Breakout group is a term used to describe the division of a gathering
of people into smaller clusters. It is a means of rapidly and actively
gathering a large amount of newly generated information that can
be reported back to a large audience.
A breakout group
may range in size from 4 to 15 people. If the meeting facility is
adaptable and there is sufficient time in the program, there really
is no limit to the number of breakout groups. Be warned that the
more breakout groups there are, the greater the challenge of facilitating.
each group responds to a question or completes an activity. Following
an allocated amount of time, everyone reassembles to hear all of
the small groups present summaries of their discussions.
a meeting begins the number of breakout groups and where they will
meet. Is the room large enough, and the number of groups small enough,
that people can pull chairs into clusters to work? Is there access
to adjoining or separate rooms where groups can go? Determine where
people will go and then, at each station or in each room, set up
an easel with flip chart and a supply of felt tip markers.
At the appropriate
point, the facilitator should describe the breakout groups. If every
group is going to work on the same item, go over it including encouraging
people to ask questions for clarity with everyone present. If different
groups will be working on different items, present it all so each
group has a full idea of what is happening. Tell them how much time
they will have to work and that they need to be prepared to give
a brief summarization (2 to 5 minutes). Each group needs a scribe,
a reporter, and a facilitator. (These roles do not have to be filled
by three people; one person can be, for example, both scribe and
reporter.) Define those roles and functions if necessary. Then divide
the group; counting off by numbers can help assure a better mixture.
During the breakout the facilitator should roam among the groups
to answer any questions and announce time remaining at the 10- and
Plan a break
following the end of the working session. This gives each group
time to organize its information for presentation or to give the
information to the facilitator if that is who will be presenting.
The presentation should focus on the highlights of the breakout
groupís discussion: key topics, conclusions, recommendations, issues,
When each group
is ready, or time is up, call the whole audience back to attention,
choosing one group to go first. Remind everyone of the amount of
time for each presentation (2 to 5 minutes) and stick to it! How
each group reports back depends largely upon the room. Here are
two some alternatives:
- If all of
the groups were in different parts of the same room, the whole
group can move between stations. At the first station, introduce
the reporter and allow him or her to begin. Monitor the time;
when completed, thank the reporter and quickly move the group
to the closest station. Begin next report. Repeat this process
until all the small groups have reported.
- If the breakout
groups were in different rooms, have everyone assemble back in
the main meeting area. Call the reporter from the first group
forward to the front of the room to give his or her 2- to 5-minute
summary. Monitor the time, thank the reporter and call the next
group up. Repeat process until all the small groups have reported.
A point to
remember: If everyone worked on the same question, and time is
getting short, ask the reporters to highlight different insights
or ideas and not to repeat things mentioned by a previous group.