A One Word Checkout is a light, fast activity to end an event and give participants one final word.
”Please describe in one word the mood in which you are leaving. Anyone can start. And if you kick us off, you get to pick right or left, and that’s the directions we’ll go around the room. Who would like to start?” Then, your role as facilitator is to track and indicate the next person to speak by an open hand, inviting, or eye contact.
Often, one eager person will say a word to begin, but will forget to choose a direction. In that case, just remind them by asking, “And which direction would you like to go?”
It doesn’t take long to go around a room of up to thirty or so participants. For groups larger than thirty, you can ask participants to go around their tables in parallel. Or, you can give all the participants a few seconds to think of a word, then ask everyone call out the word simultaneously.
One Word Checkouts are one last opportunity for participants to empty their backpack. In addition, they provide real time feedback on the facilitation.
A word of caution: don’t overinterpret the words you hear. “Tired” is a common checkout word, and may simply mean a participant has been using muscles to do group work that they’re not used to exercising, or that the introverts have had to spend time in extravert space, or vice versa. Words like “frustrated” or “upset” are an opportunity for a one-on-one check in after the event.
Invariable, some participants will use more than one word. After that happens, gently use humor to remind participants of the one-word rule by saying “We’ll just assume that was hyphenated.”
You could use One Word Checkouts for something other than mood, such as, “Say one word to describe how the day went for you,” but I believe that’s pulling the punch of having participants intentionally focus on their own emotional self awareness. Even if the entire event has been process-focused and primarily in the head, shifting to focus on the heart is a healthy counter-balance.
I first saw One Word Checkouts used by Elise Yanker of Collaborative Consulting Inc.