A roundtable is a discussion or meeting which, as the name suggests, generally takes place around a physical or virtual round table.
Since there is no established hierarchy in the seating arrangement, roundtable discussions are generally viewed as meetings in which all participants are encouraged to make contributions.
Participants are generally considered to be on equal footing with one another, and ideas are given the same weight. Such meetings also involve a relatively smaller number of participants, which makes for easier facilitation.
Roundtable discussions are generally more informal than regular business meetings. This provides an environment in which people feel more comfortable sharing ideas which may be more difficult to express during a plenary discussion. It is therefore a good opportunity to get more specific feedback on certain topics, as well as discover perspectives that might have been previously overlooked.
Due to the relative ease with which ideas may be threshed out, roundtable discussions can be very useful for both academic and professional purposes.
In order to have a successful roundtable discussion, it is important that the agenda is immediately identified. Since such discussions can be very dynamic, keeping the group’s focus is essential in ensuring that the objectives for the meeting are reached.
Although the setup already encourages participation from all participants, it may be necessary to still make an effort to get all participants to join in the discussion. There might be stronger personalities which overshadow less assertive members of the group, so the facilitator would do well to get everyone to provide input.
During roundtable discussions, more than one topic may be discussed. However, these should be taken up one at a time.