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Learning and Knowledge Exchange


Maximizing participation in direct conversations with experts

The Fishbowl is a method to organize presentations and group discussions that offers the benefits of small group discussions -- most notably, a spontaneous, conversational approach to discussing issues -- within large group settings. This is done by arranging the room so that the speakers are seated in the centre of the room with other participants sitting around them in a circle watching their conversation 'in the Fishbowl'.

Best used in conferences, workshops and town hall-type meetings, the Fishbowl focuses the entire group's attention on a discussion among 3 - 6 people. Other people present become observers, active listeners, and potential participants through a rotation process which reduces the distance between speakers and audience. The Fishbowl is especially useful as an engaging alternative to PowerPoint presentations or panel discussions, as a way to allow direct conversations with experts, as a means of providing noteworthy participants with a prominent platform while still maintaining interactivity, or for discussing controversial issues that people may feel strongly about. This method requires a facilitator. It is versatile and can be adapted easily (see the multiple Variations below).


  • Facilitator
  • 12 - 30 people (or more: see ¡¥Variations¡¦ below)
  • Open space or large room with enough space for participants to move around easily
  • Chairs (arranged as per illustration below)
  • Microphone(s) (optional)
  • 45 - 90 minutes
  • Optional: Rapporteur

Download the full module on the Fishbowl (PDF), including when and why to use, how to apply, tips for success, variations, and references. 



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