How many people may participate in a single ToF?
Four is the ideal number of participants for a ToF.
- It is possible with more than four, but it will take much more time.
- Compared to a foursome, five or more people must muster much more mental energy to process what is taking place. Not only because there are more topics, but also there are proportionally many more interactions to monitor:
- with 2 people there would only be 1 verbal and non-verbal interaction between them;
- with 3 people there are 3 interactions between them,
- with 4 people already 6,
- with 5 people 10!.
- Spatially, it is important that each participant in a ToF can see each all the others clearly. The usual square or rectangular tables can be used with four participants. With five participants you need a round table and five chairs….
- Having fewer than four participants reduces the range of input ideas.
A larger group or team can be divided into groups of four, who later share with the whole group what their ToF has brought them
Inviting people for a single table ToF
Whom would you like to invite?
Sometimes it just goes without saying, for example a few friends, neighbours, classmates or colleagues.
Here are a few more considerations:
- Do you want each participant to contribute his or her own issue?
Or would you prefer to explore a common issue or a group of related issues?
- Is your question about a sensitive, personal topic?
Then ask people who you know are comfortable about accepting you with this topic.
How much time do you want to spend on this ToF meeting?
In a ToF it is important that every participant can share what is important to them. That is why it is important to plan at the outset how much time is available and how it will be used.
Scenario 1: Each person is allotted the same amount of time for his or her topic.
In order to determine this, it must first be clear how much time is available for the entire ToF meeting. You agree on the exact time distribution at the start of the meeting. The advantage of this is that the ToF ends on time and everyone gets an equal chance. A possible disadvantage of this is that not everyone may get the attention his or her subject needs to do justice to it.
Scenario 2: Each topic is given the time it needs.
Bear in mind that not everyone may be able to have their turn at a single meeting. Then it is useful to keep the option open to schedule one or more follow-up ToF sessions.
How can you invite people?
Scenario 1: "from 1 to 2, from 2 to 3, from 3 to 4."
- Ask the person you would most like to have in your group.
- Also discuss time expectations with this person.
- Then agree together on a third person to invite.
- The three of you then invite the fourth person.
Because everyone is familiar with each other with this setup, this gives a good starting basis for your ToF.
Scenario 2: just approach people and invite them until you have four.
Sometimes Scenario 1 is inconvenient. Then it becomes very important to agree clear manners at the start of the meeting to ensure sufficient safety for people to stay involved. See also "Starting a ToF meeting"
Inviting a bigger team or group
ToF can also be used for bigger teams or groups. Then it is important to give a presentation to the group about the ToF working method at the start. In some circumstances a larger group might work on related topics within an umbrella theme, each ToF taking one topic or group of topics. In that case it may be useful for each table to give feedback to the whole group after the ToF sessions.
There is also the question of how to allocate this number of people to ToFs.
- Option 1: Make a list of themes that are interesting and relevant for the participants. This can be done in advance by the facilitator, or by agreement at the beginning of the meeting.
The participants may then choose from the themes on offer. If more than four people wish to work within the same theme, it may be possible to set up a second table ToF to allow that.
If there is no umbrella theme people can also set up their own ToF or join another ToF group if there is still space.
- Option 2: When there are no themes on offer, let people draw lots to decide who should go into which ToF.