Roundtable meeting guide

Roundtable discussions do not have a presenter speaking to an audience; everyone is participating on an equal footing. In order to make this work, we need some tools and ground rules. Some of these will probably be familiar.


The facilitator presents the topic of discussion, keeps it on track when people seem to be veering off course, and can inject ideas to keep it moving if it seems to grind to a halt.

If a small number of people are dwelling on a trivial issue or monopolizing the conversation, the facilitator should invite them to “take it offline.”

The facilitator can voluntell someone to be stack keeper.

Stack keeper

In order for everyone to have a chance to say their piece, they raise their hand or otherwise get the attention of the stack keeper, who maintains a written list and calls on people in turn.

It is a good idea for the facilitator to break the session into 3–5 sub-topics. At the beginning of each sub-topic, the facilitator will introduce the it and the stack keeper will go around the room to add people to the stack; the stack keeper can go around the room again after that sub-topic is about halfway through so that people can get on stack to respond to points raised during the first half of that discussion.

Side stacks

If a topic arises during discussion that people want to focus on, the facilitator can suspend the stack and have the stack keeper open a “side stack” in order to focus on that topic. When the side stack has been cleared, the facilitator returns to the main stack.


No need to be strict about time, but each person should limit their speaking turn to about two minutes.

Jumping stack

“Jumping stack” is speaking out of turn. The facilitator should shut this down whenever it happens except for points of information.

Point of information

If a speaker is saying something based on incorrect information (not a matter of opinion), or has asked for clarification, someone else can jump in to clarify. When you are jumping in without invitation, begin by saying “Point of information…”

Points of information should be kept short so that the previous speaker can get back to what they were saying without being derailed. Do not interject points of information just to add asterisks to what someone else is saying.


Rather than getting on stack just to express agreement with what someone else has said, participants can hold up their hands and wiggle their fingers to show agreement.

No personal attacks

You can criticize another person’s idea, but don’t criticize the person.

Don’t use up all the air in the room

If you’ve already spoken, give other people a chance to speak before getting back on stack.