An Expert Guide on How to Run a Successful Roundtable Event

A roundtable event holds the potential to be a powerhouse of knowledge exchange and networking. However, the journey from conceptualising such a roundtable discussion to executing it successfully is paved with numerous challenges and considerations.

This article explains the intricate nuances of organising a roundtable discussion event that meets and exceeds expectations. Read on to learn how to successfully run a roundtable event that fosters community innovation and collaboration.

What are roundtable events?

Roundtable events are interactive gatherings focusing on a specific topic or issue. They allow for equal participation and exchanging ideas, insights, and solutions. Roundtable discussions are popular in business, academic, and policy-making settings, promoting networking and in-depth dialogue in a supportive and collaborative environment.

Who attends roundtable discussions?

Roundtable discussions attract diverse participants, including industry experts, professionals, academics, policymakers, and stakeholders interested in the topic.

Roundtable event attendees are often leaders in their respective fields, looking to share knowledge, debate issues, and collaborate on solutions. The inclusive format encourages active participation from all attendees, making it a valuable opportunity for networking, learning, and influencing decision-making in their areas of expertise.

event marketer's playbook

Strengthen your marketing strategies by learning executive insights from industry leaders from the APAC and North American regions with The 2024 Event Marketer's Playbook!

What are the benefits of roundtable events?

In the dynamic professional development and industry collaboration, roundtable events are a beacon of innovation, networking, and strategic growth. The section below discusses the core advantages of roundtable discussions

Break down hierarchies

In roundtable events, the traditional barriers between seniority levels dissolve, creating a democratic platform for dialogue. This unique setup encourages open and honest exchanges, allowing ideas to flow freely from all participants, irrespective of their position.

Build brand image and reputation

By actively engaging in roundtable discussions, you position yourself and your organisation as thought leaders in your industry. These events showcase your expertise, innovative ideas, and commitment to industry advancement, enhancing your credibility towards peers, clients, and potential collaborators.

Network with peers

In 2023, budget and travel restrictions are cited to be one of the most prominent challenges marketers face worldwide in terms of networking. Thankfully, event marketers have leveraged new platforms and innovated new tools to connect leaders around the globe. Engaging in meaningful discussions about shared challenges and interests lays the foundation for mutually beneficial professional relationships. Roundtable events transcend traditional networking, offering a more substantive exchange of ideas and perspectives. This environment facilitates deeper connections with industry peers beyond mere acquaintance.

Explore lead generation and business opportunities

Hosting and participating in roundtable discussions opens doors to new business opportunities and leads. The engaging atmosphere allows you to identify potential clients or partners who share your vision and goals, potentially leading to collaborative opportunities in the future.

Broaden perspectives

Exposure to a wide range of viewpoints at roundtable events challenges you to think beyond your usual parameters. This diversity of thought can spark new ideas, refine your strategies, and deepen your understanding of industry trends and challenges to stay adaptive and innovative in a rapidly changing market.

Collaborate on market research and insights

Engaging with a collective of professionals during roundtable discussions provides access to shared market research and insights. This collaboration offers a comprehensive view of industry trends, consumer behaviour, and emerging challenges that would take much work to achieve independently.

Assist problem-solving and innovation

The collaborative and egalitarian setup of roundtable events is ideal for brainstorming and problem-solving. Bringing together diverse minds to tackle industry challenges fosters innovative thinking and creative solutions to more effective outcomes and accelerates innovation within your industry.

How to plan a roundtable event: 5 Step event planning guide

Planning a roundtable event requires careful thought and strategic organisation to ensure it meets its objectives and leaves a lasting impact on the participants. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the planning process:

Define your roundtable event goal

Reports show that 80% of event marketers today create more purposeful experiences than they did 2-5 years ago. Whether it is exploring new business opportunities or addressing a specific challenge, having a clear goal will guide every decision to make the roundtable valuable and insightful as can be for you and your guests. Start by defining the purpose of your roundtable event to ensure that the discussion remains focused and delivers value to everyone involved. What do you aim to achieve?

Create the right agenda

Crafting the right agenda that facilitates a flow of conversation and engages participants is crucial for the success of your roundtable discussion. It should be structured yet flexible enough to allow for spontaneous discussion and deep dives into topics of interest. Start with an overview of the subjects you plan to cover, and allocate time for introductions, discussions, Q&A sessions, and networking breaks.

Curate your guest list

The value of a roundtable discussion lies in its participants’ diversity and expertise to stimulate meaningful discussions and foster new connections. Curate your guest list with individuals who bring varied perspectives and knowledge to the conversation. Look for thought leaders, influencers, and practitioners in your field who are known for their contributions and insights.

Follow-up after the event

The conversation doesn’t end when the event does. Follow-up is essential for maintaining the momentum generated during your roundtable. Send all participants a summary of the discussion, key insights, and any agreed-upon action items. Following up reinforces the event’s value and lays the groundwork for future collaboration and engagement with your participants.

Roundtable discussion mistakes you should know

With their unique format and collaborative nature, roundtable discussions offer valuable opportunities for in-depth exploration and problem-solving. However, it’s crucial to be aware of certain common mistakes to ensure these discussions are effective and productive. Here are some roundtable event mistakes to keep in mind:

Being too focused on a subject

While it would be a good start to tackle the main topic immediately, the discussion should be encouraged to flow from one relevant point to another. Yes and no questions would quickly end the debate, cutting short the natural flow of conversation during a roundtable discussion.

