How to run a successful roundtable discussion

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Matt Francis - CEO at Cloudpresenter
Post by
Matt Francis
Last updated :
May 7, 2024
 | 20 min read

Roundtable conversations are helpful in various settings, from academic discussions to community engagements. Organizations with a participative leadership style also use roundtable discussions to promote the free flow of ideas and ensure that everyone feels like they are part of the group. 

However, properly handling these discussions can prevent them from becoming unproductive, time-wasting, and chaotic. Hence, this article will give you several tips on how to do that. 

What is a roundtable discussion, and how do they work?

A roundtable discussion is a cooperative gathering in which each person has an equal chance to contribute to the topic discussion. Usually, a lead facilitator or moderator keeps everyone on topic and maintains the group's focus. The moderator is ideally a subject matter or industry expert, while other participants can be speakers, celebrities, coworkers, different experts, or just regular people interested in the subject. 

There is no set format for a roundtable discussion for roundtable discussions. Many roundtable discussions have a 30-60 minute agenda, while others might operate without a predetermined schedule. The facilitator can prepare a brief with essential topics or discussion starters, or the group can discuss a central topic or related issues.

Six simple steps to host a successful roundtable discussion

Roundtables can be great for your brands if you understand the procedures you must follow to make them successful. Here are some steps on how you can do that:

Define your goals for the round table discussion

If you're holding a corporate event of any type, set an objective that benefits the company and is consistent with messaging from ongoing marketing initiatives.

For instance, tire manufacturers that wish to attract stay-at-home mothers can think about using their present taglines or advertising to spark roundtable discussions. The goal is to connect the links between business, marketing, and event goals to generate the most effective roundtable discussion topics.

Choose the best format for a professional roundtable discussion 

Virtual event conversations or panel discussions can happen in person, virtually, and in the CEO format. Each group discussion style has its advantages and challenges:

  • In-person Roundtable Discussions are great for physical networking but restrict participation to those who are local or can travel to the venue.

  • Virtual Roundtable Discussions are convenient but require additional planning to prevent awkward conversations and distracting technological glitches.

  • CEO Roundtable Discussions often feature speakers who all operate or control significant businesses. They are usually held once a month and feature a rotating selection of industry themes to choose from. This type of roundtable discussion is typically part of a series, so they need more work to host an engaging discussion effectively for potential guests.

You want to weigh the pros and cons and choose the best format to host a roundtable discussion that suits the audience members' interests. 

Choose a moderator to Set the tone and keep the conversation flowing

Look for well-known moderators in your field with extensive knowledge of the selected topics and industry trends. Remember that even if someone is recognized, it only sometimes means they are knowledgeable or capable of hosting roundtable meetings. 

Pick a moderator with credentials, such as previous work with well-known brands in your industry or recognition from publications like books or reputable podcasts.

Make sure your moderator is willing to conduct or read your notes on the required background study for the speakers, the topic, and the audience before you officially confirm their role. To find the ideal host for your successful event, search inside your organization and reach out to social media contacts and speakers from previous industry conferences.

Select subject matter experts to run a roundtable discussion 

Make the event experience relevant to your audience's background by looking for speakers with varying experiences; this will ensure you get diverse ideas. As a general rule, you should hire at least three experts who have distinct points of view or areas of expertise.

If your roundtable discussion concerns a hot topic or hotly debated one, select at least two people who will represent both extremes of a given spectrum and one who falls somewhere in the center or offers a wildcard in terms of experience.

Draft an agenda

You can structure your roundtable conversation by drafting an agenda. The following is an example of a generic structure:

  • Set the mood for the event and greet the audience in the first two to five minutes of the introduction.

  • Name any sponsors or partners of the event and reiterate the panel's title.

  • Provide the name, profession, and a brief explanation of each panelist's area of expertise. Ask the moderator to provide their credentials and introduce themselves as well.

  • Next, in no more than five minutes, introduce the event's subject and offer compelling data, figures, or anecdotes that highlight its significance. Consider the viewpoint of your readers as you write this part.

