In a recent training on Effective Meetings I was asked, “What is the ideal number of meeting participants?”
My short answer is that there is no ideal number. What really matters is getting the right people in the room, meaning those that can make a significant contribution to the discussion.
But then the person asking re-framed her question, “What is the maximum number of participants in a meeting?”
I suspect that behind this question lurks the convener´s fear of working with a large group and the common misconception that a small group is easier to manage than a large one.
Think about it. In your experience, is a small group capable of
- Wasting time?
- Getting off track?
- Getting stuck in conflict?
- Making bad decisions?
By the same token, can you remember a large group that
- Focused on the key issue at hand?
- Generated and evaluated ideas?
- Dealt effectively with conflict?
- Made good decisions?
The success factor of a meeting is determined by the quality of the planning before the event (including clear objective, well-structured agenda, inviting the right people) and skillful facilitation of the process.
In short, it is not how many should attend but who and why.