For the Producer

Some production details. Timing a roundtable program is a fairly easy matter. Of course the program has to be “backtimed.” You time the closing announcement, and decide just when it must start in order for the program to get off “on the nose.” Then you arrange with the participants some warning signals. For example:

First Warning—discussion must stop in 2 minutes

Second Warning—discussion must stop in 1 minute

Third Warning—discussion must stop in 10 seconds

Fourth Warning—discussion stop

If the talk continues a few more seconds, or stops too early, the speed of the closing announcement must be regulated accordingly. The warnings can be either light signals, hand signals, or written signs.

For communicating with the participants during the broadcast, you will find it handy to have written signs ready. These are good for dealing with:

 the fellow who gets so interested listening that he shuts up like a clam;

the guy who wants to do all the talking;

the guy who creeps up on the mike, drowning out everyone else;

the timid fellow who talks so softly the engineer can’t get enough volume out of him.

You’ll soon find out what signs you’ll need. The University of Chicago Roundtable has found ones like these useful:

Don’t Orate

Are You Man or Are You Mouse?

Get in There and Pitch

Don’t Hesitate to Use Some Humor

The main idea about signs is to fit them to your needs. If you have an ingenious artist in your outfit, put him to work on them. If he can put humor and action into the signs, so much the better. You can also use the Army’s familiar arm and hand signals. When someone won’t stop talking, throw him a Cease Firing signal.

There’s one important hand signal you should impress on every participant—the signal by which he can announce he’d like to get into the discussion. When a man raises his right hand, it’s the democratic rule of the roundtable that whoever is speaking withdraw as soon as possible to give the new speaker a chance. Establish this as the fundamental rule of roundtable sportsmanship.

The discussers should be physically comfortable. In a roundtable without studio audience they will probably feel most at ease sitting in a circle. If the mike arrangement permits, let them sit around a table. Let them lean on it, but not drum their fingers or pound their fists to make a point. Because the table is close to the mike, the pounding may be picked up like thunder. It’s well, before the broadcast, to talk over such things with your group.