Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Juggling organizer, speaker, & audience wishes: Moderators' challenge

I suspect many people hesitate to moderate panels in part because they sense the juggling act they'll have to do with competing expectations. The moderator stands between the organizers and the speakers, and between the speakers and the audience. They all must want something from you....but what?

Here are some of the roles, views, and motivations of people involved in panel discussions, all of which a good moderator may need to juggle:
  • The organizer wants to meet the content and timing promises made to and paid for by the audience, and to share compelling content on timely issues. But organizers also may view speaker slots as rewards, and fail to pay attention to what can be realistically accomplished in the time allotted. 
  • The speakers want to feel as if their preparations will pay off in time and attention and audience, and that their work will be highlighted to advantage. They want to maximize their time and feel their time to speak is fair, compared to the other speakers. Speakers don't want a moderator who is the enemy, though some approach moderators with that in mind. 
  • The audience wants the chance to hear a lively, thought-provoking discussion and get in a question or three. Audiences can get frustrated when moderators pander to speakers without questioning them, fail to produce a good debate or discussion, let the speakers drone on too long, or fail to let the audience contribute the tough second question or follow-up challenge to what’s just been said. They also dislike moderators who are overly self-promoting or who hog the microphone.
I think it's important to evaluate invitations to moderate panels with these expectations in mind. They also can shape your preparation: After all, if you sense that audiences will get frustrated without time for questions, you can plan for that when you're working with the speakers. Find more ideas in my ebook at the link below.

(Creative Commons licensed photo from the World Bank photo collection)

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.