chat_show_cg.jpgChat or Talk Shows

See also Conversatorio / Le talk-show

Brief Description:

The chat show encourages participants to share experiences in an informal, fun environment. Because it requires minimal preparation of participants, the chat show can be initiated in a workshop where participants don't yet know each other or the organisers. The chat show's open circle layout encourages greater participation than a fishbowl and, due to its informal nature, and is less intimidating than a panel discussion.


The chat show as a knowledge sharing methodology was developed collaboratively by Allison Hewlitt (Bellanet), Geoff Barnard and Catherine Fisher (IDS) and used during the "Knowledge Sharing for Development: Africa Regional Program" workshop organised by GDN in February 2005.

When to use:

  • An alternative to a keynote or formal podium presentation.
  • A chance to weave ideas between participants and dig down for key issues.
  • A way to draw out stories from people without them having to do a lot of preparation.

How to use:

From Hewlitt, Barnard and Fisher:
Participants:external image 565461559_e7d8513d06_m.jpg
  • Chat show host (the livelier, the better!).
  • 3-4 guests.
  • General audience. Audience can be any size, but smaller sized audiences encourage participation.
Chairs to seat audience and guests are laid out in a semi-circle, double semi-circle if necessary. A chair for the host is placed at the front with guest chairs alongside.

  • Allow for 60-90 minutes.
  • Host, sitting on a chair at the front, welcomes the audience and introduces the theme of show.
  • Host provides an introduction that sustains the chat show metaphor (e.g., "My first guest will be well known to you, he was formerly...") and, soliciting applause from the audience, invites the first guest to come forward.
  • Host asks the guest three questions, probing for interesting details
  • Host invites the next guest and repeats the process. The questions may be identical for all three guests or tailored to each one.
  • Host invites questions from audience.
  • Host directs several controversial questions to all three guests and encourages debate among them.
  • Host does not take notes during the chat show itself, but waits until the end of the chat show to offer a summary reflection.
  • If possible, the chat show is recorded (audio/vidoe) to share with others.

  • With larger groups of 40-50 people, run 2-3 chat show sessions in parallel and let participants choose the chat show that is of greatest interest to them.
  • Prior to the show, find out the name of a popular local chat show and refer to it when explaining the process.
  • Chat shows work best when the guests' stories relate to each other but still reveal different perspectives; therefore, the chief planning activity lies in selecting a relevant theme and interesting guests.
  • Solicit chat show host volunteers from among the workshop participants. A host should be lively and energetic. Ensure that the host has at least ten minutes to get to know the guests. Provide the host with several cue cards of sample questions.
  • Encourage hosts to use facilitation skills including paraphrasing, drawing people out and encouraging.
  • Urge hosts to rephrase guests' statements and ask guests to elaborate by asking "Can you say more about that..." or "Can you share an example of what you mean by that...".
  • Leave time after ending the show to solicit key insights


Expert Interview

Tips and Lessons Learnt

(add yours)
Nancy's tips for chat show hosts

Examples & Stories

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Who can tell me more?

  • Nathan Russell (n.russell [at]
  • Simone Staiger (s.staiger [at]
  • Fiona Chandler (f.chandler [at]
  • Sophie Treinen (sophie.treinen [at]
  • Michael Riggs (michael.riggs [at] fao. org)
  • Gerard Sylvester (gerard.sylvester [at]

Related Methods/Tools/Practices:

More Information/References/Related Resources:

Photo or image credits

  • AGM06: CSO-CGIAR Forum: Chat Show session with - from left to right - Carlos SerĂ©, Tom Remington, Monica Kapiriri, Jonathan Wadsworth, and Lauri Fitz Pegado (host).