Posted: Sat 12th Aug 2023

The Art of Constructive Conversations in Academic Circles

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Aug 12th, 2023


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A successful conference can’t do without a gripping panel discussion. If you are unsure of what it really is, you should know it’s a thirty-minute to one-hour-long discussion led by a moderator whose role is crucial for the success of the whole event. The person’s responsibility for cueing the participants and making them ask more interesting questions can actually influence the overall assessment of the discussion. This is how we build constructive conversations in academic circles.

#1 Prepare or fail

When you are responsible for a panel discussion, which for sure is one of the most valuable and constructive conversations in academic circles, you can’t achieve success unless you prepare thoroughly.

The first step is to learn everything you can about the participants on the panel. And it’s not about their private issues you talked about as small talk during last year’s conference, but about their success stories, experiences, and any news of their academic lives. It’s best to ask them personally to prepare the introduction you will present for the purpose of the conference.

It may also be quite helpful to meet the participants face-to-face a few days before the conference begins, or at least to talk online. Such a meeting will help each of them to create an impression of each other, learn what their main topic is, and already see the common interests and paradigms.

On the contrary, they can also prepare to show how many different points of view they present, which will positively influence the discussion and keep it exciting all the time. Discuss the questions with the participants or prepare them together to keep the discussion flowing.

Keep the conversation constructive

The moderator of a panel discussion has numerous responsibilities, but the most important issue is not to panic and to keep everything under control. As a panel discussion needs to maintain some standards of constructive academic conversation, it should definitely be treated as a moment of fame. Such an attitude can lead the speakers to become stand-up comedians or, quite the opposite, present their monologue to the audience.

As the audience should deepen their knowledge of the panel discussion topic, it needs to have dynamics and allow all the participants to speak. That’s why it’s so crucial for the moderator to keep track of the time, activate the discussion, ask engaging questions, and interact with the audience.

A discussion panel will never go according to one set scenario, as it’s like a living body; the participants interact with each other, and the questions may change dramatically. The moderator needs to coordinate the event, being flexible to allow for a spontaneous discussion while still keeping track of the overall idea of the talk.

The key to a successful discussion

Meeting the audience’s expectations and making sure they enjoy the discussion is quite a challenge. A moderator needs to do their best to keep the discussion on track throughout.

The participants need to be engaged, and it’s the moderator’s job to encourage them to share their opinions and react to the discussion. The participants need clear rules at the beginning for how to join the discussion.

The goals need to be set to assess whether the panel discussion was successful. They need to be possible to achieve, remembering the comfort of the participants and audience, which need to smile, laugh, improvise, and express their opinions freely.

At the end of the conference and a panel discussion, ask participants and audience for the feedback, in a form of a short online survey, to find the areas for improvement.

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