Developing and cross training employees is no easy challenge. I don’t need to sell you on the fact that there is a constant requirement to keep current with technology and tools so that we can continue to create the best in class solutions for our clients, no matter the industry.
The question may be how to add one more “to-do” item to the list and train everyone. While we have several tactics and approaches depending on subject matter and need, one of the most successful forums for ongoing learning is through less formal (but well planned) roundtable meetings. And, if you work in a virtual environment you may need to promote other opportunities for information sharing.
Individual education and development through industry news and articles, blogs, can be overwhelming. New knowledge may also include attending webinars and conferences. Access to information is not the issue and in nearly all cases, employees increase their individual knowledge through these participatory activities.
How do you take that new knowledge and apply it more widely throughout the organization? More importantly, how do you articulate the application of new information to your processes and best practices to be sure everyone is on the same page in the most efficient way possible?
Not every topic is going to turn into an operating procedure; and not every topic requires formal training. One key tactic to ongoing development and information sharing is to rely on what you already have. Who better to “teach” and to facilitate but the experts on staff? These efforts do not require extensive planning and formality, but a few good tips and some encouragement can create positive, memorable experiences to motivate and energize your organization.
Typically, our experts recognize the need for content and information and inherently know when there is a need to share the experience and more importantly newly discovered information with the rest of the organization; and do it in a timely and meaningful manner. While learning is the goal, this does not limit the round table discussion to just new information. We also like it when roundtable discussions are arranged to present a business issue, a challenge, and a question and to gather input and additional thought-leadership from colleagues.
We love 100% participation so while we encourage staff to facilitate these discussions we want to make it something they look forward to. That’s what works for us. It’s our story and we’re sticking to it, so here’s the round up on roundtable meetings the IP way!
- Typical roundtable meetings are 30 to 45-minute oral presentations and discussion with attendees seated, attending via conference call or web meeting.
- Roundtable presentations typically include 15 minutes of presentation, followed by 30 – 45 minutes of discussion and feedback.
- Roundtable presenters should prepare to facilitate and elicit input and participation from all attendees by preparing a targeted list of questions to pose to others in attendance in order to learn from and with those attending.
- Roundtable meetings are an ideal format for collaboration and discussion on a particular topic of interest and relevance to the business and/or industry, or to bring people up to speed on current events and activities; and to make decisions about actions that may be necessary based on the new learning.
- Depending on the topic, roundtable meetings may be scheduled for longer periods of time to cover information adequately. The key is to remain flexible and encourage discussion and dialogue with participants.
Planning Roundtable Meetings
- Begin planning the roundtable meeting as soon as possible after returning to the office from your conference or event and within 30 days of your return.
- Identify the topic(s) to be discussed.
- Decide on your audience.
- Articulate the objective of the meeting and be prepared to clearly state the desired outcome to participants.
- Coordinate calendars as necessary to avoid scheduling conflicts and to schedule your roundtable, including setting up on any online meeting tools such as GoToMeeting.com or Join.Me and reserving the appropriate conference room if space is required.
- Distribute the meeting notification with ample notice, registration detail and include the requirements of attendance (if mandatory or optional).
- Prepare visual aids (optional). Roundtable meetings do not require formal visual aids, however, they are a nice addition to convey new information and enhance learning, especially in our virtual environment.
- Your role as a facilitator of the roundtable discussion is an important responsibility. For that reason, you may want to consider assigning a scribe to take notes and a timekeeper to aid with keeping you posted on time consumption and to move the agenda forward.
- Regarding notes, successful roundtable meetings include these elements to have the information available to those who may have missed the meeting and to document action items or follow-on items that may have come up.
Conducting the Roundtable Discussion
While preparation is at the core of executing a successful roundtable meeting, you will also want to adequately prepare your participants.
Before moving directly to the content of the meeting, take a few moments to address your audience’s needs and to ask for their focused attention through a few simple steps.
- Review the agenda, the objective, time allotted and ask for participation.
- Put participants at ease by ensuring everyone can hear clearly and has access to any materials directly and through use of technology.
- Inform participants that while you have information to share, you will also be relying heavily on their participation to make the meeting a success.
After the Roundtable Meeting
Consider publishing meeting notes immediately after the meeting while information is fresh. Notes should recap the following elements at a minimum:
- Purpose and objective of the meeting
- Action items / next steps for decisions or follow-up that may be required.
Follow these steps and you are on your way to successful and memorable roundtable discussions and a highly evolved organization.