Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Our top 10 tips for panel moderators in 2016

One thing I'll say about the readers of the Moderating Panels blog: You go for the tough problems and the difficult conversations around panel moderation. How do I know? This year's most-read posts all tackle tough issues and suggest that moderators really want to get to the heart of the matter, eliminating problems so a better panel may emerge. I wish that for your moderation in 2016! Here are the posts you read the most this year:
  1. 3 things moderators wish conference organizers knew about better panels, from why you can't find moderators to why the panels run overtime. Share with a conference organizer you love.
  2. The moderator and the long-winded, off-topic question offers tips for managing the over-speaker in the audience--and the best cartoon we've seen on this topic.
  3. The one muscle you need to exercise to be a better panel moderator requires some nerve (hence the exercise), but results in far better panel discussions. Will you try it?
  4. Are you using women moderators to cover all-male panels? We see you. It's among the reasons we advise moderators to decline gigs. Everyone can see the window-dressing, so just stop doing it.
  5. Moderator as juggler: Keynote, panel, audience--all at once shared a new and highly complex challenge for moderators. Look for more of this in 2017.
  6. The case for a moderator-led panel (aka, no presentations) can radically take you from long-winded overtime panels to sessions with sparkling discussion.
  7. What panel moderators can do to advance codes of conduct shared a reader's simple, but oft-overlooked, tactic to ensure a safe environment for all participants.
  8. Presidential debate moderators talk about their prep: 5 lessons for your panel offered pro tips from moderators who took their lumps in this year's U.S. presidential debates.
  9. Does the moderator need a script? Yes, in certain types of sessions. Check out what you need to consider before you decide.
  10. Panel formats: Are you using an innovative format for your next panel? Organizers are eagerly seeking new formats. Here are some to help moderators come up to speed.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Grant Hutchinson)

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.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

When the moderator has to disagree with a speaker

Many moderators consider moderating a panel to be easy...right up until that moment when they have to consider disagreeing with a panelist in front of the audience. And I'm here to tell you: You won't get a lot of notice, and you'll need to think fast.

I'm not talking about those "maybe he didn't say that" moments, but the ones where it's clear to everyone, audience and moderator alike, that a particular speaker has just said something that needs to be publicly addressed. What do you do?

For inspiration, take a look at this post on The Eloquent Woman about a big moment during an interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at a women's tech conference. Nadella had just suggested that women wanting a pay increase should trust in karma rather than ask for more. His interviewer or moderator, Maria Klawe, didn't lack for credibility in coming back at that answer. A Microsoft board member, she also is the dean of Harvey Mudd College, an engineering school. And the audience didn't fail to absorb what he said, and was reacting poorly to it.

Klawe started by disagreeing with Nadella, and then telling a personal story about her own missed opportunities in salary negotiation, ending by urging the audience not to trust in karma but to do research and negotiate. Post author Cate Huston shared three lessons, all of which work for panel moderators:
  • Disagree with your interviewee! Klawe stepped in at the moment they were losing the audience and her answer was a highlight of the talk.
  • Get personal. Nadella talked about theory and the long term view of HR, but Klawe made the loss that women get from not negotiating personal with her own story of being paid $50,000 less than she should have been at Princeton. Further revealing that she had made the same mistake with her current role made it impossible to ignore as a one-off.
  • Relate to the audience. Klawe’s response is full of things that the many women in the audience relate to, being good at asking for things for others, for example (notice how many times in the whole interview she advocates donating to Harvey Mudd). And where better to make the suggestion of role-playing than at an event with a huge careers fair where women gather to learn and support each other. I bet women were role-playing salary negotiation in the breaks that day.
Just remember this: A moderator's quick thinking and willingness to address a negative situation out loud can make the difference between a panel that's notorious for what happened, and one that's remembered fondly and positively. Which option will you choose?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by a2gemma)

Need more coaching on how to be a better panel moderator? Order The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 and available in many ebook 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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

For 2017, 5 ways to refresh and rev up your panel moderation

You've seen the suggestion that we just kill off the role of the moderator, and you've certainly sat through more than your share of bad panels. What's an honest moderator to do? Try these five ways to rev up and refresh your moderation of panels, and be part of the solution, rather than the problem in 2017:
  1. Learn from moderators in the 2016 election debates: No, they aren't panel moderators, but these high-profile moderators nonetheless help set expectations for your next panel. We've filtered the lessons for panels here, with 15 tips in all.
  2. Make codes of conduct a part of your moderation: From asking whether there is such a code, to announcing and enforcing it, moderators are a key factor in making sure these important codes are applied.
  3. Get your speakers focused on the audience early on, with this great tip from one of our readers. There's no better way to boost engagement for your panel.
  4. Promote your moderator gigs on your speaker page (you do have one, don't you?). Do be selective if you have dozens of moderation gigs, but don't hesitate to feature this complex public speaking skill.
  5. Get ready for new formats: From the mix of juggling a keynote speaker, panel, and audience all at once, to learning how to use new moderation tools like this one from Google Docs, the new year is a good time to learn about new panel formats so you're ready for what's next.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by tylerhoff)

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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Does fixing panels mean getting rid of moderators?

