How to Run a Successful Online Roundtable

How to run a successful online roundtable

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Our access to technology allows us to use our creativity to produce increasingly diverse and qualified live experiences.

Imagine, for example, holding corporate events that traditionally require the company to have enough space to accommodate attendees. In the digital age, this is no longer a problem.

If you want to make a roundtable, either to address internal company issues or to offer content of value to the buyer persona, you can make use of video conferences to connect a wider number of speakers. It’s even possible to invite people just as observers.

For the event to be a success, however, it is essential to know how to conduct the roundtable in the best possible way, ensuring the audience’s participation and the achievement of several benefits.

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    What Is a Roundtable?

    A roundtable is nothing more than an event with the proposal of promoting a discussion among the participants, who can be members of the company or simply people invited by the organizers.

    It is very common to have participants representing different industries. Therefore, the event takes the form of an expert meeting, with the advantage that participants attend voluntarily, which increases the production of exciting insights.

    The idea is to give space for all those involved to have the opportunity to make contributions to the debate. While this is excellent for promoting a diverse and qualified experience, one must be careful not to turn the discussion into a mess.

    That is why roundtables, in addition to having limited numbers of participants, should have a strong mediator. This is not a problem since the main tools aimed at remote meetings offer moderation resources.

    So far, we’ve portrayed roundtables as big brainstorming sessions. In this way, they produce benefits for the participants, no doubt. However, its commercial use is also very common.

    On many occasions, a sponsor takes care of all the necessary investments for the event, usually in return for exhibiting their brand.

    As a meeting of experts is something attractive to the public, it is also feasible to transform the roundtable into Digital Marketing content, making it available to the public.

    What Are the Benefits of Conducting a Roundtable?

    As you’ve seen, roundtables are excellent spaces for in-depth discussions. How this advantage can benefit your business depends directly on your objectives.

    Imagine a situation where the company realizes it needs to deal with a problem, but the management is not sure about the solution. 

    The managers invite experts from different sectors for a roundtable, clarifying the proposed discussion.

    As a result, the company’s management will find itself amid a huge variety of insights, which can be directly applied to optimize the brand’s operations.

    At the same time, participants have the unique opportunity to learn from their peers, even if they have just met them. This exchange of insights is one of the most effective forms of learning in the corporate environment.

    This is even more evident when considering international companies’ reality, which has members in different locations.

    With the use of specialized platforms, it is easy to bring all relevant participants together in the same meeting. Thus, unlike traditional meetings, there are no limitations on which professionals can participate.

    Image by Freepik

    Roundtables Break Down Hierarchies

    One of the oldest references to roundtables comes from King Arthur’s Tales, one of the most celebrated Western society stories.

    According to legend, Arthur used to gather his advisors at a round table, exactly to illustrate the idea that, there, everyone was equal. In other words, a roundtable has no hierarchy since all participants’ opinions carry the same weight.

    Although the reference is a mythical story, the concept applies perfectly to the roundtables that focus on this article.

    Without specified leaders, participants feel much more motivated to offer their opinions, which enriches the debate at an immeasurable level.

    Roundtables Can Be Used to Improve a Brand’s Authority

    Remember when we mentioned the possibility of finding sponsors for your roundtables? 

    In these situations, it is common for the event to be open to a broader audience, which does not mean it should be accessible to everyone.

    Imagine, for example, that your agency will promote a roundtable with great Digital Marketing experts. To increase awareness, you invite a select group of people who can be your VIP clients, strategic partners, and other industry members.

    This event can easily be used as part of a branding strategy. Linking the quality of the debate to the brand image and contributing to the increase in your market authority.

    What Mistakes Should You Avoid When Running a Roundtable?

    Before we start talking about the tips for conducting your roundtables, it is essential to mention some mistakes you should avoid. One of the most common is the lack of attention to time management.

    You need to plan the discussion so that it neither exceeds the stipulated time nor ends in advance. If a debate dies off after someone answers a question, the moderator should intervene to refresh the mood and carry the event forward.

    Another prevalent problem is the lack of clarity in the topics discussed. Even if you bring together the best speakers, they may have poor performances if they don’t understand what kind of feedback they should provide.

    Therefore, it’s essential to have a strong mediator and, above all, to know how to communicate with the attendees. 

    Another situation that can damage the roundtable’s success is the concentration of speech in one or two individuals. Without everyone’s participation, it is impossible to achieve the desired results.

