The Roundabout Way: Using a Roundtable Discussion to Deliver a Dynamic Message

It’s essential for leaders to connect with employees in their videos. That’s because every video can be a powerful tool. Employees look to leaders to set the culture of a company. A leader needs to be authentic, relatable, and strong, whether they’re in a boardroom with just a handful of people or appearing on a video for thousands of employees. So what happens when leaders have to deliver a difficult message through a video?

Enter Paul Bisaro, Executive Chairman of Allergan/former CEO of Actavis. Paul is a great leader and has worked hard at being lively and impactful on camera. He also knows it is key to articulate a message that will resonate with your employees. I sat down and chatted with Paul about how to ensure that, once the camera is rolling, you get it right. He observed, “I think good communication starts with good information and it’s helpful to know what people are concerned about in your company.” One event that inevitably sparks anxiety among employees is a merger, and Paul faced this particular hurdle when Actavis acquired Forest Laboratories in 2015.
Paul needed to set the right tone on video and he couldn’t do it alone. We suggested a roundtable discussion to help alleviate employees’ fears and inspire confidence in the merger. The goal was to convey the feeling of a team that’s working together (precisely what you need when a company is going through a merger).

Even as Actavis (now Allergan) continues to grow, Paul strives to stay down-to-earth when he communicates with his employees: “We came from a very small base and I remember the day when I knew almost everybody in the company by name and I always try to communicate that way.” The roundtable format speaks to Paul’s notion of delivering a message personally. This type of discussion breaks down a big barrier. It invites employees into the same room as their leaders. It’s like the employees are right there, listening in on a lively, important discussion.

A key piece of advice: The director of a roundtable discussion video should use only a light touch. The idea is to keep it loose. You don’t want to be too specific about the talking points or people will start rehearsing beforehand. Rehearsals are a death-blow to the spontaneity that makes this format so special.

Paul, Forest Laboratories CEO Brent Saunders, and three other colleagues were featured in the merger video. As Paul recalled, “The five of us free-flowed conversation…It was open, it was honest, it wasn’t scripted. It was people talking genuinely from the heart and it resonated extremely well with the company.”

Roundtables are shot with multiple cameras and the film is later edited into a short video that features everyone who joined in on the discussion. There’s no star of the film. This format is meant to show a group dynamic, and that’s exactly what happened with Actavist and Forest Laboratories. Employees had a chance to see the camaraderie and warmth that existed between their leaders. The message was clear and simple: These two companies were now a strong, cohesive team with a shared purpose.

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“It’s one thing to understand the role of video in business communication, it’s another to know how to use video to solve actual business problems. Vern Oakley gets that.”


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