When faced with the prospect of boring panels, one after the other, at conferences, what should the organizers do? How to fix panels at SXSW (and everywhere else), which first appeared in 2014, minced no words when it came to the answer:
I can walk out on the shortest of limbs to declare that: chances are, [the panels] will be boring. And the reason they will be boring is because they will be rote. And the reason they will be rote, is because of the moderator. 
In panel discussions, the moderator too often provides a structured crutch on which the entire group can lean its boringness. To save us from boring panel discussions, first banish all the moderators.
Naturally, I disagree. The boring and rote parts of panels can be avoided with smart choices of panelists, a creative line of questioning, banishing slides in favor of discussion, and lots of time for audience questions...if you, as the moderator, will only choose that more difficult yet rewarding path. Read the article, however, and if you can see your last panel in it, take the time to change your approaches...now.

(Photo by US Mission Geneva)

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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Should panel moderators have to answer their own questions?

In Ta-Nehisi Coates Asks: Who's French? Who's American?, the New York Times recently interviewed the author about an upcoming panel he'd be moderating in New York about French and American culture. And one of the questions asked him to answer a question posed as the title of the panel.

From the interview, the question, and Coates's answer:
You’re moderating the opening panel, “When Will France Have Its Barack Obama?,” which features Jelani Cobb from The New Yorker, along with three French scholars, including Pap Ndiaye, the author of “La Condition Noire” and a founder of black studies in France. What’s your answer to that question? 
I’m going to let the folks on the panel talk. But I’d say that Barack Obama, to an extent that is not fully understood, is really a product of black institutions. It’s not like he ran from Hawaii. He went to the South Side of Chicago, which has a long, long political tradition. There was a community to root himself in. How does that happen in France? There you had the lack of a trenchant Jim Crow system, the lack of slavery on the mainland. The things that made racism so severe here actually gave black institutions much of their vigor. And there is a strong sense of community held together by those institutions. I could be dead wrong about this, but it would be tough to look for a Harlem in Paris. There are black neighborhoods, don’t get me wrong. But that’s not all Harlem is.
It's a good answer, making sure right from the start that he's waiting to hear what the panel says. But he does add some context and perspective on the panel topic.

It's also a good reminder to panel moderators. You might be asked to answer your own question, or the question posed by your panel topic--and that might come in an advance media interview, in a hallway conversation at the conference, or by a panelist or a member of the audience in real time, while the panel is ongoing. So when you're prepping your questions, be sure to prep your own answers to your own questions.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan)

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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Research Companion recommends our guide to moderating panels

If you're an academic researcher, it's fair to say that into your academic life, a lot of panel discussions will fall. Over time, you'll find that it's easy to stand out if you spend a little time learning the smartest way to approach this commonplace speaking task.

I'm delighted to say that The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels is among the resources recommended to researchers in The Research Companion: A practical guide for those in the social sciences, health and development, by Petra M. Boynton.

Boynton includes my ebook among resources for presenters considering different formats for presenting their work--a smart thing to consider before you send off your response to the call for proposals.

The book should be available now, or you can pre-order at the link above.

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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

15 tips panel moderators can learn from the 2016 election

The election and its debates are well over, but moderation was a star--sometimes notorious, but still a star--in the 2016 presidential campaign. And while debates differ from panel discussions in many ways, they still offer panel moderators plenty of lessons. These posts share 15 key lessons you can use to improve your next moderation gig:
  1. 3 key lessons from Chris Wallace's debate moderation can be summed up this way: offer context, guide the conversation, and don't let the speakers evade direct questions.
  2. Panel moderators (and debate moderators) can fact-check on the fly--by asking the speakers to explain, confirm, or support their dubious statements for the audience. 
  3. You'll need to interrupt speakers from time to time, but it pays to assess how often you do that to female versus male speakers, a practice that brought criticism to Matt Lauer's moderation of dueling interviews with the candidates.
  4. Voters had opinions on how much time debate moderators spent on topics, and so does your audience for panels--so this post includes 4 things you can do in advance to figure out what your audience wants.
  5. Preparation's important for any panel moderator. Here are 5 tips from the presidential debate moderators on how they get ready.
  6. Whether moderators should ask or avoid tough questions became an issue in the presidential debates, and this post considers how panel moderators handle that conundrum.
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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Creating a "bone to pick" section in your next panel discussion

Moderators should make a habit of listening to great interviewers for fresh ideas on lines of questioning or ways to bring panelists to a better level of discussion. There's just such an idea in episode 201 of The West Wing Weekly podcast, a favorite of mine, in which the hosts interview the series director Thomas Schlamme.

