Avoiding "Death By Feedback" in Large Groups

You get the picture, there are over 100 people in the workshop, they have just done some fascinating syndicate work where people were engaged and energised, now the feedback is happening it is slow, rambling, repetitive, unstructured and people are losing interest and energy. What is more your timetable is looking more and more lost!

Are there workable alternatives to traditional feedback from the syndicate groups? Actually there are many, many ways of sharing information quickly and with energy in a large group. The first thing you need to do is think about the purpose of the feedback.

Why are we having feedback?

The obvious answer to this is that we want to know what the other groups have been doing, or more importantly we want to share with them what we have done. However you can think about feedback session as having a number of potential outcomes: -

  • Giving everyone a sense that they have been having similar discussions
  • Creating a consolidated set of ideas
  • Building consensus
  • Getting feedback
  • Gaining a sense that you were heard and understood
  • Developing connections
  • Showing the variety present
  • Stimulating further discussion


Single word or phrase fast paced review

This is ideal when your main aim is in giving everyone a sense that they have been having similar discussions and you want to ensure that everyone feels heard and understood.

  • Give the small group time to summarise their discussions and create an integrated response
  • Make the instructions clear as to the need for a summary word or phrase and to the type of statement needed
  • Ensure there is a clear spokesperson
  • Set the challenge of pace and energy
  • Remind people to leave everyone "curious and intrigued"
  • Set you microphone system up so that the mics can move from table to table at a fast pace (ideally randomly)

Card Sorting

This is ideal for reaching consensus or creating consolidated lists.

  • Ask the groups to write their key points or conclusions onto cards (A5 or A4 both work well)
  • Invite the recorder to bring their cards to selected points in the room
  • Ask them to stay and work together to sort the cards into similar themes
  • If necessary go through the themes in the room and seek consensus with a reality dialogue - allow time for people to discuss and if necessary remove cards which have strong disagreement to another place


This is mainly used when a lot of information has been generated and you want to enable the group to actively read and engage with a lot of it, see connections and build consensus.

  • Give the groups clear formats to record the information
  • If there are more than 6 groups consider having different groups work different topics
  • Move output on similar topics so it is together
  • Allow a set number of 'votes' these can be done with ticks or by giving people coloured dots
  • Allow time for people to mingle read and place their votes
  • Use volunteer spokespersons from the tables who generated the information to count and report back the highest vote-getters only

Team feedback

This is most appropriate when a large amount of information has been generated and part of the aim is to develop a sense of team working.

  • Once the information has been generated give a clear indication as to what is available to be reviewed
  • Invite the team to share responsibility by deciding who goes where
  • As the teams plan who is covering what get them to generate questions or ideas they want to take with them
  • If necessary let the teams leave someone with their information to explain it
  • Provide common formats to capture insights and learnings
  • Allow time for each team member to share what they learnt

Gallery Walk

This can be useful when the table teams need to stay intact to get the feedback but you would like it to be interactive and informal (ie time is not really an issue) Also when everyone needs to hear everything in some detail and perhaps give feedback.

  • Have the teams decide who will stay to answer questions (sharing responsibility if needed
  • Allow a set amount of time per station and used a sound to indicate time to move on
  • Use post-its and stickers to leave feedback at each station

Bulletin Board

This is a more informal form of gallery walk and can be used to give people maximum choice a bout what they want to see.

  • Give the teams a set format to display their information
  • Invite them to ensure that what they write is legible and self-explanatory
  • Allow people to wander freely to read what is written

Paired teams

This is very good for when people have done very creative work and have a high degree of energy to want to show what they have done to other people. It is especially useful when the ideas are likely to be quite similar and might need to be followed by a summary discussion and card sorting process.

  • Partner different groups together (2/3/4 or even 5 groups)
  • Have them gather in a space and explain their work to the other teams
  • This still needs clarity on what is intended to be feedback (outcomes not the process of what has been done because they have all done the same!)

Treasure Hunt

This can be useful in the middle of working on an activity where you want to keep groups aligned, connected and aware of each other.

  • Invite the groups to go out, or send one or two of the group out, to collect 'treasure' in the form of ideas from the other groups in the room

World café

Is a fascinating structure for discussions that builds the feedback into the process.

  • Set tables up in sets of 3 or 4 with different topics at each
  • Ask a stimulating question to start discussion of the topic
  • Let people go to the topic in any order they like
  • Have someone stay with the topic from one round to the next
  • In brief 15-20 minute rounds invite people to use the tablecloth to make notes in answer to the questions
  • In the later rounds invite them to make links with what has already been written