One way to counter this common roundtable discussion mistake is always to ensure that the questions regarding the topic are open-ended. Here are some questions you can consider to engage your roundtable discussion attendees:

    • What challenges are your organisation currently facing?
    • What steps are the organisation taking to fix these challenges?
    • What alternatives do you have if your current solutions don’t work?

The wedding list dilemma

It’s easy to get carried away when choosing the invitees. One tip organisers should remember is quality over quantity, which applies when creating the guestlist for your roundtables. The mindset of “having more attendees equals a more successful event” is another one of those common roundtable discussion mistakes.

A big group can intimidate guests, especially those uncomfortable speaking in front of a huge crowd. Prevent this issue by inviting those who would contribute value to the group and who can provide a unique perspective regarding the topic.

Neglecting pre-event engagements

You may think that a simple “hello” would suffice. But it would make a more significant impact if you engaged with your guests more about something related to the industry or what led them to join the roundtable discussion. Doing so creates a positive first impression for you as an organiser and makes guests feel that their contributions are valued during the roundtable discussion.

If you’re uncomfortable initiating the first move, classic conversation starters like small talk would do great. If you want to get into it quickly, start with a relevant topic to get the conversation flowing.

5 tips for planning a successful roundtable event

Planning a successful roundtable event is an art that combines strategic foresight with meticulous attention to detail. In the following section, we’ll unveil five essential tips designed to guide you through the complexities of planning a roundtable event to create a memorable and impactful gathering that resonates with all participants.

How to select a roundtable discussion topic

Your roundtable discussion topic is the difference between a vibrant, engaging discourse enlightening participants and a directionless chat struggling to find its footing. Here are some questions you can ask when choosing a roundtable topic that achieves your business objectives:

    • What do you hope to accomplish with your roundtable?
    • What exactly do you want to address?
    • Is it a relevant issue today?
    • Can organisations contribute insights regarding the issue?
    • Is it something worth setting time for?

How to moderate roundtable events

A moderator plays a pivotal role in overseeing, guiding, and managing interactions to ensure that the discussion or activity remains productive and civil. Although each moderator has a different style and approach, one thing is certain: the most discerning qualities bring out the most valuable conversations in our guests and make roundtable discussion events constructive and valuable.

In-person roundtable events

Moderators must remember that the entire room is their stage. When speaking at a venue, maintain eye contact and maximise the available space. A quick check-in can create a world of wonder, especially with large audiences needing more help staying engaged.

As the moderator, you should be doing the least amount of talking. Give your guests as many chances as possible to speak. Conduct research beforehand on who will participate to identify how they can connect to the topic and draw unique insights.

Virtual roundtable events

It is difficult to read the room when you have no idea who your guests are. Guests often come from diverse sectors and backgrounds, and it will be easier to find common themes for them to discuss if you are more familiar with their profiles.

Remember that making the virtual event more about them than you would make it more worthwhile. Knowing the participants’ roles and responsibilities and the companies they joined throughout their careers can help you start a good conversation, ask more relevant questions, and maintain interest throughout the event.

How to make your roundtable event more engaging

Before each event, set the scene by sending all participants questions about the topics and themes that will be discussed. These questions can help your audience brainstorm before your virtual event and create intrigue about what will be discussed on the day. You can also put everyone in touch so the guests can get to know each other before the roundtable discussion for better networking opportunities.

Running an interactive poll is an excellent tool for getting each participant’s ideas without staying on one subtopic for too long. Using polls as short breaks during the event also allows you to adjust the tone or direction of the discussion, making it more of a flexible conversation rather than a rigid talk.

How to create networking opportunities during roundtables

Enhancing your roundtable event with dedicated networking sessions can significantly increase participant engagement. Incorporate structured time slots for attendees to engage in one-on-one discussions or small group conversations, allowing them to explore potential collaborations and share insights in a more personal setting.

Breakout sessions facilitate deeper connections by grouping participants with similar interests or challenges, encouraging meaningful exchanges and forming professional bonds.

How to nurture B2B relationships beyond the roundtable discussion

To extend the value of your roundtable event, focus on fostering ongoing B2B relationships. This can be achieved through organising follow-up activities such as targeted meetings, specialised webinars, or collaborative workshops that delve deeper into subjects touched upon during the roundtable.

Sharing tailored resources like industry reports, research findings, or articles related to the roundtable themes can also stimulate continued engagement. Creating a dedicated digital space for participants, such as an online forum or a private social media group, encourages a vibrant community where ongoing dialogue, resource exchange, and collaborative opportunities can flourish, turning one-time connections into lasting professional networks.

Grow roundtable discussion event success with The Ortus Club

The Ortus Club stands at the forefront of event marketing innovations, orchestrating premier networking gatherings for top-tier executives across diverse sectors. Our roundtable discussion offerings—a blend of virtual and face-to-face engagements—serve as conduits for forging strategic alliances, unlocking business opportunities, and engaging with industry visionaries.

Our meticulously curated events underscore the indispensability of event marketing in the contemporary business landscape. They emerge as quintessential platforms for nurturing relationships with prospective clients and collaborators. The Ortus Club’s events offer a seamless avenue for businesses aspiring to elevate their B2B marketing endeavours internationally. Message us today to get started in ensuring success for your roundtable discussions!