Unlocking the Power of Roundtable Discussions: Tips, Benefits, and Best Practices

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Conversations over a round table discussion give attendees a better understanding of the different points of view on a certain topic. This blog post contains everything you need to run a successful event for your audience.

What is a Roundtable Discussion

Roundtable discussions are events that involve different participants discussing and exchanging ideas about a chosen topic. Just like how participants face one another when seated at a round table, a roundtable discussion allows open dialogue with everyone participating. 

Roundtable discussions can be used in different industries like startups, healthcare, academia, government and policy, technology, media, and more. 

The Purpose of Roundtable Discussions

The purpose of a roundtable discussion is for potential guests to learn from different perspectives and have constructive conversations with other participants. Roundtable discussion topics can be used as a means to find innovative solutions to complex problems by gathering diverse perspectives. 

Furthermore, hearing insights from someone who has faced a particular issue can be more useful than just reading about it in books.

Depending on the objectives of your roundtable discussion, organizers gather a small group of around 7 to 15 people. This size allows for meaningful and inclusive interactions, where everyone has an opportunity to contribute their insights and engage in the conversation.

Larger groups might make it challenging to maintain a balanced and focused discussion, while smaller groups can facilitate more in-depth exchanges. 

However, the ideal number of participants can also depend on factors such as the complexity of the topic, the time available, and the dynamics of the group.

Benefits of a Roundtable Discussion

Networking Opportunities 

An event planner gathers participants who are in the same field. Because the roundtable format and discussions allow for deeper conversations, attendees have the chance to connect with others who share similar interests, challenges, or goals. These connections are often more genuine and lasting than those formed in larger networking events.

Active Engagement 

Unlike other corporate events, a roundtable discussion requires constant participation among participants.  The inherent structure of roundtable discussions encourages an environment where individuals are not mere spectators but enthusiastic contributors.

When participants are actively participating, the more likely they are to feel included and involved in your organization. 

Potential Marketing Opportunities

Roundtable discussions can be an initial event to build a community for your brand. Because roundtable discussions are generally neutral events, it is easier to attract attendees for them. As event planners, you can continue to nurture the participants into a community and offer your solutions when appropriate. 

Skill Development

Participants develop communication skills when participating in a conversation. During the event, participants train to think on their feet to share their insights. Additionally, they practice their problem-solving skills and empathy as they try to solve the problem discussed. 

Types of Roundtable Discussion

Roundtable discussions come in various formats, each tailored to different objectives, industries, and participant dynamics.

Business Roundtable

A business or professional roundtable occurs within a professional context, often at conferences, seminars, or workshops. Experts, thought leaders, or business people in a particular field lead the conversation.

Participants engage in in-depth discussions about industry trends, challenges, and innovations. Professional roundtables facilitate networking, knowledge exchange, and the exploration of emerging ideas.

Policy Roundtable

A policy roundtable is a structured forum that convenes experts, stakeholders, policymakers, and individuals with vested interests to engage in in-depth discussions about specific policy issues. 

Academic Roundtable

An academic roundtable is conducted among participants in the educational sphere. An academic discussion fosters intellectual exploration, encourages cross-disciplinary dialogue, and promotes the sharing of cutting-edge research. 

Academic roundtables provide a unique opportunity to focus on the complexities of subjects, uncover new perspectives, and spark innovative ideas. 

Community Roundtable

A Community Roundtable is conducted to invite people to discuss pressing issues surrounding the community. Topics include local environmental sustainability, community safety, health and wellness initiatives, fundraising efforts, and more.

Virtual Roundtable Discussions

A virtual roundtable discussion is a convenient way to facilitate a discussion that reaches more people with no space limits. However, the challenge when it comes to facilitating a virtual roundtable discussion is keeping participants engaged. Audience members today have short attention spans and event planners have to compete with lots of distractions online.

Furthermore, connecting with people through a screen does not come naturally for participants. This is the reason why a moderator should constantly make an intentional effort to be vulnerable, relatable, and engaging to attendees.

Healthcare Roundtable

Health is a topic that is filled with questions. Health professionals or hospitals can host roundtable discussions on a specific health concern that is open to the public. Audience members can attend to ask questions similar to a health consultation during checkups. 

Problem-Solving Roundtable Discussion

A problem-solving roundtable discussion is not limited to any industry. Event planners can organize this type of discussion for different organizations. A moderator will simply present a scenario or challenge while participants can engage in brainstorming and collaborating for a potential solution.

Key Elements of a Roundtable Discussion

If you’re ready to start planning for your roundtable discussion, here are the elements you have to consider. 

Clear Objectives 

To host a successful roundtable discussion, event planners must come up with a clear objective and direction. The objective can serve as a guide for the moderator to stir the group discussion. Well-defined objectives help the audience understand the purpose of their participation.

When the audience knows what is expected of them, they can contribute more meaningfully, sharing relevant insights, experiences, and expertise related to the objectives.

Right Participants

Having the right participants as part of the roundtable can determine the success of your discussion. Ideally, participants should be active listeners and credible in the specific topic of discussion.

Participants who are well-prepared and knowledgeable about the topic contribute to the overall quality of the discussion. They can engage in meaningful exchanges, ask thoughtful questions, and provide well-reasoned arguments.

Engaging Talking Points

A good indicator of a successful roundtable is well-engaged audience members. When talking points are thought-provoking and relevant, participants are more likely to share their insights, opinions, and experiences. Engaging topics create a sense of relevance and ownership among the audience, motivating them to speak up.

