Getting To Know You: Using A Roundtable To Start An Event

©2005 – 2006 Adrian Segar



Heres a great way to start any workshop or conference with
up to a hundred participants. Try a roundtable. Heres how:


Set up a circle of chairs, one for each attendee.

When everyones seated, go around the circle and have each person
answer these questions:

How did I get here? [1]

What would I like to have happen?[2]

What experience do I have that others may find useful?

Use a timekeeper to keep people to less than a minute or two, and
have a couple of scribes noting topics and themes on flip charts.


An early roundtable does three things well:


It provides everyone with the opportunity to safely share their
connections to the workshop or conference topic as well as their relevant

It gives each attendee valuable information on other attendees,
making it easy to start fruitful conversations.

It reveals common topics of interest, which can then be explored
during the event.


I have been using roundtables for fifteen years, and find
that they quickly provide a group sense of connection and involvement. To my
surprise I found, from evaluations, that people consistently rate roundtables
more useful than an events pre-planned sessions.


If you are interested in using a roundtable, here are some
additional tips:

Encourage everyone at your event to attend the roundtable.

If possible, avoid multiple circles or irregular seating
arrangements. In a circle, everyone can see the person who is speaking. Other
seating arrangements are less intimate.

Give your timekeeper a signaling device, like a chime, to
indicate times up.

Allow at least a minute for each person to speak. For forty
people or less, allow two minutes. For seventy people or less allow ninety
seconds. A short five minute break in the middle can be helpful, but is not

Consider providing a thirty second warning if you fear people
will ramble.

Wall mount copies of the three questions on flip chart paper
around the circle to help keep answers focused.

Take the scribed topic lists and display them where people will
mingle during the rest of your event.


Try a roundtable at your next
event and see how it works for you. Id love to hear about your experience.


Adrian Segar


Learn more about Adrian and the AYE Conference at



Virginia Satir, Conjoint Family Therapy, p. 141

[2] ibid

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