We are all aware of the impact of making a good first impression.
The same can also be said of the impact of how we finish a program – the last thing we do or present to our audience will be the final, lasting impression they take with them before they depart.
Indeed, I know of some facilitators who start with the end in mind (very Stephen Covey) and work backwards. That is, they intentionally consider (in advance) how they will close their session to be sure they leave a lasting impression.
At this time, there are many programs coming to a close in the northern hemisphere, in particular, the finish of many school years.
It was in this spirit a member approached me to brainstorm some fun and meaningful closing activities for their particular groups.
In this post, I want to share some of my favourite closing activities or strategies – a few quick, simple ideas and a couple of longer, more complex experiences.
Simple Closing Activities in Under One Minute
Closing on a high in a fun manner is important to me. Here are two of my favourites.
Pat On The Back
I invite my group to form one large circle, or multiple concentric circles if there are 100+ of them. As the circle forms, I ask people to stand close enough so that their arms rest on the shoulders of their neighbours. When ready, I ask everyone to follow my lead and “… raise your hands briefly off the shoulders of your neighbour, and then put them back down…” Then I repeat it, asking them to raise and then drop their hands again. And again. Over the course of 5+ seconds I speed up these requests, finally announcing “… now, give your neighbours a welcome pat on their back…” And, voila! Everyone loves a good pat on their back, and this exercise is a lovely subtle way to make that happen for a group of folks simultaneously.
This is a fond and classic strategy. Rarely does a program end without someone suggesting or offering to take a group photo. My advice – think in advance of the best location, and possibly who will take the photograph – it will save a lot of phoofing around later on, at a time in the program when most people are ready to move on.
More Impactful Closing Activities
The following activities sit atop my list of favoured ways to close a program.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list. Indeed, if you would like to offer your own ideas, please scroll down to the Comments section and share your valuable nuggets of wisdom with the world.
It’s no mistake that this one is featured at the top of the list. I. Love. This. Exercise. Ideally suited to groups of about 12 to 20 people, all you need is some paper, pens and a bit of time. Don’t rush this one. It is designed to be deeply meaningful and, in many cases, moving. Everything you need to know is described in the link.
Similar to the exercise above, but quicker and simpler. It is more meditative but doesn’t have to be. As a closing activity, you may wish to pose a question that will inspire affirming thoughts connected to the participation of the individuals involved, the accomplishments achieved or anything that caps your experience with lots of positive vibes. Once again, all you’ll need are pens and paper, and perhaps a receptacle to collect your group’s thoughts.
This exercise was a highlight of almost every residential camping program I have closed over the last 40+ years. I’ll describe the basic premise, and then let you consider the many ways you could adapt it to suit your circumstances, ie you don’t need to be on camp to make this one work. I would gather my group around a campfire on the last night of camp, asking each person to bring a stick or piece of wood with them. Typically, the fire would be roaring by the time my group arrived, but you could choose to start it with your group watching on. When ready, I would frame the experience by asking everyone to reflect back on their camp experience and think of at least one person (or entity) they are grateful for having provided them with this experience. For example, a camper might be grateful for their cabin counsellor for helping them overcome homesickness, or for their grandparents for sponsoring their time at camp, etc. Then, one by one, I would ask each person to offer their stick to the fire and share with the rest of the group what they are grateful for. Invariably, there would be nary a dry eye left in the house by the end of the ceremony.
As I said, you don’t need a fire and sticks of wood. Indoors, you could gather, lower the lights, position a few candles and ask each person to share. Or, much like Affirming Thoughts, you could ask people to write their thoughts down and pop the strip of paper into a glass jar in the centre of the group as they share. The sky’s the limit.
Brilliantly simple, and yet so powerful. Click the link to absorb the basic instructions. You could choose to go analog style (involving pen and paper and an envelope) or step into the 21st Century and engage a free messaging service such as Future Me to arrange an email to be sent to each person in, say, 12 months time. I have personally done this a few times for my own purposes, and I am always (a) surprised when I receive the email, and (b) delighted to be reminded what I was thinking some time ago. Give it a try, I know you’ll love it.
To be fair, I sometimes integrate a form of action plan / visioning exercise at the conclusion of some of my programs. I don’t really see this as fitting the same category or purpose as the activities described above, but they are worth mentioning.
Take a look at exercises such as Vision Board, The Being, Palm Tree and Luminaria Circle – they are all extremely meaningful ways to close your program.
So? Do you have any ideas you’d like to share? Please enlighten us in the Comments below…