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Designing group sessions – what to consider?

The following aspects should equally be considered in both coaching and facilitation approaches to working with a group.

Goal setting

To meet the expectations, it is necessary to specify the goals. It helps me to distinguish between primary (rational) and secondary (existential) goals. The primary or rational goal is often formulated unambiguously and clearly – there is some kind of task that a group of participants has to work on. It can be business indicators, discussion of a strategy, formation of a common value field, generation of creative ideas, etc. But the existential or secondary goal is not always pronounced aloud, and if the customer speaks about it, he does not always want it to be voiced for the participants. As a rule, such goals include building or leveling relationships, resolving conflicts, an unspoken call to distribute and take responsibilities.

Without a clear goal-setting, a useful session can hardly develop.


The modern world offers us to work in an online/offline/mixed format. Each of them has fans and opponents. The most difficult technically and psychologically, as well as from the point of view of the performer's stress resistance, is a mixed format, when one part of the group works online and another one – online, but they should get a common result.

The depth of the elaboration of the topic depends on the format in the last place, but much more depends on where the coach or facilitator feels more comfortable. I love working with large (up to 100 people) groups online when the challenge is to generate ideas or collect the essence of public opinion. And I like to conduct offline sessions for a small number of people (from 3 to 30), although in small groups online the result can be excellent too.

Session duration

The duration is determined by the task, but in general it is worth considering: people can productively work from 1.5 to 2 hours at a time, where about 40 minutes will be the most effective. After that, a sufficiently long pause is necessary. Depending on the time of day and the complexity of the task facing the group, the pause can be from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. On the day, one group can work more effectively 2-3 times for 2 hours with pauses between stages. The effectiveness of the group's work depends both on the professionalism of the coach/facilitator, and on the participants' own interest in the results of the session.

If we are talking about strategic sessions where you need to work out and take into account many aspects, as well as come to a common denominator for all participants, then I suggest planning a 2-day event with a mandatory champagne buffet at the end (it can be non-alcoholic champagne, but a little party after the completion of hard work will definitely benefit everyone).

When designing a session, I schedule its script by hours and minutes, always taking into account the warm-up time, free microphone, and completion.


Regardless of the format and degree of acquaintance, it can be difficult for adults to “jump” into work without preparation and warm-up. Most of us feel embarrassed at the prospect of speaking in public, some are tense at the perceived waste of time on this, and some know all the right answers themselves and do not need a collective discussion. To relieve the tension of the first minutes, I lay the obligatory few minutes for the warm-up. As a rule, at the beginning I talk about the goal and tasks of the event, introduce the proposed action plan, schedule, technical and other features. The general check-in is subject to a single rule – the voice of each participant must be heard. It does not matter what exactly he or she says, but it is important that both he/she and others hear and recognize ones voice.

Sometimes I ask to talk about expectations from the session, sometimes I offer to pass the word and kushball to each other, I can distribute prepared questions for free dialogue, metaphorical cards, story or emotion cubes, etc.


Many types of events can only be carried out on your own, but being able to rely on a team is a blessing and happiness.

If we are talking about working with online groups, then I invite, regardless of the number of participants, 1 technical specialist. Then, depending on the task, from 10 participants, I prepare 1 co-host for 6-7 participants. Offline, up to 30-40 people, I manage alone if necessary, but I'm glad when there is at least 1 person to help. If deep study and fixation of all ideas is required, then I also prepare 1 co-host for 6-7 people. In the case of online, I try to involve professionals who know and love working with groups, understand the intricacies of online interaction and are able to manage group dynamics. If the event is offline, then I often take active participants from mini-groups as assistants. In this case, before the event, I brief them.

As I wrote before, whenever possible, I take a photographer with me to the session – chronicles can be very valuable for reflection.

Mandatory stage of each session is CLOSING!

There is already something of reflection in the closing ritual, and it is also a moment when you can put together all the achievements of the day, and, most importantly, say out loud who you want to thank for the results of joint activities.

Event report

Even in offline sessions I try to use digital tools: virtual boards, questionnaires, interactive presentations – these materials are formed into a reporting package for the customer. In addition, according to the results of each stage, I photograph and then digitize the results of the group's work. This makes it possible to analyze not only the results, but also to return to how the participants came to the final conclusions.