How Do I Use Buzz Groups in Training? By Dan Boudreau

Have you considered using buzz groups as a technique to liven up your training sessions? We have prepared this training technique and offer it here as a resource for facilitators. Read on to discover how to use buzz groups in training, including a detailed facilitator's process, guidelines, pitfalls and variations.

Description A buzz group is a small group, consisting of three to six people who are given an assignment to complete in a short time period. Generally, each buzz group records their output then reports to the larger group.

This Activity Can Be Used To:

  • Build an agenda.

  • Evaluate an activity, workshop or process.

  • Serve as an icebreaker.

  • Warm up a group to a new topic.

  • Solve problems.

  • Address a topic from a new perspective.

  • Share ideas.

  • Gather questions.

  • Generate ideas.

  • Generate lists.

  • Gather feedback.

  • Allow all participants to give input.

  • Create a safer learning environment than in a larger group.

  • Reflect and review.

Facilitator's Process

  1. Pre-assess the group to determine what participants already know about the subject.

  3. Share the purpose and objectives of the activity with the group.

  5. Explain the procedure:


    • Form small groups.

    • Choose recorders.

    • Complete the activity.

    • Select one or more presenters.

    • Report back to larger group.

    • Debrief the session.


  6. Clarify the assignment, the guidelines and the reporting expectations.

  8. Announce the duration of the session, if applicable.

  10. Arrange the larger groups into small groups. Buzz groups can be formed in a variety of ways:


    • Ask participants to turn to those nearest them

    • Team up people of common/different interest

    • Team up people according to skill or learning style


  11. Advise each group to choose a recorder.

  13. Ask for and answer any questions regarding the procedure.

  15. Start the session.

  17. Circulate and monitor.

  19. Tell the participants when there is one or two minutes left in the activity and remind them to choose a presenter, if necessary.

  21. End the activity.

  23. Ask each group to report to the larger group.

  25. Acknowledge each group's input and process the information.

  27. Debrief the session.

  29. Summarize the session by recapping the main points.

  31. Wrap up with a review of the learning objectives, if appropriate.

  33. Conduct a post-assessment to determine what learning occurred.

Guidelines for Facilitators

  • Use creative ways to break the class into smaller buzz groups.

  • Recognize that some participants feel safer and flourish in a small group; they may be less communicative in a larger group.

  • Prior to starting, inform participants of pitfalls and encourage them to keep each other involved in the process.

  • Observe the small group dynamics.

  • Create new buzz group regularly.

Guidelines for Participants

  • Ensure that you understand the assignment.

  • Recognize that everyone has important ideas and perspectives to contribute.

  • Choose a recorder.

  • Respect and listen to each other.

  • Encourage each other to participate and contribute.

  • Milk


  • Allowing the first group to report all the information.

  • Too much repetition in the reporting process.

  • The facilitator exerting too much control over the buzz group output.

  • Group size is too small or too large.

  • One participant dominating the small group process.

  • Assigning a task too large to be accomplished in the allotted time.

  • Buzz groups becoming repetitive and boring for participants when they are used too often.

Hot Tricks

  • Add aromas, foods, drinks or colour to stimulate the senses.

  • Provide food and/or refreshments.

  • Play background music while the buzz groups are in progress.

  • Groups can work during a break, over lunch or outside in a different location.

  • Have participants work on their own projects if possible - learning is more meaningful to them.


  • Groups can be assigned separate projects, then educate the larger group as to their results.

  • Buzz groups may join up with one or more other groups as part of a larger group process.

We hope you find this article useful and we look forward to hearing of your successes as you weave the buzz group technique into your training sessions.

Dan Boudreau is Author of Business Plan or BUST! and hosts the RiskBuster Practical Business Planning Oasis at

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