Online Learning Events: Why Size Matters

When you organise a live online learning event, how many people do you want to turn up? The answer isn’t always “as many as possible”! 

In reality, “it depends”. It depends on what you want people to learn, and how you want them to learn it – just as it does for an in-the-room event.

For a light dusting of information, delivered by a presenter or in the form of a film, you could have thousands in the audience. But for a creative, collaborative workshop with lots of interaction, you’ll want to restrict the numbers.

It’s not an accident that training rooms tend to accommodate between six and 30 people. They’re built like that because training in groups of that size works, with group size varying depending on the type of content and the depth of learning needed.

What about meetups, which combine “networking” with some educational input? Surely you want as many people as possible for those? Aren’t they just restricted by the size of the room you can get hold of? Well no, not really.

Again, it depends on the content but 30 – 100 people is about optimal. That’s a group size that allows for a core group of regulars, a bunch of new people each time, and enough variety for the networking to be useful. It’s not too intimidating, nor deafeningly noisy. And funnily enough, 30 – 100 is the number that many venues will accommodate.

How does all this relate to the remote context? Live online events aren’t restricted by the size of the physical space – many webinar and video conferencing tools nowadays allow a very large number of attendees (and it wasn’t always like that, so the tool vendors like to brag about it).

The result, though, is that it’s easy to get the group size wrong for your live online learning event. Freed of venue-size restrictions, many organisers fail to distinguish between a light information dusting (where a talk-over-slides webinar is fine), experiential workshops, and meetup-style events.

It’s not all about scale! If you want your participants to learn deeply, and/or to meet fellow learners, you’ll need to restrict numbers to get the result you want.

  • In the coming weeks I’ll be doing a series of “webinnexion” events demonstrating how a meetup-style format can work well live online. Watch this space – and if you don’t already get my linkletter, please sign up here

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