Tuesday, June 30, 2015

6 smart ways for moderators to interrupt speakers

Blogging on Scientopia recently, pediatric nephrologist Pascale Lane gave a glowing review of The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels, and noted "One delightful section presents smart ways to interrupt speakers, primarily so you can shut them up and stay on time, for the win."

Call it the elephant in the room where the panel is being held: Moderators need, sometimes, to interrupt speakers. No one talks about it much. Speakers dread it at some level, or at least anticipate it. And moderators, for their part, often act as if they shouldn't interrupt, even when it's clear that they need to do so. They waggle a hand below the table or behind the lectern, stare at the offending panelist, and will them, silently, to stop. Hardly surprising, is it, that these tactics aren't effective?

Instead, my book offers six smart ways for moderators to interrupt speakers. There's more detail on each of these tactics in the book:
  1. Use their names, as in "George, I hate to do this, but we need to move on." It's specific, and will get the offending speaker's attention like nothing else.
  2. Speak in "I" statements, to avoid sounding accusatory. I give you several ways to wield the vertical pronoun effectively in the book.
  3. Put a hand up, as a visual "stop" sign that all can see.
  4. Pretend to ask permission to neutralize the negative, by starting with something like "Let me ask you to stop right there."
  5. React with a question to interrupt the flow, hear the answer, then respond by drawing the speaker's time to a close.
  6. Get the audience in on the act by inviting a show of hands, discussion, or affirmation. 
Most of all, keep in mind that the audience and the organizers want you to keep the speakers on time--that's the moderator's main job. Don't hesitate to do it!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Cory Doctorow)

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.