Closing A Conversation

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How to Know When to Move Towards Closure

As you progress through a conversation, you will be helping participants explore the topic or examine options to address an issue. What kinds of signals might help you realize when the group is ready to move towards agreement or closure? The following indicators will help you figure out when it is time to move into these final steps:

  • Are you running out of time? Sometimes, you may need to move toward closure simply because time is running out.
  • Has the group touched upon all key elements of the discussion? You might notice this when your prepared questions have all been asked.
  • Have they begun to identify common threads? This can indicate they are moving beyond their differences and recognizing where they might be able to agree or move towards action.
  • Are they starting to raise potential actions or discuss options? This can be indicated by moving from discussing the issue and its causes, to exploring ways it can be addressed or remedied.
  • Do they seem tired or starting to get “talked out?” You may observe that responses are shorter, or that participants are not having as much to say to your questions. They might appear tired, or they might simply be less engaged with one another and looking to you as the facilitator to instruct them on how to continue.

The End of a Conversation

As you plan ways to navigate the conclusion of your conversation, it’s helpful to revisit your conversation’s goals and possible outcomes. The type of conversation you are facilitating can guide the strategies you use to conclude the discussion.

Clarify goals - graphic

When you start to reach the end of your conversation, the approach you take will depend upon the type of conversation you have structured.


As you approach the end of the conversation, you will want to offer time for participants to reflect on the experience, what they learned, and/or ideas they heard that they are excited about.

Conflict Transformation

In wrapping up this conversation, reflecting on the experience of connecting with people of different life experiences, perspectives, etc. is important. A focus on appreciation of one another and gratitude for the experience as well as invitations to continue the conversation are helpful.


The conversation naturally needs to turn from discussing the topic or issue to exploring potential options for how to address it. Either brainstorm as a group or discuss proposed approaches to take and work together to decide on which actions the participants want to pursue or instruct leaders to take.

Collaborative Action

Participants in this conversation will need to talk together about the actions they are willing to take, both individually and collectively. They will discuss and plan together for their next steps and who will help to lead them.

Tools for Reaching Agreement and Synthesis

After you’ve identified that your discussion is reaching the end, your next step in a collaborative action or decision-making conversation would be to move the group toward making decisions or determining actions. To do this, let the group know that it is time to identify actions they would like to take or come to a decision. Invite them to discuss.

Questions to Stimulate Discussion About Choices or Actions

When you want to move the conversation into discussion about actions or choices, you can start with a variety of questions to explore ideas, identify popular choices, and get commitments from participants of what they are willing to do. The following sample questions can help generate discussion about options.

For Decision-Making Conversations:

  • What do you see as next steps?
  • What is the most important step to take to address this issue?
  • What actions might you take as a result of this conversation?

For Collaborative Action Conversations:

  • What steps might we take to address the concerns shared in this discussion?
  • How might we fix the problems identified in today’s discussion?
  • Who might need to be involved in the identified actions?
  • How might we prioritize these actions?

Activities to Help Make Decisions

If you prefer to take a more active or hands-on approach to decision-making, you may wish to get participants up and moving with one of the following activities. These quick tasks can help a group generate ideas, identify the most popular courses of action, and feel a sense of ownership over the outcomes. The following activities are naturally well-suited for decision-making and collaborative action conversations, but they can be adapted to other types of conversations as well. Tips have been added to suggest how they might be adapted.

Activity 1 - Gallery Walk


Recommended Supplies: Easel and paper, tape, markers

How It Works: When you wish to transition to discussing common ground, workable solutions, or takeaways, it can be helpful to take a break and encourage participants to do a gallery walk. The gallery walk asks participants to walk around the room and review the meeting’s recordings, or notes, which are posted on the walls. Ask participants to review the recordings and think about the next steps for the conversation. Before you break up for the gallery walk, you may wish to share your next question with the group so they can consider it while reviewing the recordings. You can also have them write their responses down and post them on the easel paper with the question, which can be used to continue the conversation. Have participants share their responses to start the conversation after the gallery walk.

Tips for this Activity:

  • Gallery walks only work when the recordings can be posted in large print on large sheets of paper around the room. It does not work well when notes are taken on a computer.
  • Gallery walks can be coupled with a refreshment break.

Activity 2 - Sticky Note Theming


Recommended Supplies: Sticky notes (traditional size or larger), fine tip markers, large poster paper, tape

How It Works: When you would like participants to generate and organize ideas for next steps, invite participants to post their ideas on the wall using the sticky notes. This can happen while discussing in small groups or in a larger group conversation. Once ideas have been posted on the wall, members of the group or the facilitation team can review and organize them into categories based on common themes or actions. This activity can help to quickly discover the types of actions people would support. Once organized, use the categories to select or prioritize next steps.

This activity can also be used in exploratory conversations for idea generation or identifying concerns. Where participants may feel more comfortable raising issues in writing without attribution, this activity can allow people to share their truest concerns or experiences with each other.

