According to Sean Murphy, discussing the drawbacks of the round table format,
I think the roundtable format works better when the attendees are still wrestling with emerging problems where collaboration trumps competitive pressures […] Everyone is more focused on learning than “getting the word out” about their product or service.
And I think that points up another problem with the format for conferences. Sponsors pay and take part to get the word out about their product. They don’t want to be in a setting where competitors and others can attend in what is effectively a peer position. If you are on a panel, up on a raised platform or stage, there is an unconscious presumption that you must be smarter than the audience. If everyone is sitting around in a circle, then everyone’s opinions matter more or less equally.
“I paid for this microphone!” If someone is selling you something from the stage, isn’t the normal presumption that you’re going to get spin? According to sales expert Graham Bunting, good salesmen do a lot more listening than talking, for example,
Well it’s like all relationship building, you have to talk sparingly and listen intently
“If everyone is sitting around in a circle, then everyone’s opinions matter more or less equally.” In the long run, unless you’re hawking snake oil, you might just sell more that way.