5 Easy Group Management Strategies
It doesn’t matter if you’re instructing small groups (under a dozen people), medium-size groups (1-3 dozen people), or large groups (three dozen or more). Nor does it matter if you’re presenting in a lecture hall or to an auditorium-size audience. And it really doesn’t matter what your topic is. You still need some quick, easy, and effective group management strategies.
The following five group management strategies can be used with both small and large groups and can be modified to best fit your topic, group size, and room environment.
AUDITORY/VISUAL SIGNALS: Choose an auditory AND a visual signal and teach them to the group before you begin your class, training, or presentation. The auditory signal can be a bit of music, a chime, or any kind of a noisemaker. The visual signal can be your raised hand. Explain to your audience that, when they either hear the sound (you model it by playing it) or see your raised hand (you model it by doing it), they need to stop talking and turn their attention to you so that you can give them the next set of instructions. Why do you have two signals? Because some folks will see/hear one and not the other. Be consistent and use the signals whenever you want to get participants’ attention quickly and efficiently.
THE PAUSE: This comes after the signals. Do not begin speaking until the room is quiet. If you do, you will undermine your own signals. So use the signals, then pause and wait until you have everyone’s attention.
“IF YOU CAN HEAR MY VOICE…” This group management strategy is powerful if not overused. Bob Pike, past-president of The Bob Pike Group, created this group management strategy and I saw him use it effectively with an audience of 1,000 people in theater-style seating. When needing the audience’s attention, he quietly said into the microphone, “If you can hear my voice, clap once.” Then he paused and waited for one clap from a few people. He continued: “If you can hear my voice, clap twice.” Again, he paused for the claps from about half the room. Then he finished with: “If you can hear my voice, clap three times.” By this time, everyone in the room clapped and became quiet as they turned their attention to Bob.
“FINISH-UP” SIGN: Before your presentation or training, make a couple of easy-to-read signs (regular printer paper size will do but make sure your printing is big and bold enough to be read across the width of a table group or the length of a row of chairs). The signs might say: “30 seconds to finish up;” “30 seconds left;” “One minute to finish the discussion;” “One minute to finish the activity.” Walk around the room (or up and down aisles) holding up the sign when there are 30-60 seconds left. Use the sign and, after the time is up, use your signals. Why use a sign? Because you only have to make eye contact with one person in each table group or row – they will let the others near them know that the activity or discussion time is almost up. This is, in effect, a courtesy reminder that the discussion or activity needs to be concluded soon, and it is really helpful for the folks who need closure and are uncomfortable when conversations or activities abruptly end.
HAND IT OVER: If your participants are seated in table groups, hand over the group management to the table groups. Explain that they will need to choose a group facilitator and a time-keeper (give them time to do this). Then, whenever you introduce a discussion topic or table group activity, tell them the amount of time they have to do it and ask the time-keepers and facilitators to keep everyone in their groups on-time and on-task. You will have to stay on-time, as well.
For more brain-based activities that engage training participants from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave, click on Sharon’s Books, or explore Training from the BACK of the Room! and The Ten-Minute Trainer! on Amazon.com. Of course, you can always attend a “Training from the BACK of the Room” (TBR) Practitioner Class – click on the Training Calendar page for a list of public classes. Cheers! 🙂