1 These notes identify four stages in a topic discussion and discuss some of the activities that occur in a Conference. They discuss various methods to assist in achieving useful objectives for each of the four stages.
Four Stages in a Topic Discussion
2 An understanding of the four main stages in a topic discussion will help to understand Conference processes. However, in any Conference, the four stages will not necessarily stand out: many variations can, and do, exist. Further, other activities hinder and confuse the discussion and help hide the main stages.
3 In any effective Conference, the following first three stages will exist. Stage 4 will probably exist.
(a) Stage 1: Contributions— Members make contributions.
(b) Stage 2: Relationships- Members attempt to discover relation ships between (i) contributions and (ii) other contributions and topics (e.g. the topic under consideration), and/or (iii) the Conference Objective and Sub Objectives.
(c) Stage 3: Consensus – Members attempt to achieve consensus* on each topic or sub-topic.
(d) Stage 4: Consensus Checking- Members check on the attempted consensus.
4 Once a Conference has achieved consensus on one topic, it can deal with contributions on a different topic and aim to establish relationships and achieve consensus on this other topic. In other words the four stages start all over again.
Examples of the Four Stages
5 If we take the Topic: Who will do the Job, Basic Contributions might include the following –
(a) I don’t care who does it. (b) Joe should do it. (c) Why Joe, Frank has more experience? (d) Yes, but Frank does not have the same skill in this type of work. (e) I think it does matter who does the job and Joe would suit me. (f) We cannot take any risks with this job and therefore we must choose a mature person. (g) That rules out Dick. (h) I would accept either Frank or Joe since I rate both of them as sound men.