Guided Q&A versus guided plenary

I’m writing a quick post here to share a response I am providing to a recent attendee of our online facilitation course. The question relates to two of the four facilitation modes that we teach: Guided Q&A and Guided Plenary.

A Guided Q&A is simply a workshop sesssion in which the facilitator runs a session in which questions are asked and answered. The questions can be drawn out from the group or asked directly by the facilitator. The questions can be answered by the facilitator or the group. For active groups, the questions can be both asked and answered by members of the group.

We can use a Guided Q&A to explore content that has already been presented and identify potential issues that need to be explored further. It is a more exposed environment than a breakout room, so people feeling less confident in the open environment may be less willing to contribute.

Guided Plenary is a more advanced facilitation technique in which an individual is invited to sit in the ‘hot seat’ and be interviewed by the facilitator about a topic. The facilitator explores the topic with the interviewee, and identifies any questions or challenges they may have. The facilitator then puts those questions or challenges to the other participants who have been listening in. The facilitator gathers up responses from the audience and then puts them to the interviewee to see if these responses help them. The session carries on in this way, exploring and identifying issues in one-to-one conversation between facilitator and interviewee, and gathering wisdom from the crowd.

Guided Plenary allows the facilitator to explore a topic in much more depth with one person, but allows others to benefit from and contribute to that exploration.

A specific interview technique we discussed in the training is called ‘Catalytic Style’, which is akin to using a coaching questions. Catalytic Style is a technique taught be Nick Zienau in his Leading and Influencing course (November dates soon to be announced). Catalytic Style is not a facilitation mode – it is a conversational style which can be used to support any of the modes. So in Guided Plenary, the facilitator might use Catalytic Style to help the interviewee draw out and clarify their own understanding of an issue before presenting it to the listening audience.

Choosing between Guided Q&A and Guided Plenary

Guided Q&A is good for a quick and light-touch review of content that has just been presented. It is good to check in with a group to see what their level of understanding is and what the issues are. Guided Plenary is better for a more in-depth exploration of issues. It requires trust, and so is better when a group has got to know each other a bit more.

Read more about these facilitaiton techniques and other facilitation tools in the Constructivist Facilitation Top Ten.

Keep an eye on the Constructivist training courses page for more details of the next Leading and Influencing course and more facilitation training.