Could these people be going to a Writer's Critique Group?
The people above are all reading something. Maybe they are reading a copy of something a person in their writing group sent ahead so that they could discuss it at the meeting itself. Writing groups operate in different ways. One is as stated here--send the story to the members earlier so they'll be ready with suggestions and comments when the meeting begins.
Others bring the story to the meeting, hand out copies to everyone and then the writer reads the story aloud. Those listening can make notes in the margins as they listen and then be ready to make comments when the reader/writer finishes. Some people are reluctant to make negative remarks when they have to look the writer in the face while doing so. If a writer is there asking for a critique, he/she should be aware that there might be both negative and positive responses.If you cannot accept the negative responses, you probably should not be in the group. Sure, we all love to hear the good things but we need the others to help us make our writing publishable.
In an online writing group like mine, we email our subs and hope that several members will read and critique the piece. There are definite advantages in this type of group. The members select the pieces they want to or are willing to critique. They do it when they have time but do try to get to a sub at least within a week. We can do our crits in our jammies. One disadvantage is that I might submit a story or poem and get no crits on it. I have to say that has never happened to me but it could. Another negative is not being able to talk to one another face to face. Our thank you to those who critique our work must be written and sent individually.
There are some writers who prefer a writing 'group' that is made up of only two people. You help me and I'll help you. That's the method here. It works well if both people are in agreement as to what kind of critique they would like to have. The disadvantage is that you get only one person's opinion. That may or may not be alright.
I urge all writers to join some kind of critique group. It's one of the best ways to help you grow as a writer, to determine if your submission is worthy of publication or if it needs more work, and to gather marketing suggestions.
Word of warning! If you find a group that does nothing but praise your work and never points out places that need work, I'd look for another group. They might make you feel good but they aren't truly helping you.