Small meetings make it possible to give participants more personal attention. Many participants are more comfortable in small groups and find it easier to open up. In fact, some participants find group sizes of even 12 intimidating.
I first became aware of this when I was the management development specialist for large wireless communications firm. Based on conventional wisdom that the optimal size for fostering group dynamics is 6 - 8 participants, a minimum of 6 was set in order to offer some modules. This would result in cancelations if some individuals pulled out at the last minute and the number dipped below that.
A couple of participants indicated that they really valued the sessions and asked if we could proceed even if there were only 2 or 3 attendees. I quickly discovered that the sharing and discussions during these small sessions was very deep.
Over the years, I have discovered that many of the strategies that work for large conferences and meetings are also effective with small groups but there are some differences.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning meetings for small groups with 12 or fewer participants.
- Always allow slightly more time for meetings, training, and team building for small groups.
Particularly if some of the participants are introverts, it may take a little longer to get discussion going. Once discussion starts, the level of comfort that small groups provides will lead to a much deeper level of sharing and engagement so it is important not to be rushed.
- Select a venue that fits the size of the group
For meetings and retreats that involve an overnight stay, opt for a boutique hotel, a venue with suites, a small inn, or even a bed-and-breakfast with a large living room. For day meetings, a small greenhouse, mountain chalet, lakeside cottage, or venue with a skylight or atrium would be excellent choices.
- Go for a buy-out if budget permits it.
Buyout of a small venue will give the group maximum privacy and make it easier for participants to bond.
- Villas or cottages on larger properties can also be suitable for small groups.
While small groups can get lost at a large hotel, some offer accommodation in smaller settings to maximize privacy and still give the group access to a full range of amenities and facilities.
- Set realistic expectations to avoid sticker shock.
While accommodation, food, and beverage costs can be scaled for small groups, the per person price for some program elements will be significantly higher when divided among fewer participants.
- If possible, transport the group together to save by qualifying for group rates.
- Group dining can save money, enhance bonding, and increase the amount of time available for the meeting.
Be sure to Make Working Lunches Healthy, Interactive, and Fun.
- To promote relaxation, serve one of the meals and take some of the breakout exercises outside if possible.
For more event planning tips for small meetings, also read 7 Team Building Tips for Small Teams, 9 Tips for Facilitating Small Team Building Retreats, Small Boutique Hotels for Business Meetings in the U.S., Boutique Hotels in Canada for Small Business Meetings and Executive Retreats, Event Venues: Canadian Inns with Green Spaces, Caribbean Boutique Hotels for Business Meetings and Executive Retreats.
Photo Credits: Cydcor Offices