How to manage an effective roundtable?

A roundtable brings together a diverse and decentralized group of participants to discuss one specific question with a decision-maker. Here are six tips on how to manage your roundtable after it’s organized:

SEND BACKGROUND SHEET: Before a roundtable, send everyone background data, info, the timetable, & the question that will be addressed.

ESTABLISH 2 MIN RULE: After presenting the question, give participants 2 minutes to write down their advice. Collect the papers at the end!

FOCUS ON THE QUESTION: Display the question on the overhead screen, read it aloud to all, and don’t hesitate to revisit it for focusing purposes.

MANAGE WITH LIMITS & RULES: To make things run smoothly, explain the rules of the roundtable: who speaks, when, for how long (2-4 min?) and what is added to the site.

CHALLENGE TO GET BETTER ADVICE: We recommend having an open discussion; better advice will be generated if people can challenge one another. It works!

CONCLUDE WITH NEXT STEPS: Toward the end, summarize some key insights and share the next steps prior to making decisions. Get everyone in the loop.

Here are three things you should remember during a roundtable:

  • LISTEN. The goal is to listen with an open mind, challenge our current thinking, and brainstorm within the field to create new insights. Roundtable participants will exchange many ideas, about which conclusions may not yet be drawn. Think broadly, challenge the mainstream understanding, and be patient with the integration of contents for a later stage in the process.
  • FOCUS. Begin the meeting by presenting the consulting question and the desired outcome. Make sure participants keep the outcome in mind and consider ways to achieve it. When the discussion starts to happen, don’t hesitate to initiate the productive dialogue. Engage - don’t be a stranger!
  • TOLERATE. You may encounter legitimate criticism. Acknowledge it, but don’t turn it into the main topic of discussion. Instead of responding to every claim or arguing with participants, reciprocate by productively seeking solutions. Build the future - don’t focus on the past.

A good consulting question will bridge the gap between the participants’ different worlds of content and understanding. Therefore, it is important to focus on the question and constantly revisit it. Avoid slogans, and remember that agreement is not the goal; everyone may take the question in a different direction. Our goal is to inspire collective knowledge, which emerges from the exchange of ideas.

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How to manage an effective roundtable?