The power of group discussions has been utilized for centuries as a tactic to share valuable information and form connections. Nowadays, a discussion panel is a standard way for companies and organizations to conduct debates, meetings, and other professional conversations.
However, a discussion panel isn’t complete without a moderator. The role of a moderator is crucial to ensuring that any event runs smoothly. Without one, an event will have no direction and no support.
So, let’s dig into all the ways that a moderator can carry an event.
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Moderators have various roles and responsibilities to provide professional support to the audience and the panel hosts. A good moderator excels at:
- M – Managing the time, audience, and event theme
- O – Opening the event and setting the tone
- D – Determining the course of the discussion
So, What Does A Moderator Do?
A moderator has a significant responsibility to the event, the panelists, and, most importantly, the audience. Without a moderator, it is very easy for the discussion to get off track.
For those on a panel, it can be nerve-wracking and intimidating enough just to speak. But moderators have a much more daunting task at hand, for it is their sole responsibility to steer the entire conversation.
Even before the event, the moderator is responsible for contacting panelist members and facilitating the organization of the topics of conversation.
Because when it comes time to hold the actual event, they’re the ones who will be essentially running the show!
Typically, moderators walk into forums or panels with an agenda and a theme in mind. They must ensure that any discussions align with whatever theme they have prepared.
For example, if a moderator is facilitating a panel on local energy sources, it wouldn’t make sense for them to allow the conversation to steer toward international affairs. The topics should stay within the bounds of what the panel is about!
A Moderator Serves The Audience
It’s easy to fall under the misconception that the moderator’s role is to serve the panelists and ensure that they are provided with questions from the audience in a formatted and proper way.
While this is important, that’s not the main goal of a moderator.
The primary responsibility of the moderator is to the audience. By facilitating an organized event, the moderator can ensure that the audience can be a part of an enlightening and fulfilling experience.
Moderators work to provide the participants and other members of a panel or discussion with a great experience. In addition, moderators can effectively serve the audience by ensuring that debates are civilized and informative and forums are inclusive and relevant.
Online moderators and emcees have a similar task at hand. Whether it be for a virtual event or an online gathering, social media or online moderators can easily screen participants, approve discussion questions, and update rules from their devices.
Responsibilities Of A Discussion Moderator
A moderator is a person who has the authority and the skills needed to facilitate a large discussion, panel, or debate. It’s up to the moderator to encourage participants to be actively engaged in the event and promote the panel’s success!
A moderator has an abundance of roles and tasks at hand. Of course, for each moderator, their specific duties will vary depending on the setting and atmosphere, but there are a few standard items that a moderator is typically responsible for.
#1. Check The Room Before The Event Starts
Before the members of a corporate panel show up, the moderator should be the first one to arrive.
A moderator should do a physical check of the room where the event will take place at. Is it neat and orderly?
Is there appropriate signage? Is it easy for audience members to understand where to sit, submit questions, and engage with the panelists?
Then there’s the technical side – it’s a good idea for moderators to test any sound equipment, such as mics or speakers. It would be disastrous if malfunctioning microphones were only discovered when the first audience member tried to pose the opening question.
#2. Facilitate The Discussion
The primary responsibility of the moderator is to facilitate the entire discussion. This can look like many things:
- Making sure the event rules are being adhered to
- Preparing questions of their own if the discussion gets slow
- Ensuring that all panelist members get questions directed to them
- Keeping the conversations professional and free of conflict
- Explaining industry terms and jargon quickly to audience members who may not fully understand it
As I said earlier, each moderator can have varying roles. But every moderator has a responsibility to the audience and the panelists.
Moderators also need to make sure that the discussions are fair. So, for example, they can’t let an audience member take control of the entire conversation and steer it in any direction they see fit.
They will need to have a plan ready to curb any situation like this while knowing how to calm down emotional or agitated questioners.
Rude or snide comments from the audience should have a complete zero-tolerance policy. And moderators need to know how to respond if an audience member chooses that route.
#3. Make Introductions, As Well As Say The Goodbyes
A more minor role of the moderator is to open and close the event. This includes introducing panel members to the audience and explaining their titles, credentials, or applicable expertise.
Likewise, moderators may also sometimes be responsible for introducing audience members and providing their contributions to the discussion.
And finally, moderators will close the event. This typically includes some sort of statement of gratitude towards the audience and panelists (“Thank you for taking the time to come out today…”)
#4. Ensure The Topics Stay On Theme
This role is similar to what we stated in #2 – “facilitating the discussion“.
If an audience member (or even sometimes a panelist) starts veering off-topic or hijacking the conversation, it will make sense to politely interrupt them and bring them back to reality.
But before the event, moderators will need to meet with the panelists and communicate that if they happen to start rambling or going off-topic, they might interrupt them for the sake of the conversation.
This can look like a couple of different things during the debate or panel. Moderators may say things like, “Paul, I’m going to bring Jackie into this discussion.” or “Tommy, I’m going to rephrase the question a bit.” These sorts of comments and pointers can effectively bring the conversation back on track.
#5. Control The Time
This is probably an overlooked part of a moderator’s job that many mods can forget about sometimes. Managing the time is essential to ensure questions are answered, panelists are engaged, and the agenda is completed.
Moderators need to have designated times for:
- Introductions of the panelists or speakers
- Questions regarding each subject of conversation
- Adequate conclusions and closing remarks
As a moderator, it’s easy to get carried away and run out of time while a panelist is in the middle of answering a question. And that means no time for closing remarks.
Overview Of A Discussion Moderator
Moderators have critical roles and tasks at hand when it comes to facilitating a panel, debate, or meeting. So let’s recap the three major ways that moderators run the show!
Moderators need to:
- Manage the participants and the panelists for the event. This includes ensuring participants adhere to any rules and that there isn’t a monopoly on the conversation.
- Open the event and provide introductions. Moderators also need to manage the time and ensure a period at the end for closing remarks!
- Determine the topics of discussion. Moderators are responsible for making sure that the event’s theme is followed.
The importance of a moderator for any event shouldn’t be overlooked. So whenever you’re planning your next corporate event and picking your speakers, invest in a reliable moderator to help your panel succeed!
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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.