At the end of each and every presentation at a conference, there is the obligatory question from the chairperson to the audience “Are there any questions?” There are many reasons why this is not a good idea.
Why is it that so frequently in conferences when it comes to the Q&A people grandstand – in other words rather than ask a question they give a speech?
I think that often it is because it is the only opportunity they get to talk rather than be “talked at.” The need to express their opinion builds up inside them over time until eventually, it bursts out.
One way of helping to reduce this tendency is to give the audience the opportunity to talk with the people close to them by making the conference a conversational one.
But there are other serious issues with Q&A sessions that are described by Nancy Dixon and Johnnie Moore in the resources section below.
Four kinds of people who ruin academic conferences from Joshua Vossler
There is so much wrong with conference Q&A sessions. Anything that can be done to avoid them is a good thing but simply eliminating them is not the answer. Ways need to be made to engage the audience and turn them into participants.
- We have time for just one long-winded, self-indulgent question that relates to nothing we have been talking about.
- We’d now like to open the floor to shorter speeches disguised as questions.
- Next time you give a presentation at a conference – make it a conversational talk.
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