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Workshop sizes


I am looking for some information that shows the effect of the size of the group being trained effects the training delivery and outcomes from the training.
Neil Thomas

8 Responses

  1. Group sizes
    There are many factors to consider when determining the ‘best’ group size. It will depend on the topic, duration and style of the training. It will also depend on your criteria for success – it may be more cost efficient to have a larger group but more time effective to have a smaller one.
    Here are a few generic pointers I use to determine what group size might work best for different purposes:
    2’s & 3’s ~ breaking the ice, quick ideas or questions; sensitive issues, personal disclosure; individual skills practice and feedback
    3-5 ~ analysis, technical case work, detailed problems; buzz groups, team decisions
    5-7 ~ case studies, group skills practice, case studies; creative problem solving, planning
    7-12 ~ wide ranging discussion, debate; brainstorming, some syndicate work
    12-20 ~ Q+A, formal input, syndicate work
    20+ ~ lectures, conferences, multiple syndicates
    Small groups: less formal; large groups: more possibilities
    Hope this helps.

  2. Size is not important
    I would agree with Graham’s comment on the size of groups for various learning methods. The main aspect to consider if not the size of the group, but the range of learning levels within the group. The more closely the individual’s current abilities match each other, the easier it is to design and deliver training that really meets their needs and achieves the right learning objectives.

    Personally I would rather train 100 people with the same learning need than even 4 people with wide ranging needs, abilities and so forth.

    The best place to start (as ever) a thorough training needs analysis. Don’t be tempted to try the “one size fits all” approach. In my experience, one size fits nobody.

  3. Training Group Size
    I agree, ‘size doesn’t matter’ nearly as much as skill-spread.

    I attended a 1-day ‘advanced trainers’ workshop’ as a delegate last year to find some 35 delegates (at c. £500pp!) with just one trainer, where most participants had never run a training session in their life! And with just one practical exercise actually involved with training in the whole day, in pairs, needless to say the experience was under-whelming – at least for me! (I found myself helping to coach a complete beginner because the trainer was too busy elsewhere, which is always a priviledge, but not what I paid for!)

    Conversely, I led a workshop for 260 very bright and able lawyers from 10 different countries recently for a law practice on ‘team-building’. All shared the same motivation to be more effective and had similar backgrounds, and it seemed to work incredibly well. It is true that some 30+ client’s colleagues were trained beforehand as facilitators in the chosen exercises (only) to help run these, but this event truly didn’t need more than one ‘trainer’.

    More generally, I fear multiple-trainers can fall over each other, send mixed messages and leave delegates wondering why more than one was necessary. But well prepared and with clear remits, I would acknowledge that working well together they can add much to any size of group – if the subject needs this.

    Best wishes


  4. Appropriate class size
    Dear Jeremy, the answer really is appropriateness to the learning objectives. I have trained in the corporate and humanitarian sectors for the last 20 years. The largest group I worked with was 80, the smallest 4. My general target is to achieve a 70/30 balance of participant input to facilitator input. With larger groups, sub group size is an issue, above 7 becomes challenging for the groups dynamics. But also the total number of groups can challenge participants tolerance for hearing group feedback.
    I have this week returned from New York where I run a team building session for the Indernational Diploma of Humanitarian Affairs with groups of between 40-60 people. It’s a half day session which is successful because it relies on pragmatic exercises, a mix of hands-on and reflection, group responsibility for the learning and debriefing discussion and lots of fun. I provide precise questions that the groups consider in terms of their behaviour and I add theory only relevant to the groups’ learning. I prepare a wide range of material but present it only in response to specific questions or situations emerging during the exercise. I leave some of it as optional reading for the more theoretical types.
    In training with specific skills building objectives, e.g.,training trainers or facilitators, I limit numbers to 8 (plus or minus 2) Participants must have the opportunity to practice in order to master so the 70/30 rule is essential. In a week long programme, I present about 1½ days and they are responsible for the rest as they demonstrate and put in to practice the models and theories.
    In my disucussion with clients I always agree an optimal, maximum and minimum number of participants for the specific learning. Too few participants can be just as inappropriate for learning as too many; people feel exposed, their audience is reduced and atmosphere can be difficult to create.
    I’d be happy to continue to discuss if it would be helpful. Good luck and best regards, Pamela Lupton-Bowers

  5. Be odd!
    I like placing odd numbers of participants into syndicates (3,5, or 7 at most).

    In this way, when there is a difference of pinion, there is a majority/minority element that adds to the dynamic.

  6. Research into Group Dynamics
    I have dipped into “Group Processes – Dynamics within and between Groups” by Prof Rupert Brown who works at our local HE establishment – the University of Kent (Blackwells 1992 ISBN 0-631-144439-0)
    The key point Rupert makes is that size is less important than group co-operation. The group task needs to link the members in a highly co-operative way for learning to be effective. If it is a big group they need to be broken into task groups, standard stuff I know, and stated in other responses, but interesting to know research backs this up.
    Good luck!

  7. group size must be small

    I would advocate a small size for effective group training.  When the numbers get large, it is very hard to manage the questions and make the training personal. We have experimented at milo academy with several different sizes.  I find that the smaller the better. If you go to a large group, you may as well be streaming onine. The dynamics would not be much different.  I am eager to hear other thoughts on this matter.

  8. Rule of Thumb

    When booking outside venues you have never used before a good rule of thumb is to ask for 4.5 square meters per person.

    Hotel venues are particularly bad at squashing as many people into a small space as possible and I have quite often been offered a converted bedroom, particularly in overseas hotels.


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