How many conference speakers have you seen that don’t want attendees asking, answering, commenting or participating during their presentations?
From the speaker’s point of view, the presentation seems to be moving along nicely as the content is covered. The room is silent except the speaker’s voice. And surely that means that the audience is attentively listening and learning. Right?
However, look at the audience and you’ll see from their body language that the speech is far from mesmerizing. Some attendees have their heads propped up with their hands. Some are on mobile devices or laptops. Some are sleeping.
Speeches, Talks And Presentations – Ho Hum
Many of us have found ourselves in similar situations where the presenter’s monologue is less exciting than having our teeth pulled.
I believe that most speakers take their presentations very seriously. They want to do well. They want to help the audience. They find great value and excitement in their own content. And they want the audience to share in that passion.
But they often don’t know how to do it differently. Or are afraid to change. It’s easier to talk at an audience that change the way we’ve always presented.
But wait you exclaim. Just look at TED Talks. They are successful. Aren’t they?
There’s a reason they are called TED Talks and not discussions or learnings!
The Bold Claim-Peer Discussion Better Than Lecture
So are audience participation, interaction and discussion actually worth it? Are the benefits of conference peer discussions sufficient to justify “giving up lecture time to cover content” for authentic learning?
Too often, speakers, even keynote presenters, assume that their lecture is more important than the participant’s peer discussion.
Bottom line, the first and foremost reason to increase conference peer discussion and decrease expert lectures is that participants learn more as a result. It is a bold claim says Jay R. Howard, author, sociologist and Dean of College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University in Indianapolis. And it is well proven to be worth it.
There is an abundance of evidence that points to the value of active learning and participant engagement in facilitating learning (example, Pascarella and Terenzini 1991, 2005).
Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) summary of research on effective classroom practices is one of the first and most influential efforts to draw attention to the value of active learning and peer discussions says Howard.
Kuh et al. (2005) conclude that engagement is a key to success. Participants learn more when they are intensely involved in their own education and have the opportunity to think about and consider how to apply what they are hearing. That involves a lot more than listening to a lecture. It often involves peer discussions.
Learn More If Lectures Interrupted With Brief Activities
Despite a tendency in the STEM field to push through as much material as possible, attendees will learn more if lectures are interrupted with brief activities that engage them, says engineering educator and Bucknell University Professor Michael Prince (2004).
Active learning strategies like peer discussions are superior to lecture in promoting development of thinking and writing skills says Bonwell and Eison (1991).
When conference participants are actively participating in peer discussions, they learn more then when they merely listen to a lecture (Kuh et al. 2005).
Conference participants must do more than passively listen to lectures! They need to read, write, discuss and solve problems with their peers using higher-order thinking skills such as evaluation, synthesis and analysis (Bonwell and Eison 1991).
It’s time to decrease the lecture and increase audience discussion!
Hat Tips Jay R. Howard’s Discussions In College Classrooms.
Why are so many conference organizers still unwilling to transition to effective learning models such as active learning and peer discussions in their sessions? What will it take to get more industry subject matter experts and professional speakers—that are not delivering inspirational or motivational messages—to incorporate active learning strategies such as peer discussions into their presentations?