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Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Purpose: Introductions, energizer, practice session for networking or any introduction to strangers. Variation: brainstorming or creativity questions.

Materials and preparation: Chairs for each participant, a signal loud enough to be heard over group conversation.

Instructions: Ask the group to form two lines of chairs facing each other. If there is an odd number, the instructor can join in as well, or place a triad at the “head” of the line.

Let them know that they will have a minute (or other defined period of time) to introduce themselves to the person directly across from them (or their triad). They may also answer “Tell me about yourself”, give their infomercial or find out what each partner needs etc. as appropriate to the session. Make it clear that both participants need to take a turn within the timeframe.

Establish the signal for when it will be time to change partners (a tea pot and spoon for those who like to themed based props, but a small gong, whistle, bell or similar signal is fine.) When the signal sounds, either the facilitator or the person at the “head” of the line calls out “All Change!”

Tell them that when they hear the signal, everyone stands and moves one chair to the left. This will continue until everyone has met each person.

Variations:

  • Facilitators can prepare a list of questions to be asked at each “All Change”. (I.e. their favourite author, usual cold remedy, preferred pet, least favourite occupation, next vacation spot, ideal pastime, personal hero, most recent book read, motto, etc.) These can be read by the facilitator or drawn at random from the tea pot and read by each new “head” of the “table”.
  • Omit chairs, with random pairing throughout the room.
  • Read a new unfinished sentence for each change, having the pairs complete the thought or story.
  • Brainstorm a problem, with the goal of a new suggestion with each pairing.

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