This activity is intended to encourage students, primarily from the lips of their peers. Hearing affirmation spoken aloud in the presence of an audience is a powerful thing, and I think teenagers gobble this up because they are starving for it, though they rarely show it. I highly recommend setting an appropriate mood for this activity, as it is meant to have a lasting emotional impact, and cannot afford to be derailed by silliness or selfish humor. This is meant for retreats or camps where a group has been together for at least a day.
With the audience seated, place one chair, the Hot Seat, in front of the group, or on the stage. Then simply explain the concept of the Hot Seat in a similar way to this:
“This is the Hot Seat. Tonight you will all get a chance to sit in this seat. It is the Hot Seat. When one person is in this chair, I want the rest of you to take the opportunity that you have to speak words of kindness and encouragement to the person up front. You can let them know what your friendship has meant, or just affirm something amazing you have seen them do today, but use your words for good, to build them up. Please respect the person in the chair by having only one person speaking at a time. Once three people have had a chance to encourage you in the Hot Seat, please go back to the audience so that someone gets a chance to be in this chair. Remember, this is someone’s chance to hear encouragement from you, so please don’t waste their opportunity by trying to make yourself look funny or cool by what you say. This is for them, so put the person in the chair first. That said, the Hot Seat is all yours.”
After this it just takes a second for a student to go first. When I led this, I sat down and watched 23 students build up one another for about 45 minutes. I didn’t say a word the whole time. It is amazing how you will see a group come together through this, and it makes students realize how much others really think of them (especially those kids who try to remain aloof from the group–they’re loved!)