If you are running a workshop or training session you probably have your favourite exercises that prove to be effective over and over again, and they work well when you have a regular group size of 10 to 25 people.
But what if you need to run a session where you have much more participants?
It gets harder to involve everyone in the conversation, so you need activities that can be scaled up to a hundred or more people and still produce results effectively.
Typically these activities are easy to run in parallel in smaller groups, and groups can easy organise themselves, so you don’t need to multiply yourself in the facilitator position.
This is where we try to help you with this post: We collected for you some of the most effective workshop activities and games that you can run on your events. We categorised them for the following purposes:
- Large Group Icebreakers and Energizers
- Team Building Games for Large Groups
- Large Group Facilitation Techniques
- Idea Generation Methods
- Decision-making Methods
- Closing Activities
Whether you are running a session at a conference, facilitating a large group workshop, or organising a company retreat or a strategic workshop, you will find useful inspiration among the facilitation techniques below.
We have collected some easy-to-apply games and activities for you from the SessionLab library of facilitation techniques that work well for group size above 30 people.
- Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament
- This is a fun and loud energiser based on the well-known “Rock, Paper, Scissor” game – with a twist: the losing players become the fan of the winners as the winner advances to the next round. This goes on until a final showdown with two large cheering crowds!
- Doodling Together
- Participants work together in this ice breaker game to collaboratively create wild, weird and often funny postcards. The process really helps to establish a group’s creative confidence and build capacity to work together as a workshop group.
- Bang is a western-style icebreaker that generates a lot of laughter and energises the group as it requires mental alertness and a bit of physical reaction. Participants stand in a circle, and they have to react quickly based on the pointer of the ‘sheriff’ standing.
- 3 Question Mingle
- An activity to support a group to get to know each other through a set of questions that they create themselves. The activity gets participants moving around and meeting each other one-on-one. It’s useful in the early stages of team development and/or for groups to reconnect with each other after a period of time apart.
- Draw your Coat of Arms
- The Coat of Arms exercise provides an easy way for participants to introduce themselves through a simple drawing exercise that allows each participant to create a nice visual representation – a Coat of Arms – of what is important for them. Since it is a drawing exercise, it is also a good warm-up activity at the beginning of creative workshops.
- Marshmallow Challenge
- In this challenge, groups need to build the highest tower from a set of ingredients: spaghetti pasta, paper tape, string. The building needs to stand on its own and carry the weight of a marshmallow. It is a great exercise for intense teamwork, group communication and leadership styles.
- Helium Stick
- A great and simple activity for fostering teamwork and problem solving with no setup beforehand: Teams line up and compete against each other while coordinating themselves to lower a horizontal stick to the group, while just holding it with their index fingers.
- Open Space Technology
- Open Space Technology is an excellent method to involve a wide range of stakeholders in solving a complex problem in a fascinating self-organising manner: participants create the agenda themselves around the focus topic of the event.
- World Café
- The World Café methodology is a structured conversational process and flexible for hosting large group dialogue, where participants self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation rotating around tables of different topics in a cafe style format.
- Conversation Café
- Conversation Café is a four-round discussion process to initiate calm and profound conversations regarding provocative or complex questions and it provides a simple way of engaging everyone into a conversation. The method allows participants to learn each other’s feelings and perception of a topic before diving into an in-depth conversation, summed up by sharing takeaways.
- With this facilitation technique, you can easily have a large group activity that effectively involves everyone to generate ideas. The audience is split into groups of four: at first, people come up with ideas individually, then they share those ideas and come up with further ones in pairs and then in groups of four. In the end, the groups share their most outstanding idea with the whole crowd.
- Dot voting
- Dot voting is a simple and effective method for prioritizing options and it works well both in small and large groups. Each group member receives a certain amount of colourful sticky dots and they assign them to the options they find best. It allows a group to quickly see which options are the most popular among a set of opportunities available.
- One Breath Feedback
- This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in focusing everyone’s attention for a closing or feedback round. Each participant is given the opportunity to speak during just one breath.
- Feedback Mingle
- This activity can be a nice closing exercise at the end of a workshop. Everyone gives feedback to everyone written on post-it notes, but it has to be shared individually and verbally while the whole group mingles.
