Working with a small group for a facilitated session is dramatically different than working with a large group of 50-plus individuals. With a small group, the majority of the attendees have similar reasons and goals for attending the session, whereas members of a large group may have very different reasons for attending. Meeting facilitators have to customize their approach depending on the size of the group they are facilitating.

Encouraging Productive Participation

When a Certified Master Facilitator begins a session, no matter the group size, they must do at least a brief overview of how the session will go and how a consensus will be reached. With small groups, this is typically a quick process, but with large groups, the facilitator must take the time to address procedures and information that will be covered.

Once those topics are handled, the professional facilitator will have to address participation. Usually participation is encouraged within a small group, especially because everyone can speak their mind without creating a sense of unbalanced participation. With larger groups that is simply not possible. If every person spoke for just one minute, the meeting would go for over an hour. Instead, participation rules must be firm with large groups. Many facilitators limit the number of times any one person may speak while the group is together.

Conflict resolution and power dynamics in facilitated sessions also become more difficult as you add people. One displeased participant in a small group is easy to manage on a personal level. But, move that same person to a larger group, and they either leave feeling their voice was not heard or find other like-minded individuals to create a faction of conflict.

Special Techniques for Large Groups

One of the ways a group facilitator can manage a larger group is to encourage the members to break out into smaller groups. These groups can have impassioned discussions on their own, brainstorm options and then report back their opinions or findings. However, before a facilitator can just break a large group up to let teams go free, they must be able to focus the groups on specific tasks. It may be necessary to outline what can and cannot be decided in smaller groups with the larger group.

Consider a Floor Team

With a large meeting, a company may want to hire additional facilitators or even assistants to help ease the burden on the primary facilitator. These individuals can help to talk with the smaller groups, listen to the points individuals might want to make and communicate more information to the facilitator than they might be able to gather on their own.