Tips & Tricks: Discussions

Tips & Tricks for Hosting a Group Discussion

Group discussions are what they say on the tin: they’re meant to be a conversation between the host(s) and the attendees. Trying to facilitate that conversation can be daunting, even at a con as welcoming and laid back as Confab! Here are a few tips and tricks to getting over your discussion anxiety.

Make a list of open-ended questions.

Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec saying "I've seen over 200 episodes of Law and Order and it's paying off big time!"

Your discussion attendees will have lots to say about your topic, but sometimes they need the proper prodding to open up and contribute. The easiest way to draw them out is with open-ended questions. An open-ended question is one that requires more than a simple yes or no answer, one that requires thought and elaboration to answer. It’s a tried and true sales technique that works when trying to get a conversation going as well. Do a quick internet search for suggestions on how to craft open-ended questions if you need some inspiration.

Organize your own thoughts.

James McAvoy touching his temple and squinting his face as if concentrating very hard

Make you sure you know what you want to say on the topic, just in case your attendees don’t immediately want to jump in to the chat. If you keep your ideas a little more broad, it might encourage people to ask questions, getting a dialogue going. You could also bring up controversial opinions on your topic (whether you agree with them or not) to see if that riles anyone up. Obviously steer clear of this tactic if you don’t like a more heated discussion or debate, but you can find a way to keep the convo light while also addressing the wank!

Manage your expectations.

A close-up of Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day singing into a microphone. "It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right."

I used this same tip (and gif) in the panels post, but it’s true here as well. Going into your discussion with open eyes and an open mind is really important! You won’t be able to 100% control the flow of the conversation, so know that some things you want to talk about may not get talked about. Or maybe your attendees are feeling extra shy and you’ll be doing the bulk of the talking. The only thing you have a total grip on is yourself, so stay positive, stay upbeat, and let the discussion go the way the discussion wants to go.

And most importantly: have fun! We can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

Other tricks

  1. Look through tumblr tags for your topic, you may find some great meta to debate/discuss.
  2. Have a list of resources handy. People may want to learn more about your topic, and giving them further reading could be great for them.
  3. Enlist a plant. Have a pal attend your discussion and jump in with questions or comments if you need a break or you want to break the ice.