It’s all about the numbers – of people

3 April 2013 0 By Viv McWaters

Numbers matter.

When designing any group event I like to know the numbers – how many people?

I’ve had this rule of thumb, based purely on experience, about selecting activities for a group based on the number of people in that group. (Yes. Yes. There’s also the outcomes, the purpose, the time available etc etc – that’s a whole other post for another day.)

Oh, and this is also based on working alone. With a co-facilitator it’s a different ball game altogether.

Less than 5 people: it’s hard, but not impossible, to do group activities. Probably a conversation is going to work best with this sized group.

5 – 14 people: the most difficult sized group to work with. There’s nowhere to hide. Too many for a conversation, too few for most group activities.

15 – 24: My ideal group size. Most activities work with this number. Easy to break into smaller groups.

25 – 40: Harder, but still OK. The size of the room becomes important here. With this many people, I always want lots of floor space for people to move about. This sized group is prone to break into sub-groups, and there’s lots of different needs to be met. Great to have a co-facilitator with this number.

Between 40 and 70: This is tricky. May need a microphone. May need a projector so everyone can see instructions. Need lots of space. Need more time for everything. Really need a co-facilitator! Exhausting.

More than 70: Once you have 70 or more people in the room, it’s a whole new ball game. Large group processes are needed. It’s too easy to default to presentations. Requires facilitators to engage their creative and logistical mind.

And really, for any group, you’re kidding yourself if you think you can control them. They’re human. They’re unpredictable. It can be messy. Yet humans are used to being in groups and working stuff out – especially if we get out of the way. So my real rule of thumb is to get them started on something and then get out of the way – no matter what the group size.