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How to Host an Impactful Virtual Roundtable Discussion: Full Guide

Follow our full guide on hosting a successful virtual roundtable. We cover all steps and share best practices for an engaging virtual roundtable discussion.
Abel Grunfeld
Head of Marketing
Last Updated:
May 7, 2024
10
min
Reviewed by
Ortal Hadad

Hosting a virtual roundtable can be a challenge, let alone an impactful one.

There’s no single formula for success. But, there are a few strategies you can employ for an effective roundtable for your participants and audience.

In this article, you’ll find a full guide to planning and hosting an impactful roundtable. We’ll answer all the key questions like the practicalities of hosting a roundtable online, how to structure and format it, and best practices for these kinds of discussions.

What is a virtual roundtable discussion?

A virtual roundtable is an online discussion involving a group of speakers or participants, usually with a live audience, on a specific topic or theme.

Usually, the roundtable discussion will be moderated or facilitated by a host. This host is responsible for keeping the pace of the discussion, ensuring each participant gets a chance to speak. They also uphold the structure of the conversation.

If there is a live audience, the moderator will also field their questions and direct them to the most relevant speaker.

Why should you host an online roundtable?

There are so many reasons to host an online roundtable — not least that 80% of marketers believe webinars are an effective channel to create a pipeline, and 74% of businesses say that virtual events are essential to their overall marketing strategy –  here’s a quick breakdown:

Gather different perspectives & unique perspectives

An online roundtable is a great way to bring together a unique group of experts who can engage in impactful discussions. This is an effective way to draw new insights out of the exchange and conversation. And this is a huge value proposition to offer your audience.

Evergreen content

Virtual roundtables aren’t just one time events .  If you record them in high quality, you can produce evergreen content that will keep delivering value to your audience.

You can post your recording on your website, YouTube, and other platforms to maximize your reach and exposure.

Easy & convenient

Instead of the logistical and scheduling nightmare involved with in-person events, you can get everyone together online.

Plus, you have virtually little limit to the number of audience members you can reach with a virtual event compared to a venue’s capacity limit.

Engagement  

Roundtables are very engaging event formats – both for the participants and the audience.

Your speakers get to bounce off each other through organic discussion. Meanwhile, this makes for an enjoyable experience for your audience who get to watch your speakers interact and offer new insights.  

How to host a roundtable discussion online: X Effective steps

Creating an impactful virtual roundtable takes some preparation.

Here’s a guide on what you need to do to host an effective online roundtable discussion:

Choose the right discussion topic

Your first priority is to choose an interesting discussion topic. The ideal topic will be:

  • Something that your ideal audience will be interested in hearing and learning about. This could even be a problem or pain point you can solve.
  • A topic that you or your business has some relationship to
  • Timely or relevant discussion topic so you can capitalize on the moment  

Set your goals and key outcomes

Next, you need to define a clear set of goals or key outcomes for your webinar.

This will help you to identify a strong panel of speakers, craft compelling questions, and keep your roundtable focused.

Think about:

  • What value you want to offer your audience
  • The results you’d like to achieve. For example, are you looking for leads?
  • How many viewers you are aiming for

Select a diverse group of speakers

Choosing who your guest speakers is arguably the most important choice you’ll make in this process.

The key is to identify a diverse group of people – ideally, you want a wide spectrum of backgrounds, opinions, perspectives, and expertise. This is how you build the potential for a fruitful and insightful discussion.

A diverse group of speakers for a virtual roundtable discussion

It’s also important to limit the number of guests you invite. If you have too many speakers, you’ll dilute the value you’re able to offer. There likely won’t be enough time for everyone to contribute to the discussion.

Choose an effective moderator

Your moderator is at the heart of the virtual roundtable. They are the key to a smooth-running, seamless, and well-ordered discussion.

It’s best if your moderator has some expertise in the topic and knows how to faciliatet these kind of events. This experience is important because they will know which strategies will ensure each speaker gets an equal portion of time.

Personal expertise is also valuable because they can ask meaningful questions and address them to the most appropriate speaker.

Prepare an outline and questions

Sketch out a virtual roundtable outline. This will act as a kind of playbook or agenda for the day and help everything run to time.

You can share it with both your participants and your moderator as a kind of crib sheet.

We also suggest creating a list of questions you’re going to ask. You don’t have to follow this strictly, but this can help you stay on track.

Do thorough promotion

Once you’ve got everyone confirmed, you need to make sure you do thorough marketing and promotion.

There are various platforms and strategies you can implement including:

  • Cross-promotion:  Ayour guest speakers to promote the event to their respective followings is a must to maximize exposure.
  • Social media promo videos: Create short, shareable clips to hook viewers.
  • Email marketing: You can create an email campaign if you’ve already got a large database of clients.
  • Searchable landing page: Create a registration page that you can link to, or use search engine optimizations to increase its discoverability.

You can find more ideas in our virtual event marketing strategies article.

Organize equipment and software

Equipment

You don’t need to fork out a fortune on getting high-quality video equipment. At the very least, we’d suggest you make sure you have:

  • An external microphone
  • A compatible computer or laptop
  • Headphones
  • A decent HD camera.

