Steering discussion

Leading and guiding discussion at workshops, meetings, events or during/after a presentation is an important skill. Use this skill to stimulate debate, answer questions and involve your audience.

Listen to our Steering Discussions feature


It is easy to recognise an effective chairperson when you see them in action.

Kickstart discussion

Start brightly and positively with good audience eye contact. State how long you would like the discussion to last.

Identify what your desired aim for the discussion will be; - this could be a list of benefits, actions, measures of how people agree or disagree with a particular point. Clearly state the aim of the discussion at the outset to provide purpose and momentum.

Plan your initial questions/ discussion points to kick off the conversation. Use open questions to gather opinions/levels of knowledge and involve the group from the very start.

Throughout the discussion

Make sure everyone has an opportunity to communicate their views and try to make sure more vocal members of the group do not dominate discussions.

Use targeted questions to bring in reluctant contributors.

Keep on topic

Group discussions can go off topic. Do not be afraid to bring speakers back to the point. You are in control.

Keep debate balanced and flowing.

Bringing the discussion to a close

Bring the main points of the conversation together by summarising what has been said and link it back to your original aim. If possible, link with an action or two that the audience can take away.

Thank everyone warmly for their participation.