Effective Moderator

A moderator sets the tone for the roundtable discussion.  Different personalities and communication styles of speakers can affect group dynamics. A skilled moderator navigates these dynamics, ensuring that the discussion remains productive and respectful.

Open Communication

Moderators and organizers can set the ground rules to help facilitate conversation for attendees. For a discussion to be productive, each participant must be willing to have open communication with each other and listen to different points of view. 

To foster participant comfort, moderators can establish a nondisclosure agreement, ensuring that all discussion points remain confidential within the round table.

How to Host a Roundtable Discussion (Step by Step)

This section talks about the step-by-step process of how to set up a roundtable discussion for your organization to reach your event goals. Whatever industry you’re in, you can follow the steps as a reference. 

Roundtable Discussion

Step 1 – Define the Objectives

The objective will serve as the guiding framework for the discussion topics. Is it for brainstorming? Does your group have a specific problem to solve? Will a certain trend be evaluated? Are you confronting a certain issue?

When you have objectives clearly defined, facilitators can pattern the discussion topics that can meet the set of objectives.

It is also important to note the different needs of the participants to choose relevant topics that interest them.

Step 2 – Identify your audience

The next step is identifying your ideal audience or participants. If you’re hosting an open or virtual roundtable discussion, you can filter the profiles of participants that can create a diverse group of audience and discussion. 

A tip for getting people to participate is to highlight the participants who confirmed to attend the discussion. People will be more likely to attend when they know that they can engage in a discussion with an industry leader or expert individual. 

If you’re hosting a community roundtable discussion, invite relevant stakeholders like community members, residents, government representatives, local businesses, and more. 

Step 3 –  Set the Date, Time, and Location 

The next step is to settle all the logistical concerns for the event. Choose an appropriate date, time, and location for your target participants. 

Consider audience availability, time of day, location and accessibility of participants, and more. Another thing to consider is the sweet spot of the duration of your discussion. The ideal duration of a roundtable discussion spans from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the discussion topic and number of participants.

Step 4 –  Create a catchy event name

Attract more participants to your roundtable discussion by drawing curiosity among your target attendees. A catchy event name has the ability to captivate attendees, spark curiosity, and set the tone for your program. Furthermore, it is easier to promote your event on social media when your event name immediately resonates with your target audience. 

Step 5 – Create a program

While the majority of the program of a roundtable discussion is composed of the actual discussion, creating a program can be a big help for facilitators. 

The event program can consist of icebreaker activities, a short introduction of the participants, opening remarks and the presentation of the different points, and alignment of the overall objectives of the gathering.  

Step 6 – Send Invites 

Once you have the program and dates set, it is time to open up seats and send invites to participants. Make a credible site that contains all the information about the roundtable discussion with platforms like Event Smart and Event Espresso.

For discussions that are open to the public, you can open up several paid seats for them to participate.

Additionally, roundtable discussions can even serve as a business model for some organizations. Businesses can sell membership-type seats to gain access to monthly roundtable conversations with prominent industry experts or leaders. 

Event Smart and Event Espresso have features that can cater to any needs that your roundtable discussion might require.

Step 7 – Facilitate the Roundtable Discussion

The next step is to facilitate the roundtable discussion and make the event happen. Support the facilitator for anything that they may need during the event. For virtual roundtable discussions, select a reliable platform that can support all the features you need.

Stick to the time allotted for each agenda item on the program. Use gentle cues to keep the conversation moving and prevent any one topic from dominating the group discussion.

Step 8 – Summarize talking points

End the roundtable discussion with a summary of the talking points discussed. Compile all the highlights and quotable quotes mentioned in the discussion and offer to send a copy to the participants. 

Step 9 – Nurture the Community

Don’t end the interaction after the discussion. Send event confirmation emails or even thank you messages or gifts to participants to establish bonds. Show your sincerity to improve by sending a survey questionnaire

Gather all the feedback from participants and take note of pointers you can apply for your next discussion event. 

Sample Roundtable Discussion Format

To help guide event planners like you for your roundtable discussion, here is a format you can use as a guide. 




Introduction (10 minutes)

  • Welcome and introduction by the moderator
  • A brief explanation of the purpose and objectives of the discussion
  • Introductions of participants

Icebreaker Activity (15 minutes)

  • Choose an activity that is related to your topic and the demographics of your participants

Opening Remarks (10 minutes)

  • Introduce the purpose of your event

Panel Discussions (30 minutes) 

  • The moderator introduces panelists representing different community organizations and initiatives.
  • Let panelists lead the panel discussion with the discussion points

Break (10 minutes)

Breakout Group Discussions (30 minutes)

  • Custom your questions that are relevant and appropriate to your participants

Group Sharing and Synthesis (20 minutes)

  • Present the discussion points to start the open discussion

Closing Remarks and Action Steps (10 minutes)

Networking and Social Time (10 minutes)

Conclusion and Thank You Messages (5 minutes)

Create an event site for your Roundtable Discussions

Roundtable discussions are great avenues to build or engage your community. Impress your attendees with a professional event site for your roundtable discussions. Platforms like Event Espresso and Event Smart offer $0 commission fees on an unlimited number of tickets sold. 

Customize your event confirmation emails, and registration forms, sell multiple event ticket types, and more. Get a free demo or a 14-day free trial now. 

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