February 08, 2024
By Amrutha Sarayu

In this information age, there is an abundance of content to be digested in every moment. There is no shortage of things to read, watch, or consume on the internet.  The challenge lies in finding the time to actually process and absorb all this valuable content.

All too often because of this overload, we are missing out on connecting with our peers in person. However, research suggests that meaningful connections happen more often when we gather around a table to discuss topics which are important to us.
Roundtable discussions are one of the best ways to explore topics and thoughts. Whether it be about your latest innovative invention, about the type of service you want, or about how to make your business better, a roundtable discussion is perfect for you.

With how technology is advancing there is no need to waste money traveling when you can find a meeting place online. A virtual roundtable discussion is a discussion event that has grown in popularity over the last few years. A virtual roundtable discussion can be as small as 10 participants or can contain up to 300 people at one time, so it is a great way to have discussions on topics that are important to organisations and groups of people.

It allows people who cannot meet face-to-face, due to geography or other constraints, a chance to discuss their topics together using the internet. There are two types of virtual roundtable discussions. One type is moderated and only one person speaks at a time, while the other type involves more interaction between participants.

Running a successful roundtable discussion involves grasping the potential advantages and limitations it brings to brands. It also entails a keen understanding of the crucial steps necessary to execute it seamlessly.


1. Use strategic goals.

If you’re hosting a corporate event of any kind, create a goal that supports the business as a whole and aligns with messaging from active marketing campaigns. When it comes to brainstorming roundtable discussion topics, one source of inspiration that brands often overlook is their own taglines or copy. These carefully crafted phrases and messages can serve as a starting point for meaningful and relevant discussions. By leveraging your existing taglines or copy, you can tap into the core values and messaging of your brand to create engaging and purposeful discussions that resonate with your audience. 

Moral of the story: Connect the dots between business goals, marketing goals, and event goals to find the best possible roundtable discussion ideas.

2. Find a moderator.

When it comes to finding the perfect moderators for your roundtable discussions, it's like searching for the unicorn of the moderation world – charismatic, knowledgeable, and industry-famous all rolled into one! You want someone who can light up a room with their personality, drop knowledge bombs left and right, and make people go, "Oh, I know them!" within your industry. Keep in mind that being recognizable does not necessarily mean they are famous on social media or otherwise, but that may be the case. Choose a moderator who has credentials such as experience working with leading brands in your field or have award-winning media such as a book or well-respected podcast.

You want a moderator who will eagerly dive into the depths of the research on the speakers, the topic at hand, and most importantly, the needs and preferences of the audience. After all, a moderator armed with this knowledge will be equipped to guide the discussion seamlessly and keep everyone engaged. Reach out to social media connections, speakers from past industry conferences, and look within your own company to find the best possible host.

3. Choose speakers.

Tailor the experience to the background of your audience. If they are beginners in the field, look for speakers who have a variety of experience levels. Also, be sure to get a good, diverse spread. As a general rule of thumb, you should book a minimum of three experts who offer different points of view or areas of expertise.

The dynamics of the participants can make all the difference. If you're diving into a hot or contentious topic, it's essential to assemble a panel that represents various perspectives. Aim for a balance by selecting at least two individuals who embody opposing ends of the spectrum. And then, bring in someone who falls somewhere in the middle or offers a unique perspective, like a wildcard with their distinctive experiences.

On the other hand, if your roundtable is more focused on covering different aspects of a specific subject, consider curating a group of niche experts. By bringing together individuals who specialize in different areas, you can create a comprehensive educational experience. This diverse array of experts will ensure that all facets of the topic are explored thoroughly, providing valuable insights and perspectives for the audience. For example, a roundtable discussion on the future of the hotel industry may want subject matter experts who can touch on marketing, technology, the travel industry as a whole, climate change, and hospitality economics.

4. Make an agenda.

Kick off your roundtable discussion with a captivating introduction to set the stage for an engaging event. Take a couple of minutes to warmly welcome the audience and establish the desired tone. This introductory segment serves as the perfect opportunity to reiterate the panel's title and remind everyone of the exciting topic they are about to delve into. This is also the time to call out any event sponsors or partners. Give each panelist a proper introduction, including their profession or role, and add a concisenone-sentence description highlighting their expertise in the subject matter. Have the moderator introduce themselves too, along with their credentials.

Then, introduce the topic for the event and provide interesting facts, statistics, or anecdotes that illustrate why it’s important in five minutes or less. Write this section with the audience’s perspective in mind. For example, if the roundtable speakers are a group of expert outbound marketers but the audience consists of first-year college students, quickly review the basics of the topic before diving in. To ensure a smooth flow and effective moderation, encourage moderators to either memorise the topic introduction or create a bulleted list of key discussion points to cover before transitioning to the next segment.

Next, divide the remaining time by however many questions you plan to ask. Order the questions the way you would a good story: Set the scene, introduce the conflict, offer solutions, and end on a high note. A roundtable discussion on hospital bedside manner, for instance, would begin with a question on the importance of it, followed by why it’s often overlooked and how medical professionals can create a new standard of excellence. 

Finally, conclude by thanking participants and attendees in a quick 1-2 minute wrap up. Add a strong call to action such as signing up for your email newsletter to get invitations for future events or to follow up with speakers on their social media.

5. Listen effectively.

Follow advice from clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson, who says the best way to listen is to focus on learning one new thing from each person that you didn’t know before. Dr. Peterson goes on to explain that the host’s job is to help guests “express the truth of the situation.” Help speakers get there faster by making sure they are physically and emotionally prepared with plenty of water, comfortable seating, and information on what they can expect.

6. Capture marketing assets.

Get the most out of your roundtable discussion by turning your event into evergreen marketing content. Transcribe the audio for hearing impaired audiences to enjoy. Share it on your blog to support your inbound marketing or keyword strategy.

Use data from virtual roundtable discussions to get a better understanding of your audience. Capture email newsletter signups and share special product or service offers. Record the roundtable discussion and share it as a video on YouTube, social media, or your website.

Livestream and tweet the discussion to reach audiences on a wide variety of platforms. Further engage audiences through live polls, Q&As, and topic submissions. Survey attendees afterward to learn more about what they like and dislike about your content to improve your next roundtable discussion.

Amrutha Sarayu

Amrutha Sarayu

Amrutha is a content writer and marketer at Cvent. She mainly writes about the meetings and events industry, with a special focus on technology that is designed for making the lives of planners easier.

When not writing, she can be found taking part in reading challenges or watching food videos on YouTube. 

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