Mad Tea Party is a Liberating Structure I’ve recently learned and have already come to love. In the past two weeks, I’ve incorporated this activity into a training class and a working meeting with great results.

At the end of this blog I’ll share with you how I adapted this structure for these two groups including the questions I used:

  1. A group of 24 leaders in a 2-day leadership course.
  2. A meeting with 26 board members with evidence of low trust that would be brainstorming ideas for new initiatives.

In both cases, I used this activity as an opening exercise to:

  • Generate some initial networking and opportunities for 1:1 connection with people quickly.
  • Get the participants into the right mindset for the work we were about to do.
  • Energize and engage participants.

From my experience, this is ideal for groups of 10 – 50 people.  I think 15-30 is ideal.


  1. Design your questions/statement. I recommend 6-10.
  2. Type each questions/statement on a separate slide.


  1. Divide the group into two. 
  2. Ask the first group to form a large circle and face the center of the circle.  They will be called the “outer circle.”
  3. Ask the remaining people to each form an “inner circle.”  Each person should be inside of the outer circle and paired up facing one person.
  4. Explain that you will be posing a question or a statement to complete and each pair will have 1 minute to share their responses with their partners. 
  5. Show the slide with the first question/statement and announce it.
  6. Set your timer for one minute.
  7. When the minute is up, announce that is it time for them to shift to a new partner.  Ask the outer circle to move over one person to their right.*
  8. Post and announce the next question.
  9. Repeat Steps 5-7 until all the questions/statements have been answered.

*I found it interesting to ask the outer circle to move once to the right two times in a row.  In the third round, I asked the inner circle to move once to their right.  After that, I would switch it up to keep them thinking which created some humor and laughter as people thought about who should move and where to move.  Another option is to have them move two spaces to the right.  The goal is to be sure they are with a different person each round.

Example #1:

A review exercise for 24 leaders at the beginning of day 2 of a leadership class

I gave them two minutes on each round because the questions required thoughtful answers:

  1. Today I feel…
  2. The best thing about yesterday was…
  3. A growth mindset is about…
  4. A time I demonstrated a growth mindset…
  5. A “story” I have about a co-worker is…
  6. A good question to ask when coaching someone about their limiting belief is…
  7. An important, but not an urgent activity I plan to block time for is…
  8. Describe one behavior or a colleague you trust…
  9. It’s important to cultivate trust because…
  10. A question I have about yesterday is…

After the rounds, I asked if anyone had a question about Day 1 and we had two very provocative questions which led to a meaningful discussion.

Example #2:

An opening exercise for 26 members of a board beginning a one-day meeting to brainstorm (with low trust for each other)

I only gave them one minute.  The questions were designed to get them thinking about how they would behave in order to support success.

  1. Today I am feeling…
  2. The reason I volunteer on this board is…
  3. A strength I bring to this board is…
  4. One thing about myself I need to be aware of is…
  5. My hope for the future of (the organization we serve) is…
  6. My hope for today is…
  7. One way I will support today’s meeting purpose and goals is…

I encourage you to try this with a large group.  To read more about this and other Liberating Structures click here.


Use the Mad Tea Party to get a large group engaged around the topic of your meeting or training session.

About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams and Forward, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.

Learn. Share. Practice. Move FORWARD.  Join the Better Teams community, FORWARD, to network and grow with some of the most experienced professionals in the field of team building and facilitation.  LEARN MORE


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