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Finger Queue

In discussions at my place of work we raise our hand to indicate we wish to speak. Additionally, we keep track of our own place in the speaker queue with a show of fingers. We’ve done this for years. Yet, when I looked for a description online, searching for variations of “raising fingers as speaker list”, I came up empty handed. I found a lot on hand signals similar to these but not this specific method I was looking for.

Which is a pity, since it enables an smooth discussion even with many people and without a facilitator. I decided to document it here and to name it “Finger Queue”. Turns out, with that new name I actually could find a few descriptions, all of them in German

A lot of people seem to have learned it from Markus Wissekal, but I don’t think he was the source at my employer. If you know the original source of this method, let me know in the comments!

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Content of 1-Pager:

Self-Organizing Speaker List with the Finger Queue

Keep track of who wants to speak

The bigger the group, the harder it can become to contribute. People that are trying to find an opening to add their 2 cents cannot listen with full attention. People who are uncomfortable interrupting others might stop talking altogether. Just by keeping track of who wants to talk and in what order, frees up a lot of mental space and lessens anxiety. Participants can relax and let other people finish talking, when they can be sure that they too will have the opportunity to speak.

Instead of relying on a facilitator to keep track of the speaker queue, you can use a Finger Queue: Each participant keeps track of their own position and broadcasts it with their fingers. This works for groups up to 20 or 30 people:

When you want to add to the conversation, take a look around. How many people are already queueing? No one? Excellent, raise your index finger. You get to speak next. Others have their hands raised? Add one and hold up that many fingers. Whenever someone finishes talking, everyone in the queue “updates” their fingers to reflect the new order. That keeps people alert – a hidden bonus feature 🙂

Some organizations agree on additional gestures. Two examples:

  • Form an “o” shape to indicate an “outburst” – You just need to get something out and it takes less than 5 seconds.
  • Hold the hand (that indicates your position) upside down – What you want to say relates directly to what is being said right now.


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