• 800-232-LOWE (5693)
  • info@lowe.org
  • 58220 Decatur Road, Cassopolis, MI 49031

Roundtable Basics

The Ideal Participant

While there are no guarantees your participants will click, there are several tips that will help you achieve this goal.

  • Balancing Your Table — Be conscious of the balance of your table as it relates to the size of companies/organizations. If only one or two participants are more seasoned, they may become frustrated, as everyone looks to them to share their stories and experiences. Conversely, tables with only smaller organizations represented will have difficulties, as there will not be enough experience around the room for meaningful interactions and help.
  • Beware of Advice Givers — The individual who doesn’t feel he gains or adds value without giving advice will have trouble with the PeerSpectives protocol. Remember, it’s about sharing experience, not about telling someone what he or she should do. Consequently, the process is not for everyone, so look for the right traits as you interview participants.
  • Industry-Specific Tables — Some individuals are more comfortable or feel they gain more value when in the room with like-minded people from the same industry. Industry-specific tables can work well, but be wary when the discussions focus only on industry trends. Roundtables function best when they’re about the individuals working on their businesses, not about the future of a specific industry.
  • Industry-Diverse Tables — Industry-diverse tables can work very well. Often solutions are found from individuals who think outside of the normal scope of a specific industry. You’ll be surprised at how much a CEO from a technology company might learn from the president of a construction company. While their businesses are very different, they face many of the same issues when it comes to financing, employees and more.
  • Not just for CEOs —Roundtables are not for CEOs only. They also work well for individuals who have the same type of responsibilities such as human resources, product development, operations, marketing, etc.
  • Nonprofit Participants — Roundtables work well for nonprofit, as well as for-profit organizations.

Ideal Number of Participants

The optimal group size is 10 to 12, but depending on your contacts, it may take some time to reach this number. Some groups have started with as few as six participants.

Pros and Cons of Starting with Less than 10 Members

There are some benefits to starting with less than the optimal amount of participants:

  • Your table launches and you gain program momentum.
  • Your facilitator gains experience running a table.
  • The participants become program advocates and may provide referrals.

There are also some drawbacks to starting with a smaller table:

  • Expectations are formed around the smaller size. Participants may feel they like the more intimate group and resist the urge to add new members.
  • The group lacks enough diversity to bring out the group genius.
  • If one or two participants miss a session, it will be difficult to meaningfully process an issue.
  • Depending on your revenue model, you may need to subsidize the group until the ideal number is reached.

Competitors and Vendors on a Table

We strongly suggest there be no competitors participating in a table. This will make intimate discussions very difficult, as no one wants to share their challenges with their competitors. The same applies to vendor relationships.

Length of Participant Commitment

In our experience, a one-year commitment works well. The bonding and trust doesn’t happen overnight, so the longer the commitment, the better.

Frequency and Time for Meetings

Hosting your table once a month works best, and scheduling meeting dates in advance helps everyone solidify and protect the dates on their calendars. If you wish to process two issues a month, plan on devoting four hours per meeting.

Life Span of the Table

When properly facilitated, a table can last for three to five years. We know of tables that have stayed active for seven years or more. Of course, they have seen some participant shifts during that time, but the base of the table has remained consistent.

Addressing Obstacles and Pushbacks

Time is the most valuable currency for a CEO of a growing company or organization. In our experience, time, and not cost, has been the biggest pushback. It is important to focus on the importance of working ON your business/organization instead of IN your business/organization. The PeerSpectives roundtables provide an opportunity for leaders to learn and share with their peers, many of whom are facing, or have faced, the same types of issues.

In addition to time restraints, here are a few common pushbacks you may encounter:

  • Will there be competitors at the table?

    No. This is a safe environment to discuss your most pressing issues without fear of them reaching your competitors.
  • I am not comfortable taking direction from others.

    The PeerSpectives roundtables are professionally facilitated and focus on sharing experiences. Participants avoid telling each other what to do, nor do they give advice.
  • I have 20 years of experience—how will I benefit from the table?

    The roundtable consists of a diversity of business owners and/or leaders of organizations, often from different industries. And while you may have a vast amount of experience, our experience has shown that even the most seasoned leader will learn from their peers. Everyone has a different way of looking at issues and tackling problems. You may very well find the solution you have been looking for from your fellow table members. The group genius can be very powerful.
  • I was on a table where the facilitator was only interested in selling consulting services. Will this happen on my table?

    The short answer is “no.” PeerSpectives facilitators should not be allowed to do business with members on the table. Their primary role is to be the process expert for the table and to ensure the discussions flow well and in a timely manner.
  • I already attend several networking events. Why do I want to add another to my hectic schedule?

    A PeerSpectives roundtable is not a networking event. The table is a learning opportunity for leaders of growing companies or organizations. Over time, the table members build trust and rely on each other for unbiased feedback. Some participants describe their table members as the most trusted source of experience when building their organization or business.