Travel destinations

New meeting format: conversations and comments

We all know Q&A: that moment at the end of a session when the audience has a few minutes to ask a few questions. Often the usual suspects will take their chance (and the microphone) to make a statement, rather than ask a question. And then, the session is over… This still happens a lot in business meetings and association congresses, seminars, etc. Should we really call Q&A interaction?

A participant asking the speaker a question is the smallest form of interaction imaginable. It’s just one person asking a question and one person answering that question. The “inter” of the interaction here means the action or the “conversation” between ONE participant and ONE speaker. What about all the other participants? Well, they’re just listening. In a group of 100 participants, 99 just listened and only one spoke. This means that less than 1% of the audience was active and doing anything other than listening. You could say 1% was engaged or involved. This is a very low degree of activation. Shouldn’t the “inter” in the word “interaction” mean “between the participants” or even “between all the participants”? Is it possible?

Next In Meetings: C&I

C&I stands for Conversations and Input. It can drastically improve audience engagement from 1% to 75% or even 100%. Later you will discover the magical impact this has but first, an example.

There are many ways to do this, but let’s start with the basic version: the room is set up so that small groups of 6 form around a table or can be formed by moving or rotating the chairs.

After 15 minutes of presentation, the speaker stops to activate the audience by introducing a topic of conversation. The standard subject can be a question that always works: “What did you just learn?” or “What did you find interesting” or “What did you just learn that you will apply?” Of course, a more directive, targeted or specific question can be introduced. The question can be a text slide in the speaker’s presentation, and that slide can remain on screen for the duration of the C&I…

And now, the little revolution: the letter C in C&I. The speaker (or chair or moderator) tells the participants that they have 4 minutes (or more) to have a conversation about this question or statement among themselves in groups of 6 or less. It is no longer a discussion between ONE participant and The speaker, but between EVERYONE in small group conversations.

After the four minutes of small group conversations, the speaker (or chair or moderator) asks the participants to wrap up and invites a few selected groups to provide input (feedback). The standard question you can always ask is “Who learned something great from another participant during these conversations?” It still takes a minute or two, so each C&I takes about five to 10 minutes.

A C&I moment can be inserted every 10 to 15 minutes of presentation. So in a one-hour session, you can get about three C&I moments, plus wrap-ups and a final Q&A at the very end of the session.

C&I is a simple technique, but it can lead to a radical change in a presentation, as it gets participants thinking, contextualizing, re-discussing, talking, listening, commenting, etc. -only’ format. C&I will keep all attendees awake and energized.

In short:

  1. Present a topic
  2. Tell participants to have small group conversations
  3. Request entry
The magic of conversations and comments

Some things happen when you implement C&I that is nothing less than meeting magic. I would dare say that C&I is the golden nugget or even the diamond crown in meeting design.

What conversation and contribution do for participant motivation

When we go from an audience of 300 “listeners” to 50 conversations in groups of 6, almost everyone will say something, and they will feel comfortable doing it because of the small group. Ideas flow, debates take place, humor enters, the noise rises. Activation just went to 75% or more! With C&I, everyone engages more deeply with content. Attendees become more energized and enjoy the session more, resulting in great value for everyone.

How conversations and contribution help learning

Some participants will share their point of view, some will react and others will ask a question. Ideas are challenged by one person and defended by another. Examples are discussed and stories are told. As a result, in each of these small groups, collaborative learning occurs and everyone is encouraged to reflect further on the subject matter. The brain has more time to transfer new information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Participants learn more by aggregating information and having more time to process it, as opposed to when they focus solely on the presentation.

How conversations and comments contribute to networking

Networking is the number one reason people go to meetings or conferences. It is becoming increasingly important in most events and is generally ranked higher than learning for attendees. When people have a small group conversation on a topic that matters to them, they get to know each other very quickly. C&I is probably the best way to find out more about others. It’s much more effective than a coffee break, a reception or a party, where we would usually gather around people we already know. Being able to gauge how someone speaks, listens, responds, and generally interacts in a professional conversation is a high-speed quality test for future connections, and it tells you more about that person than a social conversation. during lunch, for example.

How conversation and input help the speaker

The speaker has less time to fill in, fewer slides to prepare. For example, if the session is 60 minutes, the presentation will be about 30 minutes (about 30 slides). The speaker is instructed by the organizers to prepare a conversation slide every 10 slides or 10 minutes, give participants 4 minutes for small group conversations, and take 2 minutes for contribution. C&I should be explained to speakers.

As public speaking is the number one human fear, it also gives speakers time to relax after a short presentation, rather than torturing them with a full 50 minute presentation. Once speakers try the simple C&I script, they’ll love the “pause” after every 10-15 slides. C&I gives them time to drink water, relax or walk among the groups chatting and getting ready for the next game.

How conversations and comments help the meeting

C&I creates a lot of value for attendees and speakers. It is an innovation that will be appreciated by all and acclaimed by many. Your event will get better scores and your attendees will come back. Younger generations are very fond of C&I because they are used to sharing, discussing and commenting. You will certainly get better scores, and you may have a few more participants for the next conference…

The result?

In the end, everyone is happy and learning and networking have improved. A more dynamic session creates more energized and happier participants. We can always do a Q&A at the end, but let’s open it up and make C&I a new normal. The rice of interaction is The only cost is time: The price of interaction is paid in minutes. And you may need an introduction and a hands-on for the speakers.

So, for the meeting planner or meeting architect: think about C&I for an upcoming session! Give speakers a simple scenario in which speaking on stage alternates with conversations and contributions from small groups on “the floor”. Try it and you will see that Conversations and Input can be a magic tool at no cost. It can enhance your own presentation style, but more importantly, your conference or meeting will get the highest scores ever.