Artful Closer

Artful Closer

This activity begins with reflection, proceeds through nonverbal communication, and ends in a discussion. You can use ARTFUL CLOSER to debrief participants after an experiential activity. You may also use it as the final activity at the end of a workshop. You may even use it as an opening ice-breaker by asking participants to think about common personal experiences. For example, I began a recent session on presentation skills by asking participants to process their experiences with the most inspiring speech they had ever heard.


To reflect on a common experience and share insights with each other.


Any number. Best for 8 to 30 participants.


20 to 45 minutes


  • Large sheets of drawing paper
  • Crayons of different colors
  • Timer
  • Whistle


Form teams. Divide participants into equal-sized teams of 4 to 6 members each. Seat team members around a table.

Review the experience. Specify a common experience. Ask participants to silently think back on what happened during that experience. Invite them to close their eyes and visualize the highlights of the event. After a suitable pause, ask participants to silently focus on one or more lessons they learned from the experience.

Distribute supplies. Place sheets of drawing paper and boxes of crayons in the middle of each table. Ask each participant to take a sheet of paper and to share the crayons.

Time to draw. Invite participants to draw an abstract picture that captures the essence of major insights from the experience. Discourage them from focusing on artistic quality and encourage them to flow with their intuitive thoughts and feelings. Announce a 10-minute time limit for this artistic activity.

Time to stop. At the end of 10 minutes, blow the whistle and ask participant-artists to stop their activity. Reassure them that it does not matter if their artwork is not yet complete.

Interpret other people's pictures. At each table, ask participants to take turns holding up the picture. While doing this, ask each person to perform the difficult task of keeping her mouth shut. Invite other participants around the table to treat the picture as a Rorschach inkblot and report what they see in it. It is not necessary that participants take turns in presenting their interpretation. Anyone may call out her insights whenever she feels inspired.

Interpret your own picture. After all pictures have been interpreted, ask the table teams to repeat the process. This time, however, each person should hold up the picture and describe what insights she meant to convey.


After the sharing of insights, encourage a discussion at each table. Use questions similar to these to structure this discussion:

  • What insights were the most frequently mentioned?
  • What insights were unexpected and unique?
  • What was the most powerful insight that affected you?
  • How do you expect this insight to change your future behavior?