- Letter to Myself
- This is a practical individual reflection activity to support participants in applying their insights and things they have learned from a session by writing a letter at the end of that session to send to their future selves.
Let’s see how to apply these activities in practice!
Do you need some games to get people moving and raise the energy level in the room? Or an activity that helps to break the ice and get participants comfortable with talking to each other. Consider these exercises!
This is a fun and loud energizer game based on the well-known “Rock, Paper, Scissor” game. People play against each other in pairs until the first win. But instead of the losing players becoming eliminated from the tournament, they become a fan of the winner, and they cheer for them as the winner plays against a new opponent. You repeat the process until there are only two players left with a huge fan base cheering for them. The last two players have to play until one has won twice. As this activity tends to get loud, it’s best to play it somewhere outside.
Rock, Paper, Scissors (Tournament) #energiser #warm up
This is a fun and loud energiser based on the well-known “Rock, Paper, Scissor” game – with a twist: the losing players become the fan of the winners as the winner advances to the next round. This goes on until a final showdown with two large cheering crowds!
It can be played with adults of all levels as well as kids and it always works!
Doodling Together is a fun and creative icebreaker where the group gets to collaboratively draw postcards through a series of instructions as participants complete the postcards started by others. You can simply use this technique in parallel groups as the instructions are easy to follow. It is a great exercise to establish creative confidence, collaborate effortlessly and build capacity for working together as a workshop-group.
Doodling Together #collaboration #creativity #teamwork #fun #team #visual methods #energiser #ice breaker
Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.
Bang is a group game, played in a circle, where participants must react quickly or face elimination. One person stands in the middle of the circle as “the sheriff”, pointing at other players who must quickly crouch while those on either side of them quickly “draw”. A good activity to generate laughter in a group. It can also help with name-learning for groups getting to know each other. For events with more than 30 people, it is best to play it in parallel groups.
Bang #hyperisland #energiser
Bang is a group game, played in a circle, where participants must react quickly or face elimination. One person stands in the middle of the circle as “the sheriff”, pointing at other players who must quickly crouch while those on either side of them quickly “draw”. A good activity to generate laughter in a group. It can also help with name-learning for groups getting to know each other.
In this exercise, every participant creates three thoughtful questions that they want to ask from other group members to get to know them better. People start to mingle to ask and answer questions in pairs. After asking a question and listening to the answer, they hand over that question. Thus, in each one-on-one meeting, participants will swap one question each. This allows people to learn interesting facts about each other and works with a group size up to 50-60 people.
3 Question Mingle #hyperisland #team #get-to-know
An activity to support a group to get to know each other through a set of questions that they create themselves. The activity gets participants moving around and meeting each other one-on-one. It’s useful in the early stages of team development and/or for groups to reconnect with each other after a period of time apart.
Facilitation techniques and activities to build effective teams and support teamwork. Foster trust and openness for better collaboration and manage team dynamics effectively.
The activities will help you to initiate meaningful conversation in the group, provide a starting a point for focusing on teamwork and collaboration, and importantly give engaging tasks to participants in which they work together. This is essential to increase cohesion within teams. The key for successfully achieving these goals in large groups is to have exercises that can be easily in smaller groups in parallel:
This game helps group members to get to know each other better through a creative drawing exercise: Each participant draws their own coat of arms – a design that is unique to themselves, representing important characteristics, achievements and values of its owner.
If you want to direct the focus of this exercise to certain areas, then you can instruct people to which question to answer in each segment of the Coat of Arms. (E.g. What is something you are very good at? What is something your colleagues don’t know about you?).
When people are finished drawing, they present their work to in their group. The presentation part is practical to do in smaller groups. And whether you have a small or large group, you can arrange a neat Coat of Arms gallery by sticking all the drawings on the wall of the workshop room.
Coat of Arms #teambuilding #opening #ice breaker #team #get-to-know #thiagi
Coat of Arms exercise provides a way for participants to introduce themselves and their colleagues, particularly for groups who think they already know each other very well. Almost invariably participants discover something about their colleagues of which they previously had no idea. Occasionally this revelation has an immediate and direct application to another participant’s current project or challenge. Because this activity forces people to use drawings rather than words, it is particularly useful as a dual-purpose introductory exercise in training sessions that deal with such topics as innovation, creativity, and problem-solving.
