Zoomย =

Fishbowl on Zoom

A way to have a small group conversation within the large group. Have a few volunteer talkers leave their cameras on and the listeners turn their cameras off and then hide non-video participants. Provide a prompt or focus for the conversation, let the small group talk for a few minutes, hopping in with questions if needed. Swap out for different talkers, repeat if desired.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Let the group know that you want to do an exercise where a small group of people are going to have a conversation while the rest of the group observes.
  2. Ask for volunteers to "raise their digital hands" to volunteer to be in the small group. Once you have 4-5 volunteers you have enough.
  3. Ask everyone who does not have their hand raised to turn off their cameras. If anyone who has their hand raises has their camera off, let them know they can stay off-camera by placing a piece of paper or something over their camera, so they can have it "on" without being "on camera".
  4. Ask everyone to find someone with their camera off and then to select the three dots in the top right hand of their video window. This will bring up a drop-down menu that includes, "hide non-video participants." Once everyone clicks this it should shrink the room down to just the volunteers who have their cameras on (and you!)
  5. Remind the talkers of the prompt and container for the conversation. Share any new norms you want them to be guided by, like, "Feel free to have yourself unmuted the whole time so the conversation can flow more freely." Let them know you may pop back in to guide but otherwise, you'll leave them to it.
  6. Turn your camera off and observe the fishbowl. Hopping in with questions or directions as needed.
  7. After you feel the conversation has run its course, hop in, and if repeating, ask for new volunteers. If wrapping up, ask the observers to come back on camera to dissolve the fishbowl before thanking your volunteers. 8, To see all participants again (and instruct participants how to do this) in the top right corner of Zoom with the "view" button there will be an option for "show non-video participants."


This works great any time you want to have a small group conversation without having to ask the whole group to do it in breakout rooms. Sometimes this is handy to save time, if you have a subject where some people would be excited to participate and others would not, etc.

Substituting Apps

If you're using apps other than Zoom, here are the specific things your software will need to be able to do:

The ability to spotlight multiple participants in the software..

Additional Resources


Author HeadshotTacoma, WA

Activity by Meg Bolger

Co-developer of Facilitator Cards. Co-author of Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation. Adamant believer that facilitation can change the world.

Facilitation Testers Needed

This activity by Meg Bolger would really benefit from other facilitators testing it, tweaking it, and reporting back. If you give it a try in your virtual facilitation, all we ask is that you tell us how it went.

The main things we're wondering are regarding the context you facilitated it in (with whom, and toward what goal), how well it worked (what worked and what didn't), and in what ways you altered the instructions to make it work for you.