Roundtable Discussion Format: How to Run a Successful Roundtable Meeting

Roundtables are great for networking, collaborating, and creating meaningful connections between professionals. But hosting a roundtable event can seem like an overwhelming task. As an event planner, you want to ensure your attendees have meaningful conversations. To do so, you need a proper roundtable discussion format.

Luckily, we’re here to help. With 30+ years of event planning experience, we’d like to think we know a thing or two.

And we believe every event planner should be able to host a successful roundtable. With or without utilizing our matching software.

So, we’ve created a roundtable discussion format guide. In it, you’ll find all the tips + tricks for facilitating an energizing and impactful event.

Room setup:

Tables: Hence the name roundtables, you should quite literally use round tables. Sitting in a circle ensures everyone feels involved and engaged in the conversation. We recommend seating between 5-8 people per table, depending on table size.

Audio: We suggest using a wireless microphone (with speakers) for the facilitator. This way, you are able to walk around the room and manage the event, all while on the move.

Timer Screens: Typically, we don’t recommend incorporating any sort of timer screens. They tend to take away from the conversations. Rather than focusing on what’s being said, they’re focusing on how much time is left.

It also gives you more control and flexibility over the session when you can adjust the timing as needed. For example, if you want to extend one round by a minute or cut another round short, you can! The participants won’t even notice the difference.

Facilitation Tips:

Discussion Topics: This is arguably the most important part of hosting a roundtable. The best way to decide on discussion topics is to go straight to the source: the attendees. Rather than trying to guess what they want to talk about, just ask them!

When they register for the event, you should be collecting data about them. Collect information about their industry, areas of interest, geographical location, job title, etc.

We also recommend asking them to submit one discussion topic for consideration. Note that topics with the highest relevancy or frequency will likely be chosen. Or, you can come up with a starter list of topics and have them specify which topics they are or aren’t interested in.

Grouping Participants: You need to strategically seat attendees. While this might sound like a headache of manual manipulation within excel, it doesn’t have to be. Our software can create strategic seating assignments at the touch of the button. How? With the data collected at registration.

This way, you can:

  • group attendees who share similar interests
  • group attendees by industry or roles
  • group attendees from the same geographic regions

Moderating: As the moderator, it’s extremely important that you set the tone from the start. As soon as everyone has arrived, provide clear instructions/expectations about the event. Give your attendees a general idea of how the event will work and what to expect. This should last no more than 10 minutes.

To start the discussions, have everyone quickly introduce themselves in a few sentences. Once everyone has met, you’re ready to introduce the discussion topics. Read the discussion topic/question and let them know how much time they’ll have to discuss. You can put the topic on a screen or pass out a piece of paper with a list of discussion topics.

As the time comes to a close, give a 30-second warning to wrap up the conversations. Continue to do so for each round thereafter.

Wrap-up: After the last discussion topic, wrap-up the event with closing announcements. Remind your attendees to follow-up and keep in contact with their new connections. This is key to continuing to build upon the relationships. It’s a good idea to encourage personal outreach rather than copy & pasting the same email to every person.

And those are the basics! Now you know how all about roundtable discussion formats.

If after reading this, you don’t feel up to facilitating, we’re happy to help! We assist with registration, room set-up, seat assignments, and more.

Simply schedule a free consultation to learn more about our program.

Happy networking!