One of the hosts, hearing a mild complaint from the interviewee, says jokingly something along the lines of "we'll put that in the 'bone to pick' section." And they did come back to that issue at the end of the interview.

Joke though it may have been, I picked up on it as something that would make a great thematic section of any panel of pros. It creates a line of questioning that will allow all panelists to respond about something negative or something that's been bothering them. And if necessary, it also can serve as a moderator's back-pocket tool, kept aside for that moment when you need to keep panelists on the topic at hand, yet give them a chance later to complain about an unrelated thread.

How to include it? At some point during your questioning, or (as they do in the podcast) just before the conclusion, say, "It's time for our 'bone to pick' section, where I'm going to ask each panelist to share a bone they have to pick with __________________. Start us off, Fred: You've got a bone to pick with...?" You as moderator get to fill in that blank with your industry's best practices, a major customer base, a particular policy, and more.

You also may want to hold this option in reserve. If the panelists or the issues are contentious, you might want to use a "bone to pick" section to corral and contain complaints. If so, when those arise from the panel, announce you want to put them in the "bone to pick" section and keep track of them. Then air the list and the discussion later in the panel.

(Photo from the Library of Congress Flickr album of mystery photos, circa 1923. It's perfect to use as the slide announcing your "bone to pick" session at your next panel, and in the public domain.)

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.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

3 key lessons for panel moderators from Chris Wallace

This election cycle in the United States has been many things, but it has certainly been a bonanza for moderators, yielding all sorts of tips and lessons. In 3 lessons every interviewer should learn from Chris Wallace's stellar debate performance, broadcasting insiders share 3 qualities that make sense even if you're moderating a panel discussion rather than a political debate. Wallace is the host of Fox News Sunday. From the article, the lessons are:
  1. Give context to provocative questions: "For example, on trade and open borders, here was Wallace’s question to Clinton: 'Secretary Clinton, I want to clear up your position on this issue, because in a speech you gave to a Brazilian bank, for which you were paid $225,000, we’ve learned from the WikiLeaks, that you said this, and I want to quote. ‘My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.’ So that’s the question… Is that your dream, open borders?'" That's a great example of a compact amount of context, along with a really short, specific question at the end.
  2. Guide the conversation politely but firmly: Speakers do wander, and the moderator's job is to bring them back to either the topic, or the time limit, or both. An example from the article: "When Trump veered from a question about immigration into discussion of Middle East policy, Wallace recognized that the commentary was still valuable and provided a brief extension: 'We’re a long way away from immigration, but I’m going to let you finish this topic. You’ve got about 45 seconds'." Pairing the warning signal--you're far from our topic--and pairing it with a specific time limit to wrap up the wandering makes for a great combination.
  3. Don't let speakers evade direct questions: "Wallace was politely relentless in pressing through these deflections and ended up pinning Trump down on one of the biggest questions of the moment: Will the GOP candidate, who often complains of a 'rigged election,' officially concede if the results fall in Clinton’s favor?....When Trump attempted to sidestep the question by talking about the media being 'dishonest and so corrupt,' Wallace interjected three times to force Trump back to the core issue of accepting defeat.In doing so, Wallace didn’t just continue asking the question; he took the time to eloquently explain the gravity of the issue." Go to the link to read the long, but well-phrased, question, and Wallace's follow-up, explaining just why the important issue could not be brushed off lightly.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Donkey Hotey)

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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Can panel moderators really fact-check on the fly? Tips from presidential debates

For the journalists moderating the presidential debates, the idea of doing fact-checking on the fly--correcting candidates in the moments after they put forward a false statement--is daunting. The New York Times looked at fact-checking on the fly, and offered some tips any panel moderator can use:
The notion of a moderator as a fact-checker “is too simplistic,” said the Rev. John I. Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame and a board member of the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonpartisan group that oversees the events. “What a good journalist does is ask follow-up questions that challenge the candidate to explain.” 
“The moderator can’t do it all; the onus falls on us a little bit, as the body politic,” to determine if a candidate is plausible, he added. “The moderator can make a mistake by being the voice of God, saying, ‘Here’s the way it is.’”
So what are those questions that will get your panelist to explain what they meant and whether it's really true? Try "How do you know that will happen?" or "Review for us the supporting data for that view" or "Let's go back for a minute and examine what you just said. Is that really the case?" With a panel, you also can turn to another panelist and say, "Jane, do you agree? Is that the truth from where you sit?"

The good news: It matters to the audience. If readers of political coverage are any indication, fact-checking may actually have an impact on the audience, so it's worth doing.

