Creating Online Small Groups

Note: These methods of creating small groups require those small groups to be able to have their own conference call lines (or skype calls or direct phone lines). If you dont have that option, these may not work for you.

Here is an example: staff were creating a new strategic planning process. The facilitators knew it would be wise to hear a lot of feedback from everyone—instead of just a few vocal people in the large group. The group was already used to using a google slide to show the group as a circle—which allowed everyone to see who was on the call. So the facilitator created small groups by having people go to people next to them on “the circle.” (To make the point, they physically moved the names of people to be next to each other.)

Once the small groups were chosen, the facilitator gave instructions: “You will have 10 minutes to discuss the new strategic plan and give feedback. Be prepared to share the main points of your conversation when you get back.” Then the small groups met separately (some called each other on the phone, others used Skype, and one used a different conference call line).

When the groups returned their was a tremendous amount of good thinking—high quality feedback in much less time than if they had simply used a large group discussion.

So what are some different ways to create small groups?

Here are a few facilitation techniques:

  • Have the group create an imaginary circle, with each person next to someone else, and have people to turn to the person next to them. You can use a physical representation of the circle (like on Google docs) or create a circle by having each meeting participant say what number they want to sit at on a clock face (each person writes down where everyone else, as in a circle).
  • Create small groups ahead of time. This can be random or some affinity that they have (small groups by region, type of work).
  • Have people gather based on interests (e.g. favorite fruit or month born).