TalkCoffeeTo.me provides an opinionated but flexible platform for remote Lean Coffee™ discussions and other types of meetings and retrospectives.
Discussions revolve around Boards. Think of boards as shareable and interactive whiteboards and topics as sticky notes on the whiteboard. Each board is created by a facilitator, the owner and leader of the discussion. The facilitator creates lists for participants to categorize their topics. Participants add their topics to these lists.
A board moves through three "phases" of Brainstorm, Prioritize, and Discuss. Boards start in Brainstorm, in which facilitators can add new themese and participants can add and edit their topics in the theme. The facilitator moves the board into Prioritize to allow participants to vote on what they would like to discuss. When voting is complete, the facilitator moves the board into Discuss and can take notes called takeaways, mark future actions to take, set time boxes, and call for thumbs for greater audience interaction.
TalkCoffeeTo.me also supports organizations and team management, multiple facilitator and note takers, sharable and private boards, exporting boards in Markdown, and recurring boards in Series.
TalkCoffeeTo.me is more flexible than what is strictly suggested by Lean Coffee™. Facilitators have their choice of retrospective and meeting templates, such as Three Little Pigs or Mad, Sad, Glad, or rolling their own. Grouping topics into themes allows for many different types retrospectives, open discussions, and flexible usage for announcements and ice breakers.
Create a new board by clicking the New Board button on the Boards page. Only the title is required to create a board, but a description is always appreciated. The description can use Markdown to style the text and add links. You can choose to assign the board to one of your teams and unlock more options. Click the save button when finished.
Congratulations, you started a board! Find a control pane on the left hand side that allows you to switch into the other phases, call for votes, and set timers. Underneath the controls, you will see the description you entered and the facilitators and scribes for the discussion.
To let others join, share the URL of the page. Because you created this board just moments ago, it is in the "Brainstorm" phase. You can add, rename, and remove topic lists, which act as categories. You and the other participants can add topics to the lists while in Brainstorm. Just like descriptions, topics accept Markdown.
Once enough topics have been added, move the board into "Prioritize" by clicking the Prioritize button in the control pane. This phase is allows participants to vote on the topics they find most important. In the control pane, you can see the number of votes cast across all topics on the board.
Once voting has slowed or all votes have been cast, switch the board into the "Discuss" phase by clicking Discuss in the control pane. This phase sorts the topics in each list from most votes to least votes. At this point, you as a facilitator will pick the topic with the most votes, set a time box in the control pane, and help the participants have an open discussion. At the end of the time box, use the "Continue/Stop" button to call for a vote. Extend the time box if the votes are to continue the topic, or move to the next topic and start a new time boxed discussion. Continue this until all topics are exhausted or the meeting has run out of time.
That's it! Running a meeting with TalkCoffeeTo.me is a straight-forward activity, as the structure and tooling are meant to get out of the way of the important part: the discussion!
Ice breakers can be a great way get people talking and feeling comfortable. Create a theme on the left hand-side with an ice breaking question or idea like
Use time boxes wisely! Set up the board and ask for topics before the meeting. Use time boxes in the Brainstorming and Prioritize phases so that you have more time in the Discuss phase. If participants want to continue on a topic several times, use a smaller and smaller time box for each continuation. Sometimes topics can be get so in depth that they are worth their own dedicated time in another setting.
Use teams to help with facilitating or taking notes. It can be tough to do do both at the same time, so get a friend to take notes on each topic as a scribe.
Remember your role as a facilitator, participant, or scribe. It is hard to do all three, and facilitators usually shouldn't be the primary speaker and participant. Facilitators should be encouraging shy participants to join the conversation, making sure conversations aren't dominated by a single person, and that arguments, disagreements, and decisions get resolved timely.