Round table discussions

Method

A roundtable discussion is where two or more individuals meet to debate an issue, guided by specific discussion topics within an agenda. A roundtable discussion may be used to receive feedback on the progress of National Water Safety Plan implementation, providing a platform for stakeholders to share their ideas and provide suggestions for future plan implementation. The purpose of a roundtable is to give each participant equal standing in a discussion, enabling them to contribute their perspectives and ideas freely and fully to the conversation. This type of discussion is short in length, usually lasting one to two hours, and is kept to agenda by a facilitator.  

When organising a roundtable it is important to:  

  • Invite only relevant individuals to the roundtable; stakeholders who have experience or knowledge on drowning or water safety.  
  • Carefully define topics for discussion within the agenda. If relevant, you may like to ask participants to report on how their delegated aspects of water safety plan implementation are progressing.  
  • Follow the agenda - ensure the group remains focused on the purpose of the roundtable over the duration of the discussions. 
  • Keep discussions brief. 
  • Keep a fast pace to the discussions, encouraging comments from participants to be short and to-the-point – this will help stay within time limits. 
  • Select an experienced, confident and well-informed facilitator. This is particularly important if there are a larger number of participants involved in the roundtable, or if the participants invited have conflicting views on the topic of the discussion. 

Ensure the facilitator recognises when certain individuals are not contributing, taking measures to involve them in the discussion. It is essential that each individual feels they have the right to speak and are comfortable in giving their views. This will ensure that all perspectives are considered equally. 

It may be beneficial to take notes on topics discussed on a whiteboard at the front of a room over the duration of the roundtable, providing a summary of ideas and comments generated through discussion.  


Advantages

  • Roundtables should be kept brief and therefore, they should not require a large time commitment from participants. 
  • Each individual is given an equal chance to contribute. 
  • Participants can join in person or dial in by phone or online. 
  • Simple and relatively cost-effective to set up and run. 


Disadvantages

  • May be difficult to coordinate a day and time suitable for all participants for the discussion, particularly if participants are from different time zones.  
  • Often requires a venue. 
  • Requires a knowledgeable and trained facilitator, who may difficult to identify and costly to hire. 
  • Arguments may occur among participants, causing the discussion to move off-track. 
  • Some participants may be shy or intimidated and not contribute fully. 
  • Some participants may ask to be paid a sitting-fee for their involvement, which can be expensive. 


Context

Roundtable discussions can be used to initiate conversation about the progress of National Water Safety Plan implementation and generate new ideas to inform the next stages of the plan. Due to this, a roundtable should be conducted at the start of water safety plan implementation and may also be used to inform the development of the plan itself.  

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