Like everything else in public speaking, it's actually possible to prepare for on-the-fly situations. This post suggests how the journalists moderating the presidential debates can prepare, by anticipating statements based on past statements by the candidates, and thinking through how they will question or respond. You'll find more ideas for prepping your questions in my ebook, below.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by kkirugi)

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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Moderators must interrupt from time to time. But when is it too much?

Today Show host Matt Lauer's handling of a high-profile interview with Hillary Clinton came under fire recently for all sorts of reasons, but chief among them were his interruptions of Clinton. Lauer was interviewing both Clinton and her presidential election rival Donald Trump separately as part of a televised forum, and he was billed as the moderator. But Clinton got nearly all the interruptions, compared to Lauer's handling of Trump--and viewers objected.

I'm an advocate of moderators who interrupt, because some panel discussion and other moderation tasks require it. Some moderators can be too polite, letting the panel get out of control. Speakers repeat themselves or one another; talk about something other than the answer to the question posed; talk longer than the time allotted. Interruptions help get the discussion back on track in many cases. That's why one reviewer of my ebook on moderating panels noted, "One delightful section presents smart ways to interrupt speakers, primarily so you can shut them up and stay on time, for the win."

But in this recent case, viewers noticed the imbalance right away: Clinton got more "manterruptions," and Trump few. Interruptions from the moderator are not a bad thing per se. But doing so unfairly can be. Research shows that in mixed-gender conversation, men are primarily responsible for the interruptions. So male moderators should absorb that information and work to find other ways to engage panelists who are female. I'm going to add avoiding manterruptions to my list of things moderators can do to manage panels with good gender balance.

This is often difficult to sense in the moment, and can be more noticeable later, when you're reviewing a recording of the proceedings. But moderators can come up with a scorecard for themselves, making simple marks when they interrupt a panelist, pose a question to them, etc. Then you'll have a quick visual reminder of what you're doing.

For more on interruptions the right way, read my 6 smart ways for moderators to interrupt speakers, and pass them on to Mr. Lauer if you run into him.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Jeff Sims)

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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What panel moderators can do to advance conference codes of conduct

Codes of conduct are growing in use at conferences to combat a range of bad behavior from sexual harrassment to racist language. And while not every conference has such a code, conference organizers have an easy tool at their disposal to further that code and compliance with it: Ask every panel moderator to announce the code conduct.

In Moderating my first panel: Ask an Android Developer Yash Prabhu notes that having a code of conduct is one of her musts for a panel, and notes:
As with any event I organize, I always announce our Code of Conduct and always ask permission before recording or photographing anyone.
Smart rules for any moderator, but the responsibility here really lies with the organizers, who should make it a "must" in the moderator's so-called housekeeping duties. If the code is short, read it aloud; if long, summarize the highlights and indicate where participants can find the code in the conference program or on the website.

Moderators can go one further, if they will, and make sure the panelists have seen the code before the panel. After all, a good code includes guidance on language for discussions and content of slides and handouts, so it's only fair for panelists to know about it in advance. Do not make assumptions about who does or does not need to see the code; consistency is the important thing.

Read more about conference codes of conduct in my post Does your conference have a code of conduct? I wish mine did.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by US Mission Geneva)

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.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

5 tips from a focus group moderator to steal for your next panel

Panel moderators can steal good ideas from all sorts of sources--including moderators of other types of sessions.

In How moderating focus groups made me a better manager, Brooke Niemiec points to what managers can learn from focus groups, but panel moderators can take the lessons, too. Here's what she advises:
  1. Don't skip the warm-up: "Good focus groups usually start with an icebreaker to let members learn more about one another. The activities and topics involved are safe, and they're meant to knock down some of the barriers between people," Niemic writes. That might include a humorous intro, a quick activity for the audience or the panelists, or fun instructions for the duration of the panel.
  2. Let them do the talking: "Moderators listen during focus groups a good 90% of the time, asking broad questions to guide the conversation and probing questions to clarify details that are unclear," Niemic notes. The same is absolutely true for panel moderators.
  3. Ask, don't tell: I love this bit of advice for panel moderators: "Good moderators avoid stating ideas directly—'You said that the new call center process was confusing'—or 'leading the witness:' 'I’m going to show you this amazingly awesome new call center process.' Instead, they ask participants to state things in their own words. And when asked a question, moderators often answer, 'What do you think'?" That goes equally well whether the moderator gets a question from the panelists or the audience members.
  4. Hear from everybody: "Moderators always need to make sure to get feedback from everyone in the room, not just the loudest person." That's also a critical skill for panel moderators, relevant to panelists and to audience members. Both groups count on the moderator to keep some balance.
  5. Keep everyone honest: Here's a great piece of advice for how panel moderators can set the tone: "You also need to cultivate an environment that encourages all types of sharing." Announcing that intention and enforcing it in real time will go a long way to enliven the discussion with many viewpoints
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Columbia GSAPP)

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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

When an audience member hijacks the panel and the moderator

It's every panel moderator's nightmare: Losing control of the discussion. Often, that happens due to an argument between audience members and panelists, but sometimes, just one person is responsible. And in a recent high-profile panel at ComicCon, the person responsible worked for the conference.

