Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why I *didn't* call my book 'Moderator Magic'

Panel discussions are often dreadful. Maybe that's why everyone involved--the organizer, the speakers, the audience members and even the moderator--finds themselves praying for magic to occur. What’s worse, no one really ever teaches you to be a moderator.

And yet, in this sought-after scenario, the moderator is the magician. Organizers hope your reputation will magically draw more paying attendees, and that you'll be able to keep in line the talkative audience members and the long-winded speakers they felt compelled to book.

Speakers think you can magically stretch the schedule to let them speak as long as they like, or that you'll make the audience and its pesky questions disappear. Other speakers, whose time has been chewed up by fellow panelists, hope you'll pull a solution out of your hat that lets them recover their original amount of time. Audience members trying to get in a question wish you could read their minds, interpret their quirky facial expressions, and notice their imperceptible hand movements, so you'll understand why you must call on them—even when time has run out.

Everyone involved secretly hopes that you'll surprise them with the ultimate magic trick: A panel discussion or conference that starts and ends on time and includes sparkling discussion and debate, engaged audience questions and plenty of time to complete satisfaction surveys.

If you've moderated panels, or just watched others do it, you can sense that desire for magic from moderators. Everyone wants the magician, the wizard, the sorcerer who effortlessly conducts, commands, and charms the speakers, the audience, and the clock. It only adds to the pressure moderators feel, unless they know how to prepare.

The yearning for magic from moderators is so great that I nearly called this book Moderator Magic. But that would be over-promising. The truth is that good moderating doesn’t involve magic at all, and you’ll only be disappointed if that’s what you’re hoping will happen.

That's why the title for my book is now The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. The publisher has sent the first check for initial sales of the book, and clients and colleagues are letting me know they are among the purchasers. And the book has had another great review on Amazon.com. A.Davis called it a "quick, informative read," and said:
Since I'm going to be moderating a panel soon and this was a short book, I decided to give it a read. I really appreciated the pre-panel advice on what to ask the organizers and panelists, as well as the tips to keeping the conversation moving. It's well worth the money.
That's exactly how I hope moderators will use the book: As a simple, quick way to prepare in advance, and to manage the conversation as it's happening. No magic, just preparation and some moderator muscle.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by the U.S. Department of Education)

Need more coaching on how to be a better panel moderator? Order the new ebook The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 and available in many formats, it's a great back-pocket coach to take on stage with you in your smartphone or tablet. Find more tips on public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog.