Liberating Structure 17 - Conversation Cafe

Engage Everyone in Making Sense of Profound Challenges (35-60 min.)

What is made possible? 

You can include and engage any number of people in making sense of confusing or shocking events and laying the ground for new strategies to emerge. The format of the Conversation Café helps people have calm and profound conversations in which there is less debating and arguing, and more listening. Sitting in a circle with a simple set of agreements and a talking object, small groups will engage in rounds of dialogue with little or no unproductive conflict. As the meaning of their challenge pops into focus, a consensual hunch is formed that will release their capacity for new action.

Original Source:

Note: VideoFacilitator is not associated with the Liberating Structures group and this guide is not endorsed by the liberating structures group. This guide has been adapted from the original guide to help facilitators use the Conversation Cafe format in a distributed multiroom format using VideoFacilitator. 

Guide Start

1.   Join your meeting room and create a shared link on the main room to this guide  (tps:// 

2.   Have all participants join the main meeting room to explain the process  

When signalled, participants will be invited to move to breakout rooms in small groups to listen to one another's thoughts and reflect together on a shared challenge. We will use a timer to limit the group formation time and again to time the breakout sessions. A popup will appear at         the end of each timer. Advise that participants should CANCEL the popup and remain in their room after the team formation round which will         be 3 minutes. 

State the theme of the conversation, usually in the form of a question

Explain there will be four rounds of conversation, two first rounds using a talking object, the third one as open conversation, and a final round with the talking object. Give the duration of each round.

3.   Read/Show on screen the six Conversation Café agreements. (See text in Collateral Material on

4.   Ask that a participant volunteer as the host once participants have formed their rooms. The host is a full participant whose role is to gently intervene only when a participant visibly fails to observe one of the six agreements, most frequently talking on and on.

5.   Ask that the host of each group make a copy of the workshop template to be used to facilitate the virtual passing of the talking stick. The copy should be created as a shared link for their room.

6.   Ask that the host use the individual room timers to manage their discussion and that they can access timings in step 11 that can be accessed from the shared link on the main room.

7.   Create enough breakout rooms to accommodate all participants in groups of 5-7 participants maximum

8.   Set a timer of 3 minutes for room formation

9.   Ask participants to now find a room with no more than 5-7 participants and for the host to make a copy of the workshop template and link it to their room

10.  At the end of the timer, clear the timer and set a new timer of 60 minutes for the session

11. Run the Rounds (Host)

First round with the talking object: each person shares what he or she is thinking, feeling, or doing about the theme or topic. 1 min. per person

Second round with the talking object: each person shares thoughts and feelings after having listened to everybody at the table. 1 min. per person

Third round: open conversation (option to use talking object). 20–40 min.

Fourth round with the talking object: each member shares “takeaways.” 5–10 min.

Please see the original source for additional ideas and adjustments on improving the session. 

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