Business leaders worldwide turn to roundtable discussions to determine the most effective solutions to the challenges they face. Discussing key insights with like-minded peers enables them to explore new perspectives in addressing the concerns of their respective businesses and their industries in general.
Roundtable hosts often find themselves committing these mistakes when organising their events. Take a look at these key best practices in effectively facilitating roundtable discussions.
1. Engaging with guests pre-event
DON’T: Just send attendance confirmation responses.
DO: Ask about their business’s challenges and goals.
Once you’ve finalised your guest list, ensure that you keep in touch with them throughout the lead-up to your event. Simply sending emails thanking them for confirming their attendance isn’t enough to let them know you’re looking forward to hosting them.
Pre-event engagements are crucial in two ways. First, constant communication with your participants guarantees that they’ll definitely attend your roundtable. During the lead-up, you can send them one or two emails about the event, such as the details of your selected venue or previews of the discussion topic. These messages are sure to pique your participants’ interest further (and maybe even get them to share your event with their peers).
Second, pre-event engagements are an effective way to gauge the direction and flow of your roundtable discussion. Providing your participants with a pre-event survey on their business challenges and goals can help you forecast which subtopics can be highlighted during the conversation. This survey can also allow you to determine whether your participants may connect with you or other members of the group after the event.
“Dialogue among top-level executives is not the only element that makes an Ortus experience thought-provoking.”
2. Deciding on a topic
DON’T: Provide a topic that’s either too broad or too narrow.
DO: Establish three subtopics that adequately cover your discussion.
Curating topics can be challenging for roundtable organisers, especially if their participants are highly discriminating when it comes to discussing critical issues in their respective industries. Topics that are too broad may lead to too many segues, and topics that are too narrow may prevent your participants from sharing more comprehensive insights.
A rule of thumb you can follow is to select three subtopics that can serve as a guide for your roundtable discussion. These subtopics can be based on the objective and rationale of your event, thus limiting the discussion to just the most pertinent details. This is precisely why it’s important to acquaint yourself with the backgrounds of your participants and their respective organisations or industries.
Your pre-event surveys can also aid you in selecting or amending subtopics. Knowing what your participants are most interested in discussing is critical in ensuring that the conversation does not stray too far from the matters at hand. Here’s a good example of an effectively curated topic, which was discussed in one of the many successful roundtables organised by The Ortus Club last September.
3. Guiding the discussion
DON’T: Let the conversation run longer than the allotted time.
DO: Invite a moderator to ensure the discussion concludes on time.
Going beyond the allotted time for an event is a roundtable pitfall that’s closely related to curating topics. However, even if you’ve determined the right subtopics for your discussion, you may not be able to help it if your participants become too enthusiastic about sharing their insights on your selected topic.
To ensure that your discussion does not run longer than expected, you must invite a moderator who can guide the flow and direction of your participants’ conversation. Ensure that your chosen moderator is equipped with enough knowledge on the topic at hand to know if the discussion’s veering off course.
Effective moderators also have to be sufficiently mindful of how long each participant shares during the discussion. As host, one of your responsibilities is reminding your moderators to provide all participants with the same amount of talk time during the discussion. Doing so will guarantee that your roundtable not only runs smoothly but also concludes on time.
4. Interacting with the participants
DON’T: Rely too heavily on slide presentations.
DO: Integrate live illustrations into your discussion.
Research has shown that people absorb and retain new information more effectively through the use of visual aids. While that may be the case, it’s simply not enough to include more graphics in your slides. Doing so may only render your presentation too lengthy and too overwhelming for your participants.
Instead of projecting a slide presentation during your roundtable, you can opt to present a live illustration of the insights shared by your participants. Not only are live illustrations an effective way to filter and organise ideas discussed during your event. They also enable your participants to engage in the conversation in a more interactive and entertaining way.
You need not look far for an illustrator who can provide your participants with this exciting experience. Ortus Draws features some of the best artists in the knowledge-sharing space. These talented illustrators can enliven any roundtable discussion by masterfully visualising your participants’ insights in real time.
5. Wrapping up the event
DON’T: Ask your guests to leave immediately after the event.
DO: Encourage them to stay for quick post-discussion socials.
The conclusion of your discussion is not and should never be the conclusion of your entire event. While your guests choose to attend your roundtables to share and gain new business insights, they also choose to stay to discover new peers with whom they can connect and build professional relationships.
Post-discussion socials are a great way for you and your participants to expand your professional networks. Discovering new ideas together fosters deep respect and camaraderie among roundtable attendees. This is why you must allot around 20-30 minutes after the discussion to allow your participants to go around the room and acquaint themselves with the other members of a group in a more personal way.
Considering that successful roundtables must be pitch-free, these socials also allow your participants to interact with you and learn more about your organisation. This way, you can also welcome them to attend more of your events—even welcome them to find out more about the services you offer.
Are you interested in learning more about facilitating roundtable discussions effectively? Reach out to The Ortus Club today. Their vast experience in organising in-person and virtual knowledge-sharing experiences has enriched the professional lives of thousands of executives worldwide. Find out how you can host your next virtual event here.