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    When these meetings take place via videoconference, it is not uncommon to notice that some participants feel more intimidated.

    It is essential to identify these situations and carry out the necessary interventions to adjust the roundtable and improve its quality.

    How to Conduct Your Roundtable Successfully?

    Now, let’s get straight to the point: what practices and techniques can you use to conduct your roundtables? 

    Keep reading and find out!

    Define your goals

    That’s always the first step. Defining your goals allows you to create a basis for the rest of the process. After all, based on what you want to achieve with the roundtable, you will decide which ones to invite, which topics to address, and much more.

    It’s essential to engage all the teams involved in the roundtable planning, production, and evaluation process. Only by understanding the objectives, these people will be able to act appropriately to ensure that they are achieved. 

    Several topics can be covered. It is up to you to select one that is of interest to your potential guests and, at the same time, relates to your company’s activities.

    Carefully select your attendee list

    With the objectives and topics defined, it is time to wrap up the attendee list. First, you must establish how many participants you want in the event.

    In roundtables, it is common for this number to be between 6-10 people. However, if you think it is possible to extend this limit, nothing is stopping you.

    Once you have selected the attendees, make sure to gather relevant information about each of them.

    Their jobs, fields of expertise, and work experience have a direct influence on how they can contribute to the conversation, so it’s important to know about them.

    Knowing their characteristics also facilitates communication with them. After all, you must get through the points you expect them to discuss. The moderator is an important ally on this mission.

    Select a strong moderator

    You can forget all the roundtable benefits if conducted inefficiently, with many people talking at once or running away from the main topics. 

    It is essential to ensure that all attendants have the same time frames to speak out. Avoiding long silences is also key to keeping the discussion alive. 

    The moderator should be able to deal with all these situations. If he or she feels that the discussion is on a dead-end path, he/she should encourage the participants to find more creative ways out.

    Mods are also responsible for motivating less confident attendees to participate and calming down speakers who get carried away.

    A good practice is to provide the moderator with a guide containing lead-in questions and major discussion points. However, the mediator should not be seen as a participant. Their role is only to moderate, not to expose their opinions.

    Image by Drazen Zigic on Freepik

    Keep the Participants Engaged

    There’s no roundtable if there aren’t engaged people. If the purpose of the roundtable is the exchange of ideas, you must make sure that the participants are involved in the conversation.

    One possibility is to create an interactive environment. For example, add a Q&A session in which the audience sends questions to the participants of the round table and has them answered live. People love being heard, and waiting for their answers will keep them attentive and engaged.

    Another tip is to use visual aids. Research indicates that humans retain 6.5 times more information when they are exposed to a combination of visual and oral elements, compared to oral elements alone. So, use charts, graphs, short videos, and images to retain the audience’s attention.

    It’s also a good idea to schedule short breaks during longer sessions to give participants a chance to refresh and recharge. Additionally, consider incorporating energizer activities like brief icebreakers or stretching exercises to maintain energy levels and focus.

    Finally, remember, none of this will work unless you provide relevant content. One good tip is to repurpose content, which means reusing materials in a new format. For example, a high-performance article can become a round-table subject.

    Transcribe the conversation

    Speaking about repurposing, besides streaming the roundtable and offering it as a live experience for your users, you can use it to produce other materials. Ebooks and blog posts are the most common examples.

    Of course, for this, you need to assign a staff member with the single mission of transcribing the entire conversation. 

    Once you have your transcription ready, the next step is to seamlessly convert it into a different format. WriterAccess is a platform that can connect you with top-notch writers who can handle the task with finesse and precision.

    Invest in the appropriate platform and tools

    Finally, it is vital to work with the most appropriate platform and tools. Different options in the market offer resources to facilitate the whole process, from the promotion to the event.

    As we are talking about remote meetings, it is essential to verify that the platform has the necessary features to support your roundtable. Zoom and GoToMeeting are good examples of platforms that can be used for smaller events.

    Some options offer more advanced features, such as Hubilo, including customizing the event look and feel to represent your brand. So, before choosing your platform, check what they offer.

    Whiteboards for collaborative brainstorming, like Stormboard, and voting tools like Poll Everywhere can keep the audience involved.

    Remember, the choice of tools will depend on the specific needs and objectives of the roundtable discussion.

    Final Words

    Conducting a roundtable is a way to promote in-depth discussions, involving professionals and experts. As a result, you can generate valuable insights and encourage all attendees to participate.

    Define your objectives, attendees, and moderators, and start planning your next successful event.

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