There are a few roles out there that are heavily underrated, and as an experienced emcee, I can say for sure that event moderators are one of them.
A Great Moderator At A Glance
- Makes excellent introductions for the panelists and other speakers
- Opens a lively and engaged conversation between the audience and the panelists
- Ensures the theme of the event is honored
- Encourages audience engagement
- Respects panelists
- Asks relevant questions that stimulate the conversation
- Capitalizes on great ideas
- Enforces the rules of the debate or panel
- Effectively keeps track of the time
Many people don’t understand the vast skills and techniques required to create a great moderator. But over the years, I’ve definitely learned what makes an outstanding moderator – and what doesn’t.
Especially if you’re looking to delve into moderating, consider these nine essential tips for becoming a truly professional and great moderator.
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What Does A Good Moderator Do?
If you’ve been to any professional conference or panel, you’ve likely seen a moderator in action. These are the people that essentially run the show.
Moderators are responsible for anything from keeping track of the time to encouraging the event’s discussions. Though each mod can have varying types of roles and different levels of responsibility, they all need to have some fascinating skills to be successful.
Especially in today’s digital world, moderators aren’t just in person. Whether they’re social media moderators or online debate moderators, these people work hard to provide a civilized and appropriate environment for the people involved.
And when it comes down to it, a good moderator serves the audience members of whatever event they’re operating in.
Mods aren’t there to boost the ego of panelists or serve their own personal interests. Instead, the best moderators work to facilitate a successful and enjoyable event for the attendees!
At the very least, a good moderator is great at the following:
- Preparing interesting potential questions before the event
- Keeping interactions within any allotted time frame
- Shutting down inappropriate or unwelcome comments or questions
- Working together with the panelists to stay on theme and put together a great event
But the primary responsibility of a moderator is to create an outstanding and memorable experience for the audience.
And Why Are They Important?
Some people are under the misconception that having a moderator for their event is optional. And they are highly mistaken in this regard.
Moderators aren’t optional. They’re required for any prosperous and worthwhile event, debate, or panel.
Moderating a panel is a job for those with a vision and a knack for asking the right questions. You need to be in tune with your panelists while knowing how to keep the audience engaged yet polite.
Without a moderator, your conference or debate is sure to fall apart – and quickly. Without someone to engage the audience, keep the conversation flowing, and prepare the panelists beforehand, your agenda will have no direction.
Moderating a panel is more than calling on people individually to ask a couple of questions before wrapping up the evening. So let’s take a closer look at what makes a great moderator and how to get there (if you’re interested in starting your moderation journey).
A Great MODERATOR Knows How To…
To be a successful MODERATOR, you need to know how to handle both the audience members and the panelists. And a fantastic MODERATOR knows how to:
#1. M – Make Excellent Introductions
It would only make sense to start at the beginning – at least at the beginning of the presentations.
A pretty standard moderator responsibility includes introducing the panelists. This can consist of giving a brief overview of their expertise or any relevant personal stories they might have that would give credit to their words.
Whether your moderator introduces an entire group of panelists or a sole speaker, they must properly welcome them to the show.
#2. O – Open An Engaging Discussion
Now comes the juicy part.
It’s pretty well-known that moderators are the ones that solicit input from the audience members and make sure that the conversation is full of exciting and enlightening questions.
That can look like quite a few different things. From the very start, a moderator needs to give a warm invitation to audience members to pose their questions. And in the event of a lull in the conversation, it’s essential that a mod supplements the discussion with a good question or two that they prepared in advance.
Any session’s success depends on the audience interacting with the panelists in a productive and enlightening manner.
And the moderator is the one who makes it happen!
#3. D – Demonstrate The Theme Of The Event
Each event has a theme.
Take for example a panel on the budget for a university. It wouldn’t make sense for topics to stray far from this central topic of discussion. So if questions were being raised about a city garbage problem, it would be undoubtedly off-topic and off-theme.
All the questions raised during a panel, debate, or conference should be about what the event is about. That’s just plain logic at its finest. But we’re all humans, and it’s natural for us to have an underlying tendency to stray off-topic sometimes.
Luckily, that’s why we have moderators. When speakers or audience members start deviating, a moderator reels them in and redirects them to the discussion.
#4. E – Encourage Audience Members To Participate
It’s natural for panels or debates to have that dreaded moment when the audience doesn’t speak directly to the panelists or take the initiative to talk. So it’s up to the moderator to give audience members a reason to start talking!
As a mod, it’s important not to be afraid of a quiet moment. You need to pose a question or comment that you prepared beforehand to get the participants talking again. Easy!
#5. R – Respect Panel Members
A debate or panel isn’t complete without two major components – the audience and the panelists! And though a moderator is responsible for facilitating a great and enjoyable event for the audience, they also need to work to have the panelists feel comfortable and open.
First-time speakers especially might feel a little nervous about speaking openly to a larger crowd. So be a gracious moderator and introduce them to a comfortable speaking environment!
A moderator also can’t let one panelist gain a monopoly on the conversation.
If that happens, direct questions or comments to other panelists to even out the discussion.
#6. A – Ask Relevant Questions
A considerable part of a moderator role includes asking questions – I’ve already mentioned this several times.
Relevant questions are short, concise, and on-topic. As the master moderator, you’re not the center of attention. So pose your questions respectfully and directly to who they’re intended for.
This directs the focus of the discussion to the other speakers and their answers.
#7. T – Take A Great Idea And Expand On It
The point of a conference, debate, or panel is to share ideas and insights. The audience is invited to indulge in the panelists’ expertise and knowledge and go home with new wisdom.
So when an intriguing or thought-provoking question arises, don’t let it slip by! Instead, address and expand on it so its full potential can be redeemed.
Both a moderator and the panelists can greatly benefit from the right questions spoken by someone in the audience. That’s how brilliant and innovative new ideas are brought to light, which is key for any event’s success.
#8. O – Outline Rules For All Participants
Now down to the nitty-gritty – moderating a panel includes ensuring all participants (both the audience and the speakers) adhere to the event’s rules.
Any panel or discussion has specific rules and guidelines to protect the interests of those attending. It should go without saying that inappropriate topics are off-limits, and everyone must talk to others with respect.
So when someone starts breaking these rules, it’s the mod’s job to straighten it out. That means gracefully but quickly shutting down unacceptable or indecent discussions while maintaining a positive atmosphere.
Though perhaps not the most glamorous job a mod does, it’s likely one of the most important aspects of moderating a discussion.
#9. R – Recognize When To Elaborate And When To Move On
Moderation isn’t just about checking off the boxes of your given tasks and calling it a day. Instead, a mod needs to take into account all their responsibilities and use them to become a well-rounded moderator who can run the entire show without stealing the limelight.
Moderating also includes keeping track of the time. So make sure you don’t try to take an idea and run with it with only two minutes left in the event.
Moderating isn’t a science – it’s closer to an art than anything.
There’s more to being a moderator than meets the eye. What may seem like a simple job to some is a considerable responsibility riddled with complex tasks.
Whether you’re a mod or not, knowing these tips on what makes a great moderator will help you next time you need one for your event!
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Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetings, special events, gala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.