Tips for this Activity:

  • Use the large poster-sized paper on the wall as space to organize sticky notes. You can add titles for categories or themes at the top after organizing.
  • The more complex or lengthy the responses, the bigger the sticky notes will need to be. Larger notes also make it easier to write bigger and are therefore easier to read.

Activity 3 - Dot Exercise


Recommended Supplies: Easel and paper, tape, markers, stickers (colorful dots or shapes)

How It Works: The dot exercise is helpful for making decisions. It allows participants to vote for their preferred actions by using dots or other small stickers to identify the top options. List all the options on a wall, leaving some distance between them. Distribute a set number of stickers (one, two, or three) to each participant and invite them to place their stickers next to their top three choices.

Tips for this Activity:

  • Decide in advance or discuss in the group whether you will be deciding on one action or several.
  • Provide everyone with a set number of dots each—one per person if one option is being chosen, several if not. Generally, three dots are sufficient.
  • This can be a useful exercise for narrowing down options as well. If the group has identified a lot of possibilities, use this exercise to narrow down to the ones with the most support. Take away any that do not receive votes or select the top five or so.
  • You can also use this exercise as an opener for a conversation. Post a simple question with pre-populated answers around the room and have people respond by adding the dots. It helps people get moving and can serve as an icebreaker.

Activity 4 - Small Group Breakout


Recommended Supplies: Large poster paper, easels, markers, tape

How It Works: Where there are enough participants, you may wish to have participants break into smaller groups to discuss various actions. When you reach the point in the conversation where ideas are being generated, capture the ideas on paper and then encourage people to group together around the action(s) they want to discuss. Using numbers, encourage participants to organize at different tables or in different areas of the room. Use breakout space if necessary. Give them a set amount of time to discuss these actions, expand their planning for what can be done, and who will do it. Encourage note-taking using the large sheets of paper and markers.

Tips for this Activity:

  • This activity works great for a collaborative action conversation, where members of the group are expected to take action individually and together.
  • This activity works best where there are enough group members for at least 3-4 groups of 4-5 participants (12 participants and up). If the group is small, it’s usually best to keep everyone together.
  • Small group breakouts can be used in practically any conversation. Be sure to have the small groups take notes or ask groups to report out on the key points of their conversations when you reconvene the larger group.

Exploring Common Threads and Reflections

In conversations focused on exploration, you will not need to guide participants in making decisions. Instead you will lead them toward identifying common threads or ideas and help them reflect with one another on the conversation. This provides closure to the discussion and allows participants to hear one another’s insights. This is a powerful way to end a conversation, as it provides a sense of deeper learning, greater appreciation for others and leaves room for unexpected takeaways that you couldn’t have anticipated!

Ask participants to share any common themes they heard in the conversation; what they learned or plan to explore more about; or if there was anything that surprised them.

Wrap-Up and Reflection


After the conversation, the type of follow-up you plan to do with participants depends on the type of conversation you hold.

For participants:

  • If the group is continuing to meet, what will the next conversation need to cover? If they are looking to take action, follow up with notes and any next steps they identified (and who will lead them).
  • Thank people for their time. If you facilitated a recurring meeting, send a follow-up email of thanks and any information they need.

Tips for Follow-Up

Exploratory Conversation

  • If you’re able, follow up with attendees with a thank you and note any other upcoming conversations and their topics
  • If any notes were taken with the intent of sharing, send to participants and/or partner organizations

Conflict Transformation

  • Send a thank you to participants for attending
  • If this is an ongoing conversation, share the schedule for the upcoming conversations
  • If any notes or reflections were taken with the intent of sharing, send to participants and/or partner organizations

Collaborative Action

  • Send notes from the conversation to participants and partner organizations
  • Send any actions decided upon by the group and who is responsible (individuals or groups)
  • Remind participants about next conversation, if applicable
  • Thank participants for attending


  • Send notes from the conversation to participants and partner organizations, including decisions made
  • Send along decisions from the conversation to partners, sponsors, or decision-makers who will take action
  • Remind participants about future conversations
  • Thank participants for attending


In addition to following up with participants, try to spend some time reflecting on the experience yourself. Thinking about your facilitation practice, as well as what you may have learned about the community during the discussion, will help you do even better in the future. If you worked with others on the conversation, this could be a group discussion.

As you reflect on your facilitation work, ask yourself what went well and what you may want to work on. Note any questions that sparked discussion or how you might adjust the conversation in the future. If you worked with a notetaker, timekeeper, or co-facilitator, bring them together and talk about their thoughts on how the conversation went. Page four of the Conversation Planning Tool offers some reflection questions to ask yourself and share with your helpers.

Module Resources

In Module Five, you looked at how to know when it is time to move towards closure, as well as how to help participants explore possible actions and/or reflect on the experience. You also know more about when and how to follow up. We hope you complete this module feeling like you now have a full picture of the conversation process from start to finish. The Conversation Planning Tools for each module, along with the resource link below, will continue to help you plan and facilitate your future conversations.

Keep the following resources with you as you continue to learn: (What are these?)

Learn more about how to lead conversations in your library:

Next Section: Technology and Facilitation for Online Conversations