How-To: Mad Tea Party Exercise for Energized Introductions

At the recent Care Innovations Summit in Washington, DC, there was a pre-Conference held at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health ( @kptotalhealth ), where we employed the Mad-Tea Party Exercise (also called “Concentric Circles”) to help people learn about each other and energize conversations. I wasn’t sure this technique would be successful in this audience, and I was so, so wrong. We could not peel people away from each other. I learned, again, that every audience, no matter what their background, stage of life/experience, is perfectly able to recall their inner child.

The exercise was given to us courtesy of the Innovation Learning Network ( @HealthcareILN ), and they have graciously allowed me to post the recipe here. Since there’s a timed powerpoint presentation involved, that’s linked from this post as a ZIP file: Mad Tea Party

A technique from Keith McCandless, Concentric Circles is an introduction energizer that the ILN has been using for several years. It quickly helps folks get to know one another and jumps starts topic exploration. The technique is simple.

AHEAD OF TIME: 1) Create a powerpoint of interesting questions (1 question per slide). I try to alternate fun questions with deep questions.


1) Have the group (ideal is at least 10) split in half

2) Half the group forms a circle and faces outward

3) The other half forms a circle around the inner circle and faces someone from the inner circle
4) Have the facing pairs introduce themselves and answer a question flashed on the screen (via powerpoint)…they have two minutes for this.

5) Ring a bell, and the outside circle moves 1 person clockwise, introduce each other and answer the next question displayed on the screen.

Continue for 5 – 10 questions.

Feel free to customize to your liking, let me know how it went, see if you can guess which question I suggested for this exercise, or, I’ll just show you below…

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