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GDC 2024 roundtables take place during Core Concepts days, Wednesday, March 20– Friday, March 22, 2024. All roundtables are 60-minute topical discussions led by a moderator and not recorded.

Questions? Email [email protected]

Guidelines for Roundtable Moderators

Roundtables at GDC may be different from roundtables or panels at other events. If you haven't moderated a GDC Roundtable in the past, or even if you have, please look over these guidelines for some suggestions on how to best prepare and conduct the roundtable. Attendees will be looking to you to facilitate a productive discussion, and the best moderators will learn from the experiences of others who have done this in the past.

For additional tips, check out GDC Advisory Board member Geoff Evans’ post on moderating roundtable discussions

Roundtable Room Setup

All Roundtable rooms will be set to accommodate up to approximately 100 attendees. A Conference Associate (CA) will be stationed at the door to greet and scan in attendees. Another will be available inside the room to help facilitate passing around the microphone. GDC will provide each room with 2 wireless microphones as well as a lapel mic for the organizer(s). Your room will also be set with a flip chart and markers. 

Helpful Tips for Conducting Your Roundtable

Starting the Roundtable

As moderator, you should prime the discussion with a short five-minute speech that specifies the issues under discussion. Make clear what issues are NOT under discussion. Your opening speech should take the form of many questions. Your task is most definitely NOT to lecture, but to warm up the discussion and then turn it loose. A Roundtable is a place for people to get to know each other, not you. The getting-to-know-each other aspect of the Roundtable is vital to the success of this conference. Do NOT subvert this important function by hogging the show. Rather than taking up a big chunk of time asking participants to introduce themselves one at a time, ask that people intro themselves once they have the mic, before speaking. Use the microphones- From the start, make it clear that the person you pass the microphone to is the person who has the floor to speak.

Keep Control

The most common complaint against Roundtable moderators is that they fail to maintain control of the discussion. All discussions are controlled; the only question is, who controls your discussion? Once the discussion slides to anarchy, it will be controlled by those persons with the loudest voices who are most willing to interrupt others. This is unfair to the courteous and quiet members of the audience. You must accept the responsibility to control the discussion so that the shy people get to say their piece.

Command Attention

Remain standing throughout the discussion. Stand at the head of the table. Use eye contact and hand gestures to control people. Make it clear that you give the floor to each person and take it away. Point clearly and unambiguously to the individual whom you wish to recognize, and back up your recognition with a spoken word, such as "Yes?" or "What do you have to say?" or "Your comment?" Early in your Roundtable you will be tested by a pushy type who will interrupt somebody. It is crucial that you assert control by counter-interrupting with, "I'd like to hear the rest of what this person had to say" or "I'd like to hear what this other person has to say." Make it clear that the ONLY way to get the floor is to be recognized. If you make it clear and you are fair, people will respect your control and they'll all have a better time. When the flurry of hands go up at the end of one person's comment, be quick to recognize somebody, anybody, lest somebody take advantage of the silence to arrogate the floor. Don't ever permit more than one second of silence in the room. Also, immediately after you recognize one speaker, if there was a close second who didn't make the cut, make eye contact with that person and nod ever so slightly. They'll get the message that you will recognize them next; this calms them and gives them a chance to compose their thoughts.

Enlightened Egalitarianism

Don't allow a few pushy types to dominate the discussion. Encourage people to put in their two cents' worth. You'd be surprised how a wallflower can come up with an impressive comment that boosts the discussion. You just have to coax them out of their shell. Always give preferential treatment to the person putting his hand up for the first time. Be sure to move the discussion physically around the room so that people in remote corners get to speak. Some people ramble or digress. Teach the group that rambling and digression are unacceptable by giving preferential recognition to concise, to-the-point speakers. This is where the "enlightened" part comes in. You want to give everybody a chance, but repeat recognitions should go to the better commentators. Who's improving the discussion? That's where your judgment comes in.

Maintain Focus

Don't let the discussion drift. One of the most bitter complaints in the feedback concerns the Roundtable moderator who lets the discussion wander into unrelated areas. Keep the discussion on topic! It doesn't matter if two or three people are interested in this digression; there are twenty or thirty others who came to learn about Topic X, not Topic X-variant. When a commentator wanders off topic, respond with "That's an interesting issue, but we may not have the time to delve into it. Let's get back to the central problem." Then acknowledge someone else's question.


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