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The Ins and Outs of Effective Roundtable Discussions

The Ins and Outs of Effective Roundtable Discussions

Have you participated in or facilitated a roundtable discussion? If your answer is no, it is probably because it is one of the least used meeting formats around. Why? Because groups of 8-10 individuals at each table are positioned to discuss the hard topics facing your company, association or industry and trying to come up with a reasonable game plan to solve these problems. This is much harder to pull off than hiring a keynote speaker for the masses.

Let’s look at the right way to orchestrate a proper roundtable discussion and create more of them, if the occasion arises.


A discussion or negotiation between several persons who all take part on equal terms.


The Round Table is King Arthur's famed table around which he and his Knights congregated. As its name suggests, it has no head, implying that everyone who sits there has equal status. The table dates back to the 5th century, and it has been thought that this method allowed for better discussions about issues facing England at that time.

Best Practices for a Roundtable Discussion

  • Have a facilitator at each table.
    This person will have all the questions written out, be responsible for encouraging all participants to talk and keep the conversation on track. It would be useful to have iPad rentals on the table to allow participants to capture ideas and record follow-up items.

  • Remind everyone that all opinions are equal.
    Don’t let one person or one idea take the group hostage. After all, this is about open dialog and clarity.

  • Allot enough time to dig deeper.
    When you have 90 minutes to discuss one subject, your facilitator can keep asking “How” and “Why” questions of the table participants. This should spur interesting discussion and potentially allow for new solutions to the problem.

  • Collect the data and share it with everyone.
    Because each facilitator is armed with the same set of questions, data sharing between tables can be displayed on a real-time basis on large monitor rentals for all to see.

  • Don’t feel that a resolution needs to be the outcome.
    Sometimes, the outcome is another roundtable or meeting. It is important to realize that not everyone has to agree, but perhaps some levels of compromise will be explored.


  • Opposing views are discussed in a civilized manner.
    Rather than allow for tirades on social media, in the press or at your workplace, providing a safe way for individuals to share their concerns can effectively happen at a roundtable. This also allows for each side to learn more about why the opposing person feels the way they do – in a face-to-face dialog.

  • A small group setting encourages participation.
    Dividing a room of 500 attendees, into 50 rounds allows even the most introverted individual a chance to share.

  • It is a different way to meet.
    Instead of the traditional way of having a subject matter expert on a riser and everyone sitting theater style, roundtable discussions allow for a free-flow of ideas by everyone and can be just the creative outlet your company, non-profit or association needs.

Hartford Technology Rental Can Equip Your Roundtable Meeting

We have mobile devices for each table, large displays for viewing and any other audio visual rentals you will need to make your roundtable meeting the most effective. Give us a call today at 888-520-5667 or contact us online for more information.