Planning a Conference or Seminar
Choosing the right group size for your conference
In any face-to-face meeting, the size of the group directly affects the amount of time that is needed to accomplish the task as well as the group’s ability to stay on track. The number of people in a meeting affects:
· The number of ideas and opinions that are generated and expressed by each participant.
· The degree of contribution that is possible for each and every individual.
· The amount of time needed to consider and reach consensus on each idea.
All of these factors must be considered when determining the number of participants in any meeting or conference. Though there are no hard and fast rules about the group’s size, electronic conferences bring additional considerations for determining the number of participants to be allowed to be involved.
Because participants can use their workstations to simultaneously contribute ideas, more ideas can be contributed in a shorter period of time than in traditional conferences.
The anonymity and brainstorming techniques used during today’s conferences encourage a high degree of contribution from all participants that are involved.
While tools like Timer and Organizers increase the facilitator’s control over the review and processing of ideas, the larger the group, the more time must be spent on discussion and clarification.
The type of conference or seminar it is must also be considered when choosing an appropriate group size.
If the event is designed to gather information but not to make decisions about the information, the size of the group can be as large as the room and workstation count can support.
On the other hand, if the meeting is designed to make strategic decisions, significant discussion and consensus building will be required and a small group size is probably more appropriate.
In general, a group size of approximately eight to twelve works well for reaching decisions and working through problems. The Impact of Group Size on Agenda Writing; while writing an agenda is very important to know the group size so that you can set appropriate step limits and make accurate time budgets for each step and for the overall agenda.
For example, when you are planning a Generate step, think about the total number of ideas that may be contributed throughout the event. With a group of ten to twenty participants, it is likely that each participant will contribute at least one idea during the step.
Even with this minimal contribution, there will be a large number of ideas that you have to process during the following steps, and a significant amount of time might be required. If you are working with critical success factors, and expect the final list to be short, limiting the number of ideas is probably better.
On the other hand, if you are naming a new product or brainstorming ideas for a new advertising campaign, a large number of ideas are welcome.
In either case, a smaller group (four to six participants) might be asked to generate an unlimited number of ideas so that, they can get all sides of an issue.
With large groups you can be certain that much space will be used very effectively with large groups by using teams or multiple users per workstation.
By breaking the large group into several smaller groups and assigning each of these groups a single workstation, the team can work together to develop ideas and opinions.
Then, the team spokesperson can enter their responses into the team workstation.
If your facilities that you are using to host your event are not adequate, and do not provide enough workstations for each participant or even for each group, multiple users can be assigned to each workstation.
Each participant should be assigned to a workstation that can contribute ideas in a Generate step, and participate fully in Evaluate, Cross Impact and Multiple Criteria Analysis steps.
A conference is an excellent example of the uses and success of space with large groups. With a conference, teams could be used for conference planning.
Each organization involved in the event could be represented by a team or a team spokesperson. Consideration could be used to create and track to do lists, due dates, and ownership for all tasks.
At the conference itself, a large group could use multiple users per workstation to discuss and vote on several issues using a formal Evaluation step.
Each person attending the conference has an opportunity to voice their opinion, vote on an issue, and see immediate results.
Using the multiple users per workstation configuration, you could also enable conference attendees to comment on speakers, facilities, survey questions, activity preferences, technical questions, or announcements.