Facilitator Journal | Issue #0510, October 18, 2011
This week's article, Facilitating Mega-Groups, offers some
suggestions for working with very large groups. This scenario sometimes
occurs with in the case of public meetings or in organizations proposing
sweeping changes where all the players need to be involved. Most
of the tips from this article came from Barbara J. MacKay, Principal for North Star Facilitators. This list,
though comprehensive, in not the last word in facilitating large groups. If you have any tips or ideas for working with mega-groups that we didn't
address, we'd love to hear from you.
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groups doesn't have to be overwhelming.
Self Mastery Skill
We're sometimes called upon to facilitate large groups containing anywhere
from several hundred to even several thousand people. Many large-scale
change efforts require getting the whole system into the room,
and often this has proven to be an effective strategy. In the process,
dozens of facilitation methodologies have been invented to meet the challenge
of working effectively with large groups. Many powerful software tools
have also been developed to support facilitators in these large efforts,
often called groupware or electronic meeting systems (EMS).
Effectively managing and conducting events of this magnitude requires
special preparation beyond what you might be accustomed to for your average
sized group. Working with large groups will require you to be thoroughly
organized and to have lots of help. Here are some tips for facilitating
Before the event
- Ask lots of questions about who, what, when, where, food, etc.
Spend enough time with your client to be to clearly define their desired
outcomes and to learn all you can about the participants.
- Check out your space thoroughly. Imagine every detail and think through
the flow of the event. How will you move people from one place to another
with minimum confusion and maximum speed. Make sure facility people are
top notch and clearly understand your needs.
- Train internal volunteers or colleagues to facilitate small groups.
Run through the whole event with them in a "dress rehearsal."
- Develop your budget, accounting for costs for a group and event of this
size, which can often be substantial.
- Have a right hand person who keeps an eye on detail before and during
- Decide to be the main facilitator and avoid being a small group facilitator
- Have written instructions for every activity for each small group table.
- Have action plan templates with carbon copies so that participants can
take a copy and leave a copy behind for the recorder.
- Find an onsite recorder who can document as you go. Get a really fast
one and invite this person to at least one planning meeting so they can
follow the process so you don't have to coach them during the event.
- Test your near final agenda with a small group of stakeholders.
- Proofread everything that goes out to invitees.
- Create a detailed facilitator's guide and a facilitators supply kit
for each of your facilitators that details everyone's role. This is your
"screenplay" for the event and is critical when many people
During the event
- Write out your intro for a strong opening, declaring the theme and
proposed outcomes for the day.
- Set context constantly for each activity. Help people follow the agenda.
Make it extremely simple to follow for participants even if the behind
the scene details are complex.
- Know your agenda very well. Stay very positive, clear, and connected
to your planning committee throughout the event.
- Be in charge while enjoying the event and the wisdom sharing.
- Stick to the plan. With a group this size, it's difficult to improvise.
- Spend only 20%-30% of time in short plenary sessions. The rest should
be spent in small groups.
After the event
- Have a debriefing with the client group immediately after the event.
- Make sure you provide a timely and accurate document to your client
outlining the details and outcomes of the event.
- Meet with planning committee to help them think about next steps.
Thank you Barbara J.
MacKay for your contributions to this article. Barbara is the Principal
for North Star Facilitators. Visit her website at http://www.northstarfacilitators.com.
Add Your Comments
How will you incorporate these items into your planning for the facilitation of large groups? Have we missed anything?
Just click on Add Your Comments to share your questions, feedback, or experience on this topic.
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