The headline says it all: “Women in Film Production” Panel at SDCC Derailed by Male Con Staffer Who Didn’t Realize He Wasn’t There to Moderate Or, Like, Even Talk. The conference staffer present "to hold the microphone during the Q&A, be there in case something went wrong, or help if the panelists needed anything" took that mic and used it to "hijack the conversation with his own words of wisdom as a filmmaker, promoting his own filmmaking school with loads of patronizing assumptions about what the ladies did or did not know."

Panelists and moderator were stunned into silence, but later, panelist Lauren Haroutunian took to Twitter to describe in several tweets what happened, including this one:

It's a good reminder that panel moderation is not for the faint of heart, and those who would derail the discussion can be anywhere: support staff, organizers, panelists, or audience members. Here are a few tactics you should have in your back pocket when you moderate a panel, just in case it runs out of control:

  1. The ultimate muscle for any moderator: Say out loud what you wish to occur, instead of silently wishing for it or sending hand signals that may be ignored. Your announcement helps the others in the room join you in support, and gives them permission to object to the interruption.
  2. Learn how to interrupt: Being polite is important. Being polite to the detriment of the conversation is not the moderator's role. Learning correct, polite ways to interrupt an overly long speaker, be she in the audience or on the panel, will help you keep the proceedings on time and on topic.
  3. Learn how to manage the long-winded, off-topic question, which often derails the panel, by handling the questioner deftly and firmly.
  4. When the topic is controversial, prepare for what might derail the panel, rather than assume all will go smoothly. This is where working with your panelists in advance is essential. Many moderators share my ebook with the entire panel, so they know the full range of what needs to be anticipated.

(Creative Commons licensed photo from ComicCon by Hina Ichigo)

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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New moderation tool for speakers and panels from Google Docs

Google Docs has a new tool that will help moderators and speakers manage Q&A better. Called Slides Q&A, the tool allows you to share a link on your slide in the Google Slides app. Audience members can submit questions from phones, laptops, or tablets. They also can vote for questions that interest them, so if you get more questions than you can answer in real time, you can sort the most popular ones.

Your audience members get advantages, too, since the app lets them submit questions when they are ready, as well as anonymously, if they wish.

Speakers working with a moderator can let the moderator review the questions and select those to be answered. For a panel, you may wish to combine the presentations into one file in Slides, so the moderator can easily manage and capture the questions. Will you try this new tool when you moderate next? Check out the video below for more details.


(Creative Commons licensed photo by Benjamin Reay)

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.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

If voters were moderators: 4 ways to know what your audience expects

Pew Research recently took a look at what voters want the moderators to spend time on in the presidential debates, and while debates are quite a different format from a normal conference panel, it's a great reminder to moderators: Do you know what your audience expects in terms of the time you spend on particular topics?

For most of us, the answer is probably "no." Panels get put on conference programs for all sorts of reasons, and sometimes the least of those is "audience interest." But as a moderator, you can do your part to make sure you have a better understanding of what your panel's audience expects. Here are a few ways to gather that data:

  1. Ask the organizers: Part of your discussion with the organizers about your moderation role--something for which I have an entire list of questions in my ebook--should include gleaning information they have about why the panel was organized and what they think their audience has already heard before, and is looking for now. You absolutely should share what you learn from this discussion with your panelists.
  2. Ask the panelists: Presuming the panel has some knowledge of this audience (and if not, why are they on the panel?), ask them for their ideas and what they've heard from audience members. If you're going to use social channels to find out more (see below), ask the panelists to join you in this information-gathering.
  3. Use Twitter or other social channels to talk to your audience in advance: There's really no better use of Twitter than to post questions in advance of the panel, eliciting audience members' thoughts on what they are hoping to hear--and that goes for your virtual audience, as well as the one that plans to be in the room on the day. If you are using one particular social channel to get feedback, use the other channels to direct your audience to the place where you are collecting input.
  4. Post your own poll and promote it: You can get even more thorough and use a free polling tool to create your own questions and elicit feedback. Don't forget to promote the poll using all your social channels.
There's just one catch to eliciting audience feedback in these ways, and this is why so many panels skip this step: If you're going to ask for feedback and questions in advance, your audience will have a reasonable expectation that at least some of them will be answered by the panel. Don't let them down!


(Creative Commons licensed photo by Kevin Lawver)

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.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

First-time panel moderators share experiences, tips


The slate of journalist-moderators for the U.S. presidential campaign debates has just been announced, and all of the moderators have one thing in common: This will be their first time moderating a debate.

