Orator Project
Effective Speaking

Discussions That Work

The vast majority of technical information exchange and decision-making occurs within and as a result of group discussion. Good discussion skills and awareness of group dynamics are critical for effective communication. Your success within an organization will be greatly influenced by your group discussion skills.

Fact: Good discussion skills, especially technical discussion skills will lead to more effective work environments, reduce wasted time and much better team spirit within your work environment.

Some basic discussion rules:
  1. Come prepared: If you are supposed to prepare for a meeting, do so. You waste everyone’s time if you are unprepared.
  2. Show respect for others at all times: The single most important attitude for group discussion (and in any human interaction) is respect for others:
    • All participants should be encouraged to speak, even if only to say, “I have no opinion.”
    • All contention in discussion should be thoroughly clarified. Often contention is a result of misunderstanding not fundamental disagreement.
    • Critique should always be focused on ideas not a person.
  3. Arrange participants well: When possible, each participant should be able to see every other participant.
  4. Important technical ideas should be thoroughly discussed: Much misunderstanding in technical discussions is due to an incomplete or incompatible understanding of ideas. Make sure that key terms are well understood and consistently defined. For really important ideas, you should be able to reach a point where you can clearly describe ideas in the words of other participants.
  5. Reach consensus when possible: If a discussion is intended to reach conclusions, try to reach a consensus decision if possible.
  6. Record decisions: One of the participants should record any decisions made.


Here are a couple of resources for developing good discussion skills:

Discussion Tutorial Website by Exforsys, Inc.

Guidelines for Effective Group Discussions by Cengage.

Here is a list of nine rules for a good discussion:

  1. Think before you speak.
  2. Listen carefully to what others have to say.
  3. Do not interrupt when some one else is speaking.
  4. Make use of what others have to say when it is your turn to speak.
  5. Only say what you truly believe.
  6. Do not remain silent. Make sure to contribute to the discussion.
  7. Let other people speak. Do not hog the discussion. Once you are done speaking, let at least two other people talk before you speak again.
  8. Support good ideas that other people have, even if they are different from your own.
  9. Search for the best solution even if it is different from the way that you thought at first.

Class Preparation:

Answer the following question
  1. What is the definition of the term open source software?
  2. What is the definition of closed source (proprietary) software?
  3. What is the definition of the term copy-lefting?
  4. Who owns the development strategy for an open source software product?
  5. How are open source software developers paid?
  6. How is open source software maintenance paid for?
  1. Provide paragraph per question.
  2. Use compact writing strategies.
  3. Use LaTeX to write your document.
  4. Cite any sources you use.
  5. Submit your answers to me by email as a PDF attachment.

Exercises: Discussion of Open Source vs. Free Software vs. Proprietary Software Projects.

Discuss the relative merits of Open Source vs. Proprietary software projects. Address the following questions:
  1. Should software be Open Source?
  2. Should software be free?
  3. How should software developers be paid?
  4. How should software support be funded?