In eighteen minutes, teams of 3-5 people must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top. Since the instructions are fairly simple, it is easy to scale this activity up to 20-30 groups playing in parallel and competing who builds the highest structure. It emphasizes collaboration, group communication, leadership dynamics and problem-solving strategy.
Marshmallow challenge with debriefing #teamwork #team #leadership #collaboration
In eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top.
The Marshmallow Challenge was developed by Tom Wujec, who has done the activity with hundreds of groups around the world. Visit the Marshmallow Challenge website for more information. This version has an extra debriefing question added with sample questions focusing on roles within the team.
The Helium stick activity gives a simple challenge to teams that require teamwork and coordination to manage. People are lined up in two rows facing each other, 5 to 10 people per row, depending on the length of the sticks you have for the game. Participants point with their index finger and hold their arms out in a way that a stick can be horizontally laid on their index fingers.
The task is to lower the stick to the ground while everyone’s index fingers stay in contact with the rod. Why Helium Stick? Often times, the stick will rise first 🙂
You can easily scale this activity for larger groups, just have as many sticks as the number of lines you will create, and the sub-groups will compete against each other who manages to lower their stick first.
Helium Stick #teampedia #team #teamwork #ice breaker #energiser
A great and simple activity for fostering teamwork and problem solving with no setup beforehand.
There are dedicated facilitation methods that work really effectively if you need certain conversations to happen in large groups. The techniques below can be used as core activities for planning and facilitating large group workshops. They tend to have only a few guiding principles and rules, which allows smaller groups to organise and manage themselves during a workshop.
Open Space Technology – developed by Harrison Owen – is a method perfectly suited for organizing and running large scale meetings, often multi-day events, where participants self-organize themselves to find solutions for a complex issue. There are only a few rules guiding the structure of the event, and the agenda is created by the people attending. It is a great method for tacking important and complex problems where the solutions are not obvious. The technology can accommodate hundreds of people.
Open Space Technology #idea generation #liberating structures #problem solving
When people must tackle a common complex challenge, you can release their inherent creativity and leadership as well as their capacity to self-organize.
Open Space makes it possible to include everybody in constructing agendas and addressing issues that are important to them. Having co-created the agenda and free to follow their passion, people will take responsibility very quickly for solving problems and moving into action. Letting go of central control (i.e., the agenda and assignments) and putting it in the hands of all the participants generates commitment, action, innovation, and follow-through. You can use Open Space with groups as large as a couple of thousand people!
World Café, developed by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, is a simple yet powerful method to host large group dialogue. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines for the groups of people to discuss different topics at different tables. Participants switch tables periodically and getting introduced to the previous discussion at their new table by a “table host”. The structure of this method enables meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that they find relevant and important.
World Cafe #hyperisland #innovation #issue analysis
World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.
While the World Café is a structured process to encourage the cross-pollination of ideas in a large group, the Conversation Café is structured to begin a dialogue regarding a provocative or complex question. So, here the group members do not switch tables, but participate in four rounds of conversation with taking different approaches to exchange opinions and discuss the same topic in depth. The format helps to build trust and connection between group members and therefore well-suited to handle controversial or difficult topics among diverse participants. Again this method is very practical when dealing with large groups by setting up parallel discussion groups.
Conversation Café #issue analysis #liberating structures #innovation #empathy
You can include and engage any number of people in making sense of confusing or shocking events and laying the ground for new strategies to emerge. The format of the Conversation Café helps people have calm and profound conversations in which there is less debating and arguing, and more listening. Sitting in a circle with a simple set of agreements and a talking object, small groups will engage in rounds of dialogue with little or no unproductive conflict. As the meaning of their challenge pops into focus, a consensual hunch is formed that will release their capacity for new action.
The classic – and often ineffective – shout-out type of brainstorming session has a natural limitation when it comes to large groups. However, there are other methods that provide a structured way to get people into creative thinking and elicit innovative ideas from everyone in the room even if you have dozens of participants.