  • Before going into the discussion, briefly go over the subject's essentials. Then, divide the time left by the number of questions you want to ask.

  • Sort the questions into the same order as a well-written story: Establish the scene, explain the issue, provide answers, and close with a powerful statement.

Finally, have a two-minute wrap-up to thank the attendees and participants. Include a compelling call to action, such as subscribing to your email newsletter to get invitations to the following events or pursuing speakers on social media.  

Capture marketing assets

You can make the most of your roundtable by converting it into lasting marketing collateral to start meaningful conversations with potential customers. For the enjoyment of deaf viewers, transcribe the audio. Depending on the roundtable format or type of discussion you're hosting, you should consider posting the next discussion on your blog to help your keyword strategy or inbound marketing.

Use information from online roundtable discussions to gain deeper insight into your target demographic. Get email newsletter subscribers and disseminate exclusive offers for goods and services. Record the roundtable conversation and post it to your website, YouTube channel, or social media accounts.

Conclusion

Running a successful roundtable discussion is a challenging feat but worth the effort. By following the tips and tricks in this article, you'll be well on your way to leading productive and engaging roundtables. Remember to keep things focused, create a safe space for sharing ideas, and be flexible and adaptable. With these strategies, you'll be a roundtable expert in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of seating arrangement is ideal for a roundtable discussion?

If the meeting involves a lot of collaboration or workgroups, crescent-round or cabaret-style seating is appropriate. This seating arrangement encourages discussion and allows guests to engage with one another easily.

What platform should I use to host a virtual roundtable discussion?

The best platform for your virtual roundtable depends on features, size, and budget. Popular options include Zoom, Teams, and Webex.

How can I capture the key takeaways from the roundtable discussion?

Maintain a dynamic flow by using time wisely and modifying the discussion format as appropriate. Capture essential discussion points using expert note-taking or recording techniques, ensuring a complete record of thoughts.

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virtual events, hybrid events and webinar platform - cloudpresenter
May 7, 2024
How to run a successful roundtable discussion
Explore the process of organizing a successful roundtable discussion, whether in-person or virtual, with six straightforward steps for flawless execution.
Matt Francis
Founder

Table of Contents

Roundtable conversations are helpful in various settings, from academic discussions to community engagements. Organizations with a participative leadership style also use roundtable discussions to promote the free flow of ideas and ensure that everyone feels like they are part of the group. 

However, properly handling these discussions can prevent them from becoming unproductive, time-wasting, and chaotic. Hence, this article will give you several tips on how to do that. 

What is a roundtable discussion, and how do they work?

A roundtable discussion is a cooperative gathering in which each person has an equal chance to contribute to the topic discussion. Usually, a lead facilitator or moderator keeps everyone on topic and maintains the group's focus. The moderator is ideally a subject matter or industry expert, while other participants can be speakers, celebrities, coworkers, different experts, or just regular people interested in the subject. 

There is no set format for a roundtable discussion for roundtable discussions. Many roundtable discussions have a 30-60 minute agenda, while others might operate without a predetermined schedule. The facilitator can prepare a brief with essential topics or discussion starters, or the group can discuss a central topic or related issues.

Six simple steps to host a successful roundtable discussion

Roundtables can be great for your brands if you understand the procedures you must follow to make them successful. Here are some steps on how you can do that:

Define your goals for the round table discussion

If you're holding a corporate event of any type, set an objective that benefits the company and is consistent with messaging from ongoing marketing initiatives.

For instance, tire manufacturers that wish to attract stay-at-home mothers can think about using their present taglines or advertising to spark roundtable discussions. The goal is to connect the links between business, marketing, and event goals to generate the most effective roundtable discussion topics.

Choose the best format for a professional roundtable discussion 

Virtual event conversations or panel discussions can happen in person, virtually, and in the CEO format. Each group discussion style has its advantages and challenges:

  • In-person Roundtable Discussions are great for physical networking but restrict participation to those who are local or can travel to the venue.