Whether you're doing a high-profile presidential debate's moderation or a standard conference panel, if it's your first moderator gig, congratulations! I say that because you have less to unlearn than a seasoned panel moderator with bad habits.

The other big advantage many first-time moderators have lies in their willingness to research and then share their newfound knowledge with others. Here are four first-timer's insights on how to approach panel moderation:
  1. Cate Huston shared on this blog her approach to moderating a panel at Beyond the Code, including how she prepared, her guidance for panelists, and her thoughts on the three roles of a moderator. I'm honored that she also found good ideas in my ebook (link below) and shared it with all the panelists: "Recommending Denise’s book to all panelists was an act of genius. At the end when I thanked everyone one of them commented that because I’d encouraged them to read this book they all knew how hard I had worked!" she wrote.
  2. Inspired by Cate, Yash Prabhu decided to try her hand at moderating an Android Alliance panel for the first time. She also consulted my book, and shares how she developed themes, prepared the panelists, and handled Q&A, noting a result I think is a great success for any moderator, seasoned or novice: "The audience was very involved in the panel and asked some great questions. Many of them stuck around to ask questions after the panel."
  3. MJ Schindler's What I learned from moderating a panel for the first time at Digital Summit Atlanta includes useful copies of her advance emails to panelists, sharing the questions she envisioned, and more, so other first-time moderators have a concrete model to follow.
  4. Joyce Stack's How I prepared for moderating my first panel at the API Strategy and Practice Summit is actually what she was thinking as she was flying to the panel, so it's loaded with advice she had before the panel actually took place--perhaps a good way for you anticipate what prep looks and feels like. I liked this piece of advice: "Accept that you will not please everyone. It's hard at conferences right – you have the noobs and the experts and it’s really difficult to please everybody. Just accept it."
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Marc Delforge)

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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How moderators can get speakers focused on the audience

A good moderator leads the panel, certainly--but sometimes, that means that the speakers spend all their time gazing at the moderator, leaving the audience feeling out of the conversation loop. Building on our recent post, Guy Kawasaki on why speakers shouldn't look at the panel moderator, reader and trial consultant Suann Ingle shared this bit of artful language borrowed from jury trials. It's language any panel moderator can use to get the panelists focused forward, at the audience.
Thank you Denise Graveline. I find it also helps when the moderator begins with some variation of "...would you share with our audience your thoughts on..." much the way smart trial attorneys ask the witness to "tell the jury..." show less
You can come up with a handful of variations on this theme, always using your most powerful option as moderator, to say out loud what you wish to occur. In this case, you want your words to mention the audience specifically, as Ingle suggests. "What's your best advice for the members on this issue?", "What should our audience consider when making that decision?", or "Tell our audience your favorite part of the movie," all direct the speakers' attention to the people in front of them.

Thanks, Suann, for sharing an effective tactic from the legal world!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by US Mission Geneva)

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.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Panel formats: Are you trying an innovative format for your next panel?

In this post on how to make your panel avoid becoming a punishment, Asian Development Bank urban development specialist Renard Teipeike minces no words about how bad a panel discussion can be:
I’m not sure when panel discussions became an exercise in participant punishment that seems diabolically perfect in combining underperforming speakers, lack of gender balance, and an environment more conducive to checking Facebook updates or dozing off.
Among his prescriptions for the panel is mixing up the formats. Teipeike shares a World Health Organization report on planning events in the field of aging which offers a range of useful formats that can be used to disseminate information from a report, for example. The formats range from keynotes and storytelling to fishbowl panels and workshops, and the report includes useful planning considerations about audiences and goals.

It's worth using a toolkit like this one to consider whether a different format would enliven or better suit your topic. Use it with the creative panel themes and lines of questioning you'll find in my ebook to create a novel panel that won't be a punishment.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Maryland GovPicks)

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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Moderators: One of 7 keys to avoiding #allmalepanels [VIDEO]

Your conference program turned out to have boatloads of male speakers, but not so many women. So what to do? For many conference organizers, the answer is "add women as moderators." But more and more, observers are publicizing this move as window-dressing, and like me, discouraging women from accepting moderator gigs when the panel is all male.

Now Inclusive Security, a nonprofit hoping to change who makes decisions about peace and war, has released a video with seven rules for avoiding all-male panels. Rule number 5: "Don't put all men on stage and tack a woman on as moderator."

There's a bonus rule for moderators to heed, in number 7: "Be aware of subtle biases: Address female and male panelists equally."

