Butterfly Check-In

What is this method?

This method is a simple, fun and powerful way to break the ice, make people move and mingle, set the frame and check-in with each other.


This method is useful for purposes of inclusion:

  • Helps break the ice

  • Creates a fun/light and warm atmosphere

  • Helps people get to know each other in a quick way

  • Can also help people “include” the topic

  • Encourage people to move around which creates a different energy in the room

Forming the Questions

This is an art in itself and below you will find a guideline on the art of powerful questions. In general there are no limits to your own creativity. Here are some elements you might want to consider:

Start it light and simple

  • How are you?

  • What is the most present feeling and/or thought right now?

  • What is the most personal question you dare to ask today?

  • What would be the most beautiful thing that can happen today?

  • What have you learned about the topic so far?

To facilitate relationships

  • Why do you really care about being here?

  • What excites you about the people that are here?

  • What is the potential of this group?

  • Why is it better to be here than on holiday?

Expand on question one or go deeper

  • What surprised you about [the topic, the previous question, …] so far?

  • What is needed for [goal] to happen?

Help people build a safe space themselves

  • What is important for you to have a powerful conversation [on the topic] today?

  • What is important when talking about [the topic]?

  • What is a safe space for you?

Break the Ice // Name what needs to be named:

  • What is the elephant in the room when talking about [topic]

  • What role does [money/power/comfort/courage/…] play in this?

  • What are we not talking about that we should be talking about?

For sense-making these generic ‘flow’ questions can help:

  • What are we learning?

  • Why does it matter to us right now?

  • What do we want to do about it?

Choice of Music

This is much more important than you might think. For example, In a Workshop on Gender Equality we once played the songs “It’s a Man’s World”, “(You make me feel like) A Natural Woman” and “It’s Raining Men”. The effect was very powerful as it really broke the ice and people got much more relaxed to talk about the sensitive topic.


  • classics from when people were young

  • ridiculous music can be appropriate (e.g. ‘It’s a Barbie World’)

  • Sing-alongs

  • Avoid the build up, go straight to the chorus


  1. 2min Intro: “We will do now a butterfly check-in. So please stand up & put the chairs aside. Now, as long as the music is playing just walk (or dance) around the space and mingle. When the music stops find the person next to you. I will then show you a Question that you’ll have around 3minutes between you to discuss your answer to it. When the music starts playing again say good-bye and thank you and mingle again. We will repeat this process XX times! Enjoy!”
    - If the purpose is for people to get to know each other you might want to add something like “You’re invited to share a bit more than you usually would, but only to the extent you still feel comfortable with it”

  2. 90 sec. Play music - then instead of pressing pause just fade it out with the volume (this helps people finding their partner)
    - Facilitate if needed “find your partner” or “there should be only 1 group of 3” (if the group is uneven and there are 2 or more facilitators, it helps if one of you joins in so that you are an even number)

  3. 2-4 min Ask Question 1
    - It helps to also have the question on several flipcharts in the room or on a powerpoint where everyone can read it
    - Be attentive to the energy in the room and adapt accordingly

  4. 90 sec. Fade the next song in
    - You can do it quickly or slowly, to give people a chance to finish their sentence.
    -> Tip: If people don’t stop you can make the music rather loud and say (shout) “mingle again” ;)

  5. 2-4 min Ask Question 2

  6. 90 sec. Fade next song in

Repeat this process according to the number of questions you want to ask.

7. 1min Closing
- “Thank you! This was now the last question. Let’s find now a seat and transition into …”
-> Alternatively, if you are interested and there is value topic wise to hear some voices, you might want to do so while people are standing or when they are back in the semi circle (can be a very smooth transition into the next session if fitting).


  • Time: 12min to 25min

  • Materials: Music. a “Dancefloor” (enough space), Flipchart/Powerpoint with, if needed a microphone the questions

  • From 6 people to infinity

Our Experience with this Method

We at collaboratio helvetica have used this method in a variety of workshops and for a variety of different purposes. Below are some notes of my experience (Osi) in using the Butterfly check-in during a Dialogue Evening on Gender Equality:

Dialogue Evening on Gender Equality

On the 18th of January 2018 I, Osi, and Elsa co-facilitated a Dialogue Evening on Gender Equality in the co-working Space Buerolokal in Wil (SG). After a short intro of approximately 10min where we introduced ourselves, our role, the aim of the evening and some remarks about the atmosphere we were wanting to co-create, we directly without much intro transitioned to a Butterfly check-in.

The three questions we asked were:

  • What does it mean to me to be a man, woman, non-binary identity?

  • What is important to me in the discussion on gender equality?

  • Where/When do I feel vulnerable/triggered when it comes to questions on gender?

And the three Songs we choose to play were:

  • It’s a Man’s World by James Brown & The Famous Flames

  • (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin

  • It’s raining Man by The Weather Girls

Though, tastes in music can always be discussed our thinking before the Workshop was that these are quite good songs and somehow classics. And obviously, these songs have already quite a bit material to talk about in terms of Gender. Our aim was, that together with the three opening questions the music would help the participants to open up, create a safe environment for themselves, already explore in a self-responsible way their vulnerability, practice sharing and listening while at the same time relaxing.

It was a bit of a bet, as it could also have turned out otherwise. But together with the non-judgemental and really open space that we as facilitators created in our intro by sharing some insecurities and vulnerabilities we have on Gender the Butterfly check-in really helped break the ice in a beautiful way! People were singing along, smiling honestly at each other while also coming up with, holding and asking real questions that mattered to them. For me personally, it was a breakthrough moment because before we hadn’t found a way to create in the small time frame of a Dialogue Evening such a safe, honest and authentic space.

Though, this experience is not a receipt that you can copy-paste, thinking that it will always produce the same results, it surely can offer some insights into the how-to and the potential of this method.