Throughout lockdown, as a trainer, coach, and facilitator I frequently found myself staring at a screen full of silent, nervous-looking faces. Getting feedback in the moment, soliciting questions, or asking individuals to speak up on a particular topic was tough. One technique is to nominate a brave person to speak first and ask them to nominate the next person and so on but this method is slow and doesn’t scale to a large group. I was excited to learn the “Chatterfall” technique from Susanne Taylor and wanted to write a quick description of how I do it.
In brief chatterfall looks like this:
Chatterfall is an extremely simple, fast, inclusive, accessible, and low-tech way to instantly get feedback, gather questions, measure engagement, solicit ideas, and more in the middle of an online session with large numbers of people. Chatterfall scales comfortably from a handful of people to 100+, doesn’t require any special technology, and can be used by anyone who can listen and type.
Chatterfall provides a safe space where people aren’t in the spotlight, their contributions can slip past and blend with those of others if they’re less outspoken; it prevents everyone waiting to see what the “boss” says and simply agreeing with that person. It encourages more diversity of thought, reducing “group-think”.
As an online facilitator, you can use the chatterfall method anytime you’d like some feedback, or to ask a question of the audience, or get their questions, or take a vote or any other type of interaction.
Here’s a more detailed description of how I do it.
Use Chatterfall with a series of questions to do a kind of group Mad Tea experience.
Ask for a visual signal when people are ready to share (e.g. a thumbs-up or a wave).
Adjust the time given for people to answer so they stay on their toes but have sufficient time to come up with a good response.
Use Chatterfall as a warm-up ice-breaker and start with very simple questions but go progressively deeper. For example:
Use Chatterfall to take an instant vote or let the group steer the conversation:
Use it when checking in on your OKRs.
Chatterfall is an extremely simple and versatile tool that can be used anytime you have voice and chat capabilities. It’s fast, and inclusive, and promotes diversity of thinking and psychological safety. How will you use it?