The video is a great and accessible way to help fellow conference organizers, speakers, and moderators talk about a more inclusive approach to our work. Please share the video! I learned about it from our pals at Gender Avenger

VIDEO: 7 Rules for Avoiding All-Male Panels - Inclusive Security

(Creative Commons licensed photo by UN Women)

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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Guy Kawasaki on why speakers shouldn't look at the panel moderator

We love everything Guy Kawasaki has to say about panels--particularly because he sees them, and the job of the moderator, as complex rather than something to dial in. And in his post How to kick butt on a panel, written after one of his own moderator gigs, he has a piece of advice for moderators and panelists: Don't look at each other. Here's what he says:
Never look at the moderator. The moderator is asking the questions, but he is merely a proxy for the audience. When you answer, don’t look at the moderator. Look at the audience because the audience doesn’t want to see the side of your head. (FYI, a good moderator will not make eye contact with you–forcing you to look away from him and look at the audience.) (Someday I may write an entry about how to be a good moderator because most people incorrectly think it’s so easy to be one.)
It's a useful frame for both speakers and moderators. The moderator really is the go-between and proxy for the audience; she always has the floor and the mic to go with it. But speakers need to connect directly with the audience. So proxy though the moderator be, cut out the middle man and look at your listeners.

Not making eye contact with speakers makes it even more important for moderators to use my top tip for managing a panel: Say what you want to happen out loud, rather than signaling or hinting or wishing the panelists would do something. You don't need to look at the panelists to do that, but your out-loud directions will certainly accomplish what you need to get done.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Andy Ihnatko)

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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Are you using women moderators to cover all-male panels? We see you.

In Stop Using Women Moderators to Excuse All-Male Panels, our friends at Gender Avenger have an eye on the practice of window-dressing diversity at conferences by putting women into visible moderator slots, presiding over otherwise all-male panels.

This practice is so common that it's on my list of the 9 times you should turn down an offer to moderate a panel, and I recommend you let the organizers know your reason, so this practice will be stopped someday. So I welcome Gender Avenger's attention to this problem. On GA, Soraya Membreno writes:
A moderator of a panel or debate serves as a champion of the audience. The panelists, on the other hand, speak for an industry and are brought in as experts to offer insight the audience does not have. Although moderators are undoubtedly important, placing the bulk of the women in your conference in this role doesn’t actually address gender balance, and does little to promote women’s voices. So while I would never discourage a woman from serving as a moderator, it bears stating: it is not enough.
Conference and event planners and organizers: Are you listening?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by USFWS-Mountain Prairie)

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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Should your panel moderator gigs go on your speaker page?

On my blog The Eloquent Woman, I shared 6 must-haves on your speaker page that range from video to social buzz. But should your gigs as a moderator make the cut?

My answer: Absolutely. But I suspect that many speakers are omitting panel moderator gigs when they list their speaking engagements on the speaker page they maintain on a blog or website. Perhaps you consider moderation a lesser role than being an individual speaker, or even a panelist?

In fact, since moderating a panel can be more complex than delivering a keynote, you should be including moderation on your speaker page if you want to show off your skills to conference organizers. If you're a frequent moderator, choose some high-profile, difficult, or controversial panels to highlight, and indicate there are more available on request. You also can list the total number of panels you've moderated in a given year, and then add more specifics for high-profile panels. And if your moderation got good reviews or social buzz, by all means, include it.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by the International Labour Organisation)

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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

From the vault: Should the moderator introduce herself?

My coaching client was moderating a major press conference for her company, and her script had the required regulatory language, introductions for each of the executive speakers, and a preview of the day's events. The only thing missing? The script didn't include an introduction for herself.

When I pointed out the omission, she questioned whether she really needed to introduce herself--it felt awkward. It might have been another case of a woman speaker who feels she should be a backup singer, not a lead performer. But I think the moderator, of all the speakers, needs an intro. Here's why:
  • It's part of the official record: Especially for investor meetings or press conferences, the moderator's remarks are part of the official record. And those remarks need an identifier.
  • It's a courtesy to the audience: Your audience may have a program in hand, but it's important to verbally introduce yourself along with the other speakers. It helps audience members keep track of who's doing what, connecting faces with names. And because the moderator is the audience's guide, how will they ask a question or get your attention if they can't call you by name?
  • It appropriately reflects your role as a frequent speaker that day: As the person who may appear most frequently as a speaker, the moderator, of all people, needs an introduction.
But what you were really wondering is whether it's possible to give yourself an introduction that isn't too braggy or over the top? You bet it is. In this instance, in fact, simply stating her name and title would suffice. Read my posts on The Eloquent Woman blog about when you have to introduce yourself, and how to take charge of your introduction for more specifics and ideas on introducing yourself without sounding too pompous.

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

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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Audience comments matter: Moderators in the wake of the Dallas shootings

In the wake of an extreme event--like the shooting that led to the deaths of five police officers during a peaceful protest in Dallas last week--it's not surprising that community leaders might seek to focus and channel the high emotions by curating a panel discussion or two. But as folks in Dallas learned last week, that's a prime situation for the moderator to be ready for a heightened awareness of her primary role as the advocate for the audience.

