the conference?
- What's one of the new things that you learned at this conference?
- What major trend in our field did you notice during the conference?
- What major criticism do you have about the keynote speech?
- What was a popular theme among the different sessions at the conference?
- On an average, how much time did you spend each day on networking activities?
- What one idea do you plan to implement immediately in your workplace?
- If you were to make a presentation next year, what topic would it be on?
- What was the most exciting event during the conference?
- What was the most boring event during the conference?
- What advice do you have for someone who would be attending this conference next year for the first time?
- What advice do you have for the presenters at this conference?
- What advice do you have for the organizers of the conference?
- How would you behave differently during next year's conference?
- How would you behave differently at your workplace as a result of attending this conference?
- What is one thing about the conference that you will tell your best friend?
- What was your primary motivation for attending the conference?
- What do you think was the primary motivation of most people who attended the conference?
- What would help you to better implement new ideas from the conference at your workplace?
- If you had to justify the cost of attending next year's conference to your boss, what would you tell her?
- If you are not able to attend next year's conference, what one thing would you miss the most?
- As a result of attending this conference, what one thing would you stop doing in your workplace?
- What support do you need to apply the new principles that you learned at this conference?
- If you were writing a news report about this conference, what would the headline say?
- How does the cost of the conference compare to the benefits gained from it?
- What was the most threatening message that you heard during the conference?
- Which buzz word or phrase was used most frequently in the conference sessions?
- If a six-year old asks you, “What did you learn at this conference?”, what would you tell her?
- With which person back in your workplace are you most likely to talk about the conference?
- How long do you think it will take for you to implement the new ideas from the conference?
- What did you do at the conference that you feel most positive about?
- What did you do at the conference that you feel most negative about?
- What is one key lesson that you are taking back with you?
- How can your organization get the most benefit from sending you to the conference?
- What are some of your unmet expectations at the conference?
- What one thing that made you the most uncomfortable during the conference?