  • Virtual Roundtable Discussions are convenient but require additional planning to prevent awkward conversations and distracting technological glitches.

  • CEO Roundtable Discussions often feature speakers who all operate or control significant businesses. They are usually held once a month and feature a rotating selection of industry themes to choose from. This type of roundtable discussion is typically part of a series, so they need more work to host an engaging discussion effectively for potential guests.

You want to weigh the pros and cons and choose the best format to host a roundtable discussion that suits the audience members' interests. 

Choose a moderator to Set the tone and keep the conversation flowing

Look for well-known moderators in your field with extensive knowledge of the selected topics and industry trends. Remember that even if someone is recognized, it only sometimes means they are knowledgeable or capable of hosting roundtable meetings. 

Pick a moderator with credentials, such as previous work with well-known brands in your industry or recognition from publications like books or reputable podcasts.

Make sure your moderator is willing to conduct or read your notes on the required background study for the speakers, the topic, and the audience before you officially confirm their role. To find the ideal host for your successful event, search inside your organization and reach out to social media contacts and speakers from previous industry conferences.

Select subject matter experts to run a roundtable discussion 

Make the event experience relevant to your audience's background by looking for speakers with varying experiences; this will ensure you get diverse ideas. As a general rule, you should hire at least three experts who have distinct points of view or areas of expertise.

If your roundtable discussion concerns a hot topic or hotly debated one, select at least two people who will represent both extremes of a given spectrum and one who falls somewhere in the center or offers a wildcard in terms of experience.

Draft an agenda

You can structure your roundtable conversation by drafting an agenda. The following is an example of a generic structure:

  • Set the mood for the event and greet the audience in the first two to five minutes of the introduction.

  • Name any sponsors or partners of the event and reiterate the panel's title.

  • Provide the name, profession, and a brief explanation of each panelist's area of expertise. Ask the moderator to provide their credentials and introduce themselves as well.

  • Next, in no more than five minutes, introduce the event's subject and offer compelling data, figures, or anecdotes that highlight its significance. Consider the viewpoint of your readers as you write this part.

  • Before going into the discussion, briefly go over the subject's essentials. Then, divide the time left by the number of questions you want to ask.

  • Sort the questions into the same order as a well-written story: Establish the scene, explain the issue, provide answers, and close with a powerful statement.

Finally, have a two-minute wrap-up to thank the attendees and participants. Include a compelling call to action, such as subscribing to your email newsletter to get invitations to the following events or pursuing speakers on social media.  

Capture marketing assets

You can make the most of your roundtable by converting it into lasting marketing collateral to start meaningful conversations with potential customers. For the enjoyment of deaf viewers, transcribe the audio. Depending on the roundtable format or type of discussion you're hosting, you should consider posting the next discussion on your blog to help your keyword strategy or inbound marketing.

Use information from online roundtable discussions to gain deeper insight into your target demographic. Get email newsletter subscribers and disseminate exclusive offers for goods and services. Record the roundtable conversation and post it to your website, YouTube channel, or social media accounts.

Conclusion

Running a successful roundtable discussion is a challenging feat but worth the effort. By following the tips and tricks in this article, you'll be well on your way to leading productive and engaging roundtables. Remember to keep things focused, create a safe space for sharing ideas, and be flexible and adaptable. With these strategies, you'll be a roundtable expert in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of seating arrangement is ideal for a roundtable discussion?

If the meeting involves a lot of collaboration or workgroups, crescent-round or cabaret-style seating is appropriate. This seating arrangement encourages discussion and allows guests to engage with one another easily.

What platform should I use to host a virtual roundtable discussion?

The best platform for your virtual roundtable depends on features, size, and budget. Popular options include Zoom, Teams, and Webex.

How can I capture the key takeaways from the roundtable discussion?

Maintain a dynamic flow by using time wisely and modifying the discussion format as appropriate. Capture essential discussion points using expert note-taking or recording techniques, ensuring a complete record of thoughts.

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