5 min read

How to Host a Roundtable Discussion in 8 Easy Steps

Written by
Len Gauger
Published on
January 15, 2024

A roundtable discussion sparks conversations with varying perspectives on a specific topic. Whether it's a professional conference, educational forum, or an annual professional association meeting, a well-organized roundtable engages event attendees and promotes dialogue. If you are wondering how to host successful roundtable discussion for attendees at your next event, we’ll show you how to do it step by step.

What is a Roundtable Discussion? 

A roundtable discussion is a collaborative, inclusive, and in-depth conversation between experts. Roundtables eliminate hierarchical structures, placing participants on equal footing and encouraging open dialogue. This setting promotes the exchange of diverse perspectives, ensuring that all voices are heard and valued. The circular arrangement facilitates eye contact, active listening, and a sense of unity, enhancing interpersonal connections.

Roundtable discussions are particularly effective for problem-solving, brainstorming, and generating innovative solutions as they leverage the collective intelligence of the group. Additionally, this format encourages participants to build on each other's ideas, leading to a richer understanding of the topics at hand. Overall, roundtable conversations play a vital role in cultivating a collaborative environment, driving engagement, and producing well-rounded insights that can contribute to informed decision-making and meaningful outcomes.

Step by Step Guide on Hosting a Roundtable Discussion

If you are planning to host a roundtable discussion, here are the steps you need to follow: 

1. Define the Purpose

Before planning your roundtable, clearly define the purpose and goals. Are you aiming to share knowledge, generate ideas, or promote networking? Understanding the objective will shape the structure and content of the discussion.

Next, you want to select relevant and compelling topics that align with the purpose of the roundtable. Ensure that the subjects are of interest to the participants and offer diverse perspectives. You can gather input from potential attendees or industry experts to refine the focus areas.

Finally, establish specific and measurable objectives for the roundtable. Clearly articulate what you hope to achieve, whether it's sparking innovation, addressing challenges, or fostering connections. Having well-defined objectives will guide the planning process and help participants understand the expected outcomes.

2. Plan the Logistics

Now that you have defined the purpose of the roundtable session, it's time to plan the logistics. Choose the appropriate format for your roundtable. Common formats include a single large table, multiple smaller tables, or a circular arrangement of chairs. Consider the number of participants and the level of interaction you want to facilitate.

When it comes to dates, you want to select a date and time that accommodates the availability of your target audience. Be mindful of potential conflicts with other events or holidays. Choose a duration that allows for in-depth discussions without causing fatigue. 

You should also carefully plan the seating arrangement to encourage interaction. If possible, seat participants in a circle or at tables with an open configuration. This fosters a sense of equality and inclusivity, promoting better engagement.

3. Establish Ground Rules

Define clear ground rules to guide the discussion. Rules might include respecting others' opinions, maintaining a focus on the topic, and ensuring everyone has an opportunity to speak. Communicate these rules at the beginning of the roundtable to set expectations.

4. Invite Participants and Promote the Event

Create a list of potential roundtable participants based on their expertise, relevance to the topic, and contribution potential. Consider a diverse mix of backgrounds and perspectives to enrich the discussion.

Craft personalized invitations that clearly outline the purpose of the roundtable, the topics to be discussed, and the benefits of participation. Include logistical details such as the date, time, and venue. Use multiple communication channels, such as email and social media, to reach your target audience.

Lastly, leverage various promotional channels to generate awareness about the roundtable. Utilize social media, newsletters, and relevant community groups to reach a wider audience. Create engaging content that highlights the value of the discussion and encourages participation.

You can find the best participants for a roundtable discussion using Connect Space’s event matchmaking feature

5. Prepare Discussion Materials

Create a list of discussion points or questions that align with the selected topics. Ensure that these points stimulate thoughtful conversations and encourage participants to share their insights. Prepare more questions than you anticipate needing to keep the discussion flowing.

If applicable, provide participants with pre-reading materials to familiarize them with the topics. This can include articles, reports, or key statistics related to the discussion. Pre-reading materials help level the playing field and ensure a more informed and productive conversation.

6. Facilitate Roundtable Discussion

Begin the roundtable with a warm welcome, briefly introducing the purpose, objectives, and format of the discussion. Set the tone for an inclusive and collaborative atmosphere. Initiate the discussion with a brief icebreaker activity to help participants feel comfortable and build connections. This could be a simple introduction round or a short team-building exercise.

Before delving into the main topics, introduce each participant briefly. Highlight their expertise and background to establish credibility and foster a sense of community.

7. Encourage Participation

Create an inclusive atmosphere where all participants feel comfortable expressing their opinions. Encourage diversity of thought and actively seek input from quieter participants to ensure a well-rounded discussion.

If the roundtable involves multiple tables, consider assigning facilitators or table leaders to guide discussions at each table. This ensures that every participant has the chance to contribute, and it allows for more focused conversations.

8. Conclude and Summarize

Conclude the roundtable by summarizing the key insights, ideas, and solutions that emerged during the discussion. Revisit the main objectives and highlight any consensus or actionable items that arose.

Allow participants to ask questions or seek clarification on any points discussed. This interactive session fosters additional engagement and ensures that participants leave with a clear understanding of the outcomes.

Thank participants for their contributions and attendance. Acknowledge the value of their insights and emphasize the collective effort that made the

The Bottom Line

Roundtable discussions stand as indispensable forums for fostering inclusivity, collaboration, and comprehensive conversations. The circular format dismantles hierarchies, allowing diverse perspectives to intertwine, resulting in innovative solutions. This unique setting not only cultivates stronger connections but also harnesses collective intelligence for informed decision-making. By embracing the egalitarian nature of round table discussions, we empower individuals, drive engagement, and unlock a wealth of insights essential for addressing complex challenges and achieving meaningful outcomes.

Book a demo with Connect Space to find out how to promote attendee networking with our matchmaking app.

Len Gauger

Len Gauger is the innovative founder and CEO of Connect Space. Gauger has an impressive background, previously serving as an analyst at the U.S. Department of Defense. He showcases a unique blend of entrepreneurial spirit, strategic vision, and a knack for tech innovation. His diverse experiences have equipped him to effectively lead Connect Space, an events management platform company based in the bustling tech startup environment of Ann Arbor.