3-4-5 Go!

by Ben Slotznick

How do you support volunteers who are called upon to make presentations or facilitate discussions about their volunteer work? Many people are just not good presenters, and even fewer have the improvisational skills to facilitate well. 3‑4‑5 Go! provides some techniques to make this easier and more effective.

In the beginning of April 2016, Kathy Edersheim, Senior Director of the Association of Yale Alumni, was considering ways to encourage discussion in a conference break-out session. She told me that she was contemplating using “turn and talk”. (“Turn and talk??!” I wondered.) Kathy explained that with “turn and talk”, audience members pair-up, turn to each other, and talk about the topic. Responses can then be presented to the whole group. “Turn and talk” increases participation, gets more people engaged, and creates focused listening opportunities as well.

That’s all well and good, I pointed out, but Turn and Talk does not by itself deliver meaningful conversation or useful content. Like all facilitated discussion it relies upon an expert conversation guide to lead discussion in the right direction as it develops.

If you want the audience to take away key points – say three main points – you still have to tell them.

As Kathy and I talked about this, we hit on the idea of “3-4-5” as a reminder of the key features of an approach to balance presentation and discussion: prepare 3 main points, deliver those points in 4 minutes, then ask 5 questions to encourage discussion using a technique like turn-and-talk.

Kathy posted one articulation of this concept to Linked In, at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/tips-facilitating-discussion-session-kathy-edersheim.

For those not already familiar with Turn-and-Talk, I’ve written something under the rubric “3-4-5 Go!” It’s a bit longer with more hints to overcoming obstacles: https://secureservercdn.net/


An Addendum June 2016: Additional thoughts on introducing questions and transitioning between them can be found by clicking here.


Second thoughts August 2016: In June and July, I produced several conferences in South Africa for the Yale Global Alumni Leadership Exchange of which Kathy has been Chair. Several aspects of 3-4-5 Go! were field tested. Some worked. Others were found wanting.

The audience size and setting significantly affect both whether Turn-and-Talk will work and how many questions can be asked. The “5” and the “Go!” issues.

Turn-and-Talk may require an audience of more than twenty or thirty, in a lecture style setting. It does not seem quite appropriate for a smaller audience sitting around a table in a seminar style setting (perhaps 10 to 15 people), which would require another approach to facilitating discussion. An even smaller group that resembles a tutorial (say a handful of people) clearly needs still different methods.

For a large group, there might be time to address only 1 or 2 questions when using Turn-and-Talk. For a seminar-sized group, 5 questions might actually be necessary. A tutorial-sized group may require an entirely different approach.

Stay tuned! I will be trying other approaches in future conferences, and reporting back.

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