The roundtable failure.

I worked with our marketing department one time to host a roundtable discussion about a software we sold. The idea was that people would come in to talk about issues they had, best practices, and how they can do better work, and we would lead them there.

Being a good, in-the-moment problem solver and speaker, I was asked to be at the event and told the marketing department could handle filling the event. Great!

The event happens. The preliminary presentation kicks off with a guest speaker to get everyone’s brains flowing in the right direction, then the roundtable portion starts, and it was crickets.

Almost no one had anything to discuss, which was the main billing of the event!

I did my best to probe some topics and ask questions of customers I knew and things started rolling, but ultimately they fell short of our expectations.

What was the failure?

Marketing didn’t understand the audience.

There were a few factors at play here:

  1. A significant amount of people came only to learn from others. Our marketing team allowed anyone to register, they didn’t ask for a short application that may have asked for one item like, “Tell us a question you’re hoping the roundtable can answer for you and how it relates to your work.” Anything to qualify that someone had something to discuss before coming.
  2. This software is targeted at very technical engineers. These types tend to be introverted, so the format didn’t necessarily fit the audience. A system that had collected questions beforehand and had queued up answers, demonstrations, etc, would have helped engage people much more.
  3. The roundtable wasn’t focused enough on a specific topic, industry, etc. It was to open-ended, so questions for one person, didn’t fit the rest of the group.

Events like this are reminders of how to do better upon reflection.