We suggest you use external mics and camera because most of the time your PC’s built in tools won’t give you high-resolution.

If you’re really on a tight budget you can even double up your phone as a camera.

We’ve got a full guide on live stream equipment. It covers all you need to find which items best suit your event.

Software

There’s a wide variety of software you could choose from. We suggest considering:

  • Resolution: Choose a software that streams and records in high-quality.
  • Ease of use: Keep things simple for a smooth event.
  • Recording tools: Capture your event so you can repurpose it and share it after.
  • Participants: Look at how many remote guests you can invite. Plus check your audience limits.
  • Additional features: Check extra tools for engagement, editing and repurposing your roundtable.

We’ve got a full guide on virtual event software as well. But, if you’re looking for a seamless experience we’d suggest trying Riverside.

Hosting a virtual roundtable on Riverside

Riverside offers:

  • High quality recordings. Up to 4K video and 48kHz audio.
  • Local recording. Each speaker recorded on their own device instead of over the internet, ensuring no internet issues ruin your recording.
  • Remote guests and audiences. Record with up to 8 participants and invite up to 1000 audience members to watch.
  • Live stream to major platforms. You can live braodcast to platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Twitch and LinkedIn.
  • Live call-in. Another interactive feature that allows audience members to temporarily join the live session.
  • Presentation recorder. Upload and share a powerpoint as part of your virtual roundtable and Riverside will record it as a separate track.
  • Teleprompter. Upload your prepared outline or bullet point prompts to help your roundtable moderator stick to the agenda.
  • Media board. Live mix your virtual roundtable with other media such as sounds and effects.
  • Mobile and desktop compatibility. Full flexibility to choose to join your virtual roundtable from any device.
  • Transcripts. AI-generated transcripts with 99% accuracy in over 100 languages. Ideal for repurposing your roundtable into written content.
  • Built in editor. Riverside’s in-built editor means you can live broadcast, record and edit your virtual roundtable in the same platform.
  • Magic clips. An AI powered tool that automatically selects key moments from your full-length roundtable and transforms them into short-form videos ready for social media.
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Go live and interact with your audience

We’d suggest running a test check up of all your equipment and software before your live event. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself and your guests with how everything works.

Once you’re all set, hop on your software for your live event.

Start with an introduction to your topic and speakers, then get the ball rolling with your list of questions. It’s okay to veer from your exact list, but make sure the discussion stays within the topic.

It’s also important you leave room for audience participation. Get them involved in the discussion. You can give them time to ask their own questions. Alternatively, get them interacting with polls, live call ins and other engagement tools.

Collect feedback

When the roundtable ends, your work isn’t over.

You can draw a lot of value from surveying the participants and audience about their experience and key takeaways.

Collecting this kind of data will help you improve your roundtables moving forward and gain a better understanding of your audience.

What makes a virtual roundtable more interactive: X Best practices

Choosing software for your virtual roundtable that makes audience participation and interaction easy is essential. In this section, we’ll look briefly at common types of interactivity and other best practices that help to optimize audience engagement:

Choosing the right topic

At the very heart of creating an impactful virtual roundtable is your choice of topic. If you choose an engaging, of-the-moment topic you’re more likely to see higher rates of audience engagement and interaction. It also helps if you choose a topic that you know will appeal to your target audience.

Audience Q&A

An audience question and answer session is the simplest way to integrate audience interaction into your virtual roundtable. You can either collect questions before the session, during the roundtable through the live chat, or invite a few attendees to call in live to pose their questions themselves. Bear in mind, though, that an audience Q&A requires some facilitation and practical considerations.

Polls

Conducting polls is another effective way to introduce some audience interaction. This is also more of a passive, low-effort audience interaction tool since all you need to do is set up the poll and let your attendees submit their responses.

Live call-in

A live call works well for both facilitating a Q&A segment and inviting audience members to share their perspectives or take part in the discussion. (If you're using Riverside, all audience members can request to call in live).

Live audience call in on Riverside

A skilled moderator

Finally, choosing a skilled moderator is essential. You need someone who has experience facilitating effective discussions and who also understands the importance of including and interacting with the roundtable audience.

FAQs on Virtual Roundtables

How do you facilitate a virtual roundtable?

Facilitating a virtual roundtable takes some skill and experience. Achieving a balance between each speaker, drawing out interesting perspectives and valuable exchanges, as well as including your audience can be challenging. Effective moderation of this kind of virtual discussion involves:

  • Careful planning & research
  • Crafting challenging questions
  • Keeping to plan and time – making sure that each speaker gets approximately the same amount of time to speak
  • Using easy-to-use software that makes hosting virtual roundtables effortless

What does a roundtable meeting mean?

A roundtable is an interactive discussion about a specific topic. Each participant gets the same opportunity to share their views, expertise and insights while still engaging in a fruitful exchange with other speakers.

What is an interactive roundtable?

An interactive roundtable is where the roundtable participants engage directly with the audience. This could be done in one of the ways that we mentioned above, such as a Q&A, survey or poll, or live call-in.

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