Have you noticed that it’s not until you ask a group to form a circle that you get a real sense of how large your group really is?
This was my reaction last week when I worked with a group of 56 people for half a day. Side by side, they just fitted inside the conference hall we were using.
Standing before this group, and on the back of my most recent series of articles (here, here, here and here) about how to work with large groups more effectively, I was acutely aware and reminded of my #1 favourite way of being heard – inviting people to step closer to me.
Invite People to Step Closer to You
It’s only natural that some people feel more comfortable stepping back a little when a circle forms. In my experience, their thinking goes something like this:
I don’t want to appear too keen by stepping forward;
It’s safer if I step back a little because, perhaps, I won’t be noticed;
Back here, I’m less likely to be picked as a volunteer (which could be scary;)
And, if I get tired standing, I’m closer to the chairs stacked by the wall, etc, etc.
You see, apart from the difficulty of being heard, the biggest issue with circles that are too large is that the energy of the group gets sucked into the centre of the circle like a drain. And in my humble opinion, too much energy is never enough 🙂
Inviting people to step closer builds intimacy and energy. It can sometimes appear as if I’m about to tell a secret, so stepping in can build anticipation, too.
My invitations sound like this, “Take a half-step towards the centre of the circle” or “I don’t need a circle, but I’d like you to take a big step towards me…”
Yeah, I know we (and by we, I mean group facilitators) don’t like to annoy our groups with frivolous requests, but… it’s a whole lot more annoying if our groups can’t hear us, or you have to strain your voice to be heard.
And honestly, I’ve never had a group push back against my request to step closer.
Facilitator Tip #12
For those who enjoy watching more than reading, the benefits of keeping people bunched together were also discussed in the Facilitator Tip video tutorial below.