"We don't want anointment," Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of three groups leading the protests, said at the talks on Tuesday.
Government officials stuck to the official position that Hong Kong's mini-constitution cannot be amended to accommodate protesters' demands, while also saying that many others do not share their views.
"We hope you would understand that there are a lot of people who are not in Mong Kok, who are not in Admiralty, many people at home who aren't insisting on civil nomination," said Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen.
People gathered at the three main protest zones to watch the talks on big screens, and frequently cheered at remarks by the student leaders. But many held little hope that the talks would end the impasse, though they thought broadcasting them would help get their position out to the wider population.
Reports from Admiralty, one of the main protest sites, said the talks seemed to have done little to dampen the protests. Student leaders appearing on a stage at Admiralty after the talks were met with loud cheers by thousands of people gathered.
"They told the crowd that they did not get a practical response from the government and they are disappointed in the discussions," she said. "They urged protesters to carry on occupying sites, saying that the five speakers at the talks are not enough to convince the government to address their issues."
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters ahead of the talks that the government would not let the public nominate candidates to run in inaugural direct elections to succeed him in 2017, as demanded by thousands of protesters camping out on main streets across the city. But he added that there was room to discuss how to form a key 1,200-member committee that would pick candidates.
Leung said such changes could be covered in a second round of consultations over the next several months.
"How we should elect the 1,200 so that the nominating committee will be broadly representative, there's room for discussion there," Leung said. "There's room to make the nominating committee more democratic, and this is one of the things we very much want to talk to not just the students but the community at large about."
Protesters have occupied main streets in three areas of the city since September 28 to demand that the government abandon plans to use the screening committee.