Improve Your Conference Lecture By Using These Questions For Peer Discussions

talk & talk

Today, most conference audiences would prefer to engage in one-on-one peer-to-peer discussions than listen to another panel or lecture.

It is also clear that employers today place more emphasis on securing employees that are good at engaging others in face-to-face interactions to problem solve, work together and interpret data. Ultimately, peer learning is highly valued and needed in the 21st Century.

Transitioning From All Lectures To A Mix Of Lecture And Discussions

Many conference organizers and speakers agree that they would like to include more peer storytelling and story sharing in their sessions. However, they often don’t know where to start.

Start by finding three to five stopping places within the normal lecture to allow for two- to five-minutes of peer to peer discussion. If speakers would start here, their presentation effectiveness would increase dramatically.

While many presenters agree that group talk during their presentation is necessary, they often state that they don’t know what type of questions to ask.

Generic Peer To Peer Discussion Questions

Here are some generic questions you can use to spark your peer discussions.

  • What reactions do you have to what has been shared so far?
  • What does this mean to you and your job?
  • Do you agree with the presenter/panelist? Why or why not?
  • What do you need before you can implement what the speaker recommends?
  • What concerns you most about what the speaker just said?
  • What do you think of this idea? Why?
  • How would you apply this at your job?
  • What obstacles are keeping you from doing this?
  • What would it take to make this happen in your office?
  • What is the biggest barrier standing in your way to implement what the speaker just discussed?
  • What’s the one thing that sticks with you from this session so far?
  • What are you going to do differently as a result of what you just heard?
  • What one thing can you take away to apply to your job?

Need More Discussion Research?

Here are a few past posts that discuss lectures and peer learning in more detail:

A Conference Peer Discussion Manifesto

Why Conferences Need More Peer To Peer Talking And Less Monologues

New Research Illustrates Need For More Conference Peer Conversations

Five Ways To Combine Conference Lectures With More Effective Education

What are some other questions to use for peer discussion and reflection? What tips have you learned when starting peer discussions?

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  1. The questions are great and will definitely allow people to reflect more on what they have heard and taking action will be greatly increased. The questions however are all based on no feedback to the rest of the group. I often ask teams to reflect on something about their team skills and I get lots of dialogue between participants, then when I ask for someone to share with the group, the silence is deafening. Any thoughts on questions that can be asked that will encourage sharing with the rest of the group or approach to increase participation?


    1. Jeff Hurt says:


      Thanks for reading, commenting and thanks for asking.

      Here’s a tip regarding silence. Silence is your friend. Your audience feels more uncomfortable with silence when you’ve asked a question than you do. Leverage it. Hold on a few more seconds and let the silence linger. Someone in the audience will eventually feel so uncomfortable with it that they will say, “Oh, ok, I’ll answer since no one else will.”

      I often joke with the silence and after about ten seconds will say, “Bueller, Bueller” in reference to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

      Also, don’t feel that you have to debrief with the entire group. The real learning occurs with the one on one discussion, not the large group discussion. You don’t really need the large group feedback as individually each person has already expressed their learnings, reactions or thoughts. I will skip large group discussion sometimes to recoup time. Some in the room will feel the need to capture everyone’s thoughts to share with one another. Again, that’s not necessary. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made adjustments to capture everyone’s thoughts, shared them with the group and/or put them online and they are ignored. We don’t have to know everyone’s thoughts. 😉

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