estimated cost of external help
- Explore options
- Prioritise options
estimated run time
estimated lead time
A roundtable differs from a community or public meeting in that, rather than a broad discussion, it focuses on specific issues to explore solutions, define actions and/or develop strategies. It typically brings together a carefully selected range of people who represent all the perspectives on an issue. The intention is to build relationships and seek consensus between all groups who have an interest in the project’s outcomes.
In 5 steps...
- Establish the purpose of the session with the participants and lay down the ground rules.
- Provide the first discussion topic and define the allocated time and what each table is expected to produce (if anything).
- Ensure all participants have an equal ability to contribute to the discussion.
- At the end of the discussion, invite reflections and learnings from the group before moving on to the next topic.
- At the end of the day, ensure the participants know what your next steps are and how they will be able to review what you produce as a result.
When to use it
- Access to unexpected and informed ideas and knowledge.
- Risk identification.
- Ability to explore the rationale behind initial reactions.
- Group interaction forces participants to question their reactions, and shows how social norms might influence outcomes.
- Allows the in-depth discussion of issues.
- Improved reception of the final output.
- Better-aligned solutions and language.
- Increased levels of support and enthusiasm for the project.
- Better relationships between the project team and key stakeholders.
Highly divisive topics can lead to circular discussions that don’t produce constructive outcomes. Roundtables are best for topics that are subject to some degree of shared alignment. If you expect tensions, invest in a highly experienced facilitator who can regain control when necessary and redirect the discussion.
- Spend a good amount of time determining who needs to be at the event. The right mix of people is critical to the quality of the discussion.
- Ask the stakeholders who are the most critical to attend first, with options regarding date and time before you lock this in.
- Plan with plenty of advance notice. Industry leaders and experts tend to be very busy and may need at least 3–4 weeks’ notice.
- Send a reminder a week before the event. This tells everyone to check that your event made it into their calendars and to give you notice if they cannot attend.
During the process
- If opinions are too divisive, stick to identifying and agreeing on upstream issues rather than solutions.
- Ensure all parties have an equal opportunity to contribute.
- If possible, have team members work as scribes on each table to capture information, with your intended outcome in mind.
- Consider having a visual scribe capture the whole process. This can help participants to feel that the seemingly serendipitous conversations are contributing to a meaningful output.
- At the end of the day, host a shared discussion to talk about the things that were learnt and what your next steps are, so that participants leave feeling that they have had great conversations and have meaningfully contributed.
- Follow up with participants by thanking them for their time and sending them any outcomes, as well as a reminder of the next steps for your process, including when the final report/outcome will be made available.