In Dallas, two panels were convened, featuring area activists and leaders. TIME.com noted:
But after two hours of sedate panels, a long line formed full of angry people yelling to be heard. They demanded to know what answers panelists had to stop police brutality, racial profiling and economic disparity. As each fuming questioner refused to be silenced by the moderator, the audience roared its approval.
As one audience member put it:
“We had a community meeting, but we didn’t hear anything from the community,” said La’Shadion Anthony, Dallas Action Coalition. “We were told we can’t effect change in 24-hours. If we stand up all together we can get change … We had a panel about policies but we didn’t discuss any policies."
What could a moderator have done to handle this situation better?
  1. Don't be a moderator who shies away from asking tough questions. In a tumultuous time, one way for the audience to feel heard is through the moderator's choice of questions. If you don't hold the panel's feet to the fire, the audience will. Feel free to let your panelists know of this plan in advance.
  2. Give the audience half of the allotted time. Calling on the speakers is just one half of the moderator's job. Don't neglect the audience.
  3. Don't approach audience anger as an umpire would. Your job is to let people be part of the discussion, not to break up a fight.
It's also a good time to consider opening with the audience's questions first, then moving to the panel, then returning to Q&A. I've long said that audiences show up at conferences and meetings with a desire to say something, even if they are not among the featured speakers. If you plan for that eventuality, you'll have a much more contented--rather than contentious--audience in front of you.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Peter Burka)

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.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

From the vault: 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!

This post originally appeared in 2015.

(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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How moderators can make the panelists' job easier

You may not think it's your job to make the panelists' job easier when you're the moderator, but if you do just that during the planning for the panel, you too will reap the benefits.

In fact, the moderator is in a unique position to help the speakers, even if they don't seem to think of it as help. Here are some ways you can aid the panelists when you're working with them ahead of the panel:

  • Be a good go-between: You can save the speakers time and keep the panel policies consistent if you carry speaker issues and requests to the organizers, and vice versa.
  • Flag format issues in advance: Both you and the organizer may have format ideas and limits that will affect the time and effort speakers spend in preparing. Tell them early about limits like no slides or a specific number of slides, time for their presentations, whether they can or should promote their services, what audio or video options are available, and so on. 
  • Themes and lines of questioning: If you or the organizer have themes or a specific line of questioning in mind, clue in the speakers before they prepare their contributions. And if you anticipate some controversy, take the time to talk through how you expect to handle it. 
(Creative Commons licensed photo by AIGA/NY)

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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The one muscle you need to exercise to be a better panel moderator

Once the preparation is over and the panel has begun, the moderator has one strong muscle she can use again and again. It works nearly every time, no matter what is happening.

Here it is: Skip the subtle signals to direct the action. Announce, out loud, what is happening or what you want to happen.

Too often, I see moderators who think they must be subtle. They glare at the overtime speaker, willing him to be silent, or just to pause. They put notes in front of speakers. They make hand signals below the table top. They stand off to the side. They fret and sweat. But they don't use the one real tool they have, which is to speak out loud--even if it means an interruption.

Most audiences and organizers want the moderator to be competent and likable, on time and non-anxious about it. Your moderation is a time to embrace both the firm and kind approaches.

What does that look and sound like? Let’s say your first speaker on the panel goes overtime and can’t be stopped. You can open the questions by acknowledging the time problem and offering a compromise that lets the audience and the next speakers know what to expect, as in, "One thing to know about me as a moderator is that I like to run an on-time panel, and right now I am failing because we're overtime by 3 minutes. To make up the time, I'm going to take just two questions now for Jim, and then move on to our other panelists, hoping they can help me make up the time and ensure that we can have plenty of audience interaction. Two questions, please..."

Moderators who speak up make the situation transparent to the speakers and to the audience. You're enlisting them in your task, in a subtle but clear way.  If you do it without anxiety, firmly but kindly, you will keep control of the room and the proceedings. If you hesitate, even a little, you might get run over by an out-of-control speaker. It's the primary way to keep speakers on time, to gracefully handle an over-long questioner or a persistent one, and it's the only way to make the session end on time. Announce, rather than signal, what you see happening or want to happen next. Practice using this muscle, and you'll be a better moderator for it.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Chris Geatch)

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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Now *this* is how panel moderators should be treated

New Yorker magazine cartoonist Liza Donnelly was live-sketching the Social Media Weekend New York at the Columbia School of Journalism a couple of days ago. She captured this image of Carla Zanoni moderating one of the panels. Zanoni is the executive emerging media editor and head of audience development at the Wall Street Journal.

Zanoni posted it to Facebook, writing:
The lovely talented Illustrator, Liza Donnelly from The New Yorker, just live drew me moderating a panel at ‪#‎SMWKND‬. 
Life now complete. Thank you!
Let it be a reminder to scribes, artists, and organizers to show some love and attention to your moderators for their hard work!

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.