This is an idea generation method that is really easy to scale into large groups, yet still allows every participant to actively take part in the process. You split the audience into groups of four, share the challenge or question that people should focus on, then kick off the following sequence of activities in the parallel groups: at first, silent self-reflection by individuals, then generate ideas in pairs, and then share and develop further the ideas in the circle of four people. At the end of the process, the best ideas from each group should be shared with the whole audience. This method allows to leverage the whole group’s intelligence and everyone will be included.
1-2-4-All #idea generation #liberating structures #issue analysis
With this facilitation technique you can immediately include everyone regardless of how large the group is. You can generate better ideas and more of them faster than ever before. You can tap the know-how and imagination that is distributed widely in places not known in advance.
Open, generative conversation unfolds. Ideas and solutions are sifted in rapid fashion. Most importantly, participants own the ideas, so follow-up and implementation is simplified. No buy-in strategies needed! Simple and elegant!
The following workshop activities will help you to prioritize the most promising ideas with a large group and select up with the best actions and goals to execute.
Dot voting – or ‘dotmocracy’ – is a method for prioritising options and making decisions by a group. Every participant receives a set of colourful sticky dots and they place them next to the ideas they find best – the ideas need to be written on post-its or on a board before the voting starts. There are different variations: you may give multiple dots to people and they can choose how many dots they assign to each option they like. This tools quickly helps to recognise without spending time on discussions, which options are the most popular.
One thing to watch out for is the group bias, though: The more voting dot an option collects during the process, the more appealing it may become to get further votes from the participants who still have to assign their dots. For this reason, it is wise to use dot-voting not as a final instrument to select the best option, but as an indicator of which few options are the most popular.
Dotmocracy #action #decision making #group prioritization #hyperisland
Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.
These facilitation techniques help to effectively close a large group session. They are simple, time-bound and allow every group member to share their opinion and find the key takeaways after a workshop or event.
‘Feedback’ has a quite controversial perception. Have you ever met this situation? Someone is asked to present back after a group session and it gets unfocused. It goes on long it’s off the point and people start losing concentration It’s sometimes known as ‘death by feedback’.
This method helps to maintain attention and forces everyone to stay concise during a closing round with a natural limit: You are only allowed to share your opinion with just one breath – that is usually no longer for 30 seconds for most people. In case you have a large group, it works most effectively if you split up the group to circles of 10-15 participants, in order to keep the feedback round under five minutes.
One breath feedback #closing #feedback #action
This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.
Feedback Mingle is a great closing activity to generate positive energy in the group. At the end of the session, group members are invited to give feedback to every other member of the group via post-it notes. You can use prompt questions to direct the feedback, such as “What I appreciate the most about you…” and “My challenge to you going forward is…”.
After people finished writing a post-it note to everyone else in the group, invite them to mingle and deliver the feedback to each other. The feedback should always happen one-on-one, shared verbally. If you have larger groups, create smaller groups of people who worked together during the event.
Feedback Mingle #hyperisland #skills #feedback
The Feedback Mingle is an exercise in which every member in a group gives feedback to every other member in the group. Often used as a closing activity, it aims to facilitate feedback, generate positive energy and create a sense of team.
You can use this activity at the end of a workshop or training program to inspire future action. Participants write and send a letter to their future self, in relation to how they will apply the insights and learning they got during the course. For instance, you may ask them to focus on a simple question: “What will I achieve by a certain date?”
When explaining the task, tell the group that you will post the cards/letters in X number of months, and that they should take that into account when writing. You can define the timeframe with the group. Since participants reflect individually in this activity, there is no limitation to scale this exercise in larger groups.
Letter to Myself #hyperisland #action
Often done at the end of a workshop or program, the purpose of this exercise is to support participants in applying their insights and learnings, by writing a letter and sending it to their future selves. They can define key actions that they would like their future self to take, and express their reasons why change needs to happen.
I hope you have found some useful tips for large group games and workshop activities above. Now we’d love to hear from you.
What are your favourite facilitation techniques and games that work well for large groups?
Have you tried any of the methods above? Let us know about your experiences in the comments.