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The Ideal Corporate Class Size?

In-person corporate training is my favourite because, unlike with an online course, I get the chance to really work the room.

Training is all about transferring energy, so being an introvert by nature is ideal for this. I recharge in my hotel room or at home, and then radiate energy in the class through stories – the most powerful tool – along with case studies, personal experiences and of course a touch of warm and gentle comedy. I’m burned out by the end of it, I can tell you.

But how big must a class be for the maximum transfer of all that radiation?

When I started training more than seventeen years ago I fell into the usual traps. A big class is a zoo and it’s easy for people to “check-out” of the training by doing nothing, sleeping, or pretending to be on urgent technical support that requires constantly sending messages on their phone. Conversely with a very small group, attendees work silently on a single table as a single team, complete their exercise and then they all face me for my comments. In both cases I feel I’m not achieving the goal of giving every attendee the best environment to learn, speak, listen and collaborate without constraints.

So in more recent years I’ve specified that we need between 6 and 24 people on any in-house course.

With six people I can set up as two teams of three on two tables. In a team of three, participants can’t hide or go to sleep and I can promote banter between the two tables so that ice is broken, discussion becomes free and everybody learns from each other.

With twenty four I can have four tables of six people. Six is about the maximum in a class that can form a team without one of them checking-out by nodding off or staring intently at their phone. With a team of six, there’s nowhere to hide; everyone must take part. I can run up to four tables of six, create cross-table discussion and it’s great fun for all. But add a fifth table and it all falls apart, because by the time I get around to table five to present their results, the first table have long dropped out of the momentum and their minds are on planet lunch or somewhere.

So there you have it – in my experience at least – 6 to 24 people in a corporate training course and we can all roar through to the big hooray at the end. And if a client wants to put in more people, then of course we schedule a second run don’t we! A nice problem to have.


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