Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How technology's expanding the panel moderator's job

One of the biggest trends in panel moderation has been creeping up on us all. It started with conference calls and videoconferencing. Now it includes live-streaming, webcasts, Twitter audiences for live speakers, and more. As soon as technology started to separate speakers and audiences physically, the role of the moderator has been on the rise. And if you're among the speakers who think they can dial in your moderation role, those days are long gone.

That's because with distance comes difficulty. Moderators may be needed to ensure that remote audience members get a chance to air their questions, whether they're on Twitter or the other end of conference call. You may need to host one location in a multi-location live-stream, or a conference that's mixing two locations and live-streaming, as we did at TEDMED in 2014. What's a moderator to do? Here are my tips:
  1. Be sure you know the basics: If you never properly learned how to moderate a panel and have been winging it all this time, take a break to come up to speed on what you don't know. Learning the basics is critical before you add the tech challenges.
  2. Ask for or create a tech rehearsal: Whether it's a regular conference call or a big live-streamed panel, get some time with whatever technology you'll be using. Ask the technicians about common mistakes or issues--you can learn a lot from the pros.
  3. Consider a moderation team: If you're moderating a live panel and taking questions from both a live audience and the audience on Twitter or another social site, consider deputizing another moderator to focus on the social channels. Work out a signal between you--it could be as easy as having her face you in the front row and put her hand up--for those moments when she wants to share a question from the web.
  4. For live-stream and videoconferencing, consider the video: If your image is being broadcast or recorded, check out my advice for speakers in the same situation in the post Ask not what your TED video can do for you. Ask what you can do for your TED video. You need to think about the setting, your gestures, visibility, and more.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Fortune Live Media)

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.