Fishbowl on Zoom
Choose a few talkers, spotlight them, and ask the rest of the group to mute their mics and turn off their cameras. Provide the group with a theme or prompt, and let the small group converse for an allotted amount of time. Swap in different talkers, repeat.
- Decide who will start “in the fishbowl,” being observed by everyone else. Name a few people randomly, or select a subgroup based on a common identifier (e.g., roles, titles, traits), to be the talkers.
- Spotlight the participants who will be talking. Instruct everyone who isn’t chosen to talk to mute their mics and hide their cameras. Ask them to observe the talkers, listening closely, and giving them 100% focus.
- Provide the group with a central question, prompt, or theme for their discussion. And tell them how much time you’re allotting (e.g., “You’ll have seven minutes.”).
- When the time is up, assign new people to be talkers, unmuting their mics and enabling their cameras to be spotlighted, while the previous talkers go dark and transition into listening.
- You can provide the new group in the fishbowl with a related central question or topic, or allow them to continue the conversation about the same one. Tell them how much time they have, instruct everyone else to listen.
- Repeat as many times as you’d like, or for as long as new dimensions of the topic are being explored.
Spend time crafting the prompt to make sure that it has enough substance to generate a fishbowl-worthy discussion.
Five to seven participants in the fishbowl, regardless of how large your group is overall, is a sweet spot. The Zoom Spotlight feature supports up to nine, so you can go that high without altering the activity.
Less facilitation here is more ideal, allowing the participants in the fishbowl to have as free-flowing a discussion as possible. But on Zoom this is a little bit more difficult than in-person, because the body language cues and other non-verbals people use to chime in and out aren't available. With that in mind, pop in as the facilitator to invite more varied participation (e.g., if one person is doing all the talking), or to remind the group of the prompt if they go too far astray.
If you're using apps other than Zoom, here are the specific things your software will need to be able to do:
Zoom lets you spotlight some participants while others can mute and disable their cameras.