Introducing a New Form of Q&A: Conversations and Input

cnversations and input, meetings
Conversations and input builds engagement vs. traditional Q&A.

Rather than one person asking a question in a typical Q&A session, a new format known as Conversations and Input, or C&I, allows the entire group to weigh in.

Why, in a meeting of 100 participants, is only one person at a time able to ask a question during the Q&A session? A new form of Q&A, called Conversations and Input (C&I) and introduced by Maarten Vanneste of the Meeting Design Institute, changes all that.

As Vaanneste describes it: “We all know Q&A: that moment at the end of a session where the audience gets a few minutes to ask a few questions. Frequently, the usual suspects will grab their chance (and the microphone) to make a statement, rather than ask a question. And then, the session is over.” The meeting organizers have lost the opportunity to engage the other 99 people in the room for the sake of the single person who spoke up.

Here’s how it works:

After 15 minutes of presentation, the speaker stops to activate the audience by introducing a conversation topic. The standard topic can be a question that always works: “What have you just learned?” or “What did you find interesting?” Or a more specific question can be introduced. The question can be a  text slide in the presentation of the speaker, and this slide can remain on the screen for the duration of the C&I.

Next, the speaker (or chair or facilitator) tells participants that they have 4 minutes (or more) to have a conversation on this question or statement between each other in groups of 6 or less. Rather than one attendee, everyone gets to participate in small group conversations.

After the four minutes of small group conversations, the speaker asks participants to conclude and invites a few hand-picked groups to provide feedback. The standard question might be “Who learned something great from another participant during these conversations?” This takes another minute or two, so each C&I takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

A C&I moment can be inserted after every 10 to 15 minutes of presentation. A session of one hour can include three moments of C&I, in addition to conclusions and a final Q&A at the very end of the session.

According to Vanneste, C&I allows everyone in the room to feel comfortable contributing. When ideas flow, debates happen, humor gets inserted, and everyone engages deeper with the content. Participants become more energized and enjoy the session more. As an added bonus, the technique stimulates networking, more than any coffee break or reception could, he says.
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Barbara Scofidio is editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In 25 years of covering the industry, her articles have spanned topics ranging from social media to strategic meetings management. She is currently the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee and was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of Site, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. A familiar face at industry events, Barbara often leads panel discussions or speaks on topics close to her heart, such as green meetings or how the industry can help combat human trafficking. She is also on the board of ECPAT USA, the human trafficking organization. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.