Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Taking a blog and social media hiatus for June 2017

I'm waist-deep when it comes to the river of blogging and social media, with three blogs, the two oldest blogs turning 12 and 10 years old this year. That's a lot of blogging, and that's not all. My total tally in the social media world includes
  • three blogs
  • two Twitter accounts
  • two Facebook business pages, along with my more private personal account
  • one Google+ account and one Google+ community
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • and I'm very likely forgetting something, which is not a good sign.
This post isn't about expanding that universe, but about letting it contract a tad. Specifically: I'm taking a social-media hiatus for the month of June 2017. 

Here's what that means for me: I'm really not going to post anything, including on my non-public accounts. That will mean not sharing photos, not writing posts, not observing, not sharing. 

Social media posting doesn't take up a ton of my time on any given day, but reviewing material, deciding what to share, monitoring comments and interactions, and writing are the biggest time-users. I put in plenty of screen time, and am hoping that that's what will be missing in June while I spend time the old-school way, in person. 

Of course, if you're a client or a would-be client wishing to get in touch, I encourage that heartily. Email me directly at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com. A social media hiatus is not, for me, a work hiatus, so I will continue working with clients and looking for new ones. But I also expect I'll have some time for longer-form projects like books, and I'll be back in July with some fantastic posts for you.

Thanks for reading, and see you in July!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by nchenga)

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, May 23, 2017

Keep 'em in your back pocket: Creative questions for moderators to ask

I collect questions.

At nearly any conference I attend, I'm taking notes...on the moderators' questions, looking for creative, pointed, or fun questions I can recommend to panel moderators to keep the discussion vivid and lively.

Here's a collection of just some of the questions I recommend you try in your repertoire as a moderator, and you'll find many more creative lines of questioning in The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels:

  • "Why not?" and "So what?", if delivered with precision, are brief but potent ways to get a panelist to say more, and do it in an energetic way.
  • For panels on topics of uncertainty and controversy, two questions--about skepticism and reassurance--can keep the tone constructive and civil, as well as enlightening.
  • To draw out a speaker who's skimming over something important, use this question from Face the Nation moderator John Dickerson. It's personal and effective. It's what you use when a speaker says something's a "problem," for example, without elaborating.
  • To get frank and revealing stories from speakers, use the Sheryl Crow question and ask them to describe "my favorite mistake." But there's a catch that makes it more effective.
  • Redeem this is NPR host Terry Gross's back-pocket question to get an interviewee to defend something unpopular--a task you should give your next panel. It's one of my favorites, and yields surprising answers.

Still thirsty for good questions? Try Frank Sesno's new book, Ask More, loaded with different types of questions and how to put them to use.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by VĂ©ronique Debord-Lazaro)

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, May 16, 2017

From the vault: Keeping panels on time: Have a 3-speaker limit

(This is an updated version of a post that appeared in 2016. I'd publish it weekly if I thought that would change things.)

Want a panel that allows plenty of time for each speaker to get her points across? Want panels that allow time for audience questions? Want a panel that ends when the schedule says it will? There's an easy solution: Limit panels to no more than three speakers, plus one moderator.

The proliferation of speakers-per-panel is one of the starkest sign of how out of control panel discussions are today. Organizers think the panel must represent the universe, include all their friends, or represent other politics. And typically, this fault is a fault of the organizer: What speaker wants to be part of a panel of 8 speakers, each with precisely 2.5 minutes to shed light on the topic? I can say that because I was invited to just such a panel, and I turned it down.

For the moderator, too many speakers is even more challenging: Introductions take more time, Q&A will be tougher to manage, and the likelihood is high that none of the speakers and few audience members will be happy afterward, no matter what you do. You can expect time limits will be ignored, particularly as speakers try to pile on to a previous comment.  That's why too many panelists is my number one reason to say "no" to a panel invitation, whether you're the moderator or the speaker.

Panels of three speakers strike the right balance between varied viewpoints and enough time for speaker and audience to consider what's being said. A three-speaker limit means you don't have to choose between ending on time, and enough time for the discussion. More than three speakers means the moderator has a job that gets tougher every time someone is added.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by 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.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

What panel moderators can learn from journalist moderators

One smart tactic I use to continually improve my moderation of panels is to listen to journalists' interviews. The best of them give me ideas for creative lines of questioning, handling talkative speakers, and getting better answers. On occasion, they provide cautionary tales, examples of what not to do. Here are some of the best tips for moderators that I've gleaned from journalists:
  1. Chris Wallace's moderation of a presidential debate yielded good examples of moderation that provides context, creates a conversation, and stays on topic.
  2. Terry Gross gave a great example of a creative line of questioning you can use to discuss unpopular issues, products, or tactics in your field.
  3. Matt Lauer's interview moderation became an example of interrupting a woman too much, compared to a companion interview of a man, during the election cycle.
  4. Jane Garvey demonstrated the perfect tactic for handling the long-winded interviewee and getting him to finish up, already.
  5. John Dickerson's tactic for drawing out an interviewee can help you get more out of your panelists, and keep them from making broad, unexplained statements.
  6. Megyn Kelly came in for criticism for her tough questions while moderating one of last year's presidential debates, prompting a discussion of just how tough moderators should be.
  7. Frank Sesno's new book on asking questions draws on his experience as a CNN journalist and takes a deep dive into questions. Moderators will find this useful not only for posing better questions themselves, but for understanding what's behind audience questions.

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, May 2, 2017

Are your panel introductions gendered? Tips for moderators

Add this to our list of what panel moderators can do to advance gender equity at conferences: Making sure you don't undercut the women on the panel right at the start.

We're talking introductions here, specifically, whether moderators are introducing both male and female speakers with their formal titles, such as "doctor" for physicians and scientists.

Our friends at Gender Avenger shared When Doctors Are Not Called "Dr.": How Forms of Address Reveal Gender Bias, with the story of Dr. Julia Files, a physician and researcher. She reports:
A sinking feeling overtook me as I realized what had just happened.  I was an invited speaker at an event where I shared the program with three male physicians each of us presenting topics pertaining to our areas of expertise. The moderator (male) ended the program by thanking “Drs. X, Y, Z and Julia.” Wow! This wasn’t the first time I’d been inappropriately addressed by my first name in a professional setting, but it was certainly the most public and glaring example. Had he intended to strip me of my professional title? Did anyone else notice? Does this happen to other women, or is it just me? Instead of being appropriately proud of my contribution to the program I was stuck trying to process why this happened to me (again).
So the GA team pursued some research into gendered introductions, and took a special look at "grand rounds," educational weekly lectures in medical institutions where physicians share their expertise. Here's what they found:
We confirmed that whether doctors are introduced as “Dr.” depends on the gender of who introduces them. Women introducing any Grand Rounds speaker used “Dr.” virtually all the time (96%) regardless of the speaker’s gender. Men, on the other hand, were less formal overall: across all speaker introductions by men, only 2/3 ever included “Dr.”....Among introducers, there was a distinct gender difference in their use of titles: male speakers were introduced by men as “Dr.” 72% of the time, but less than half of the women were introduced as “Dr.” This is both statistically and socially significant.
Holders of non-medical doctoral degrees also experience the problem:
A top rule for moderators? Be consistent. If you're using titles, use them for all of your panelists, male and female. If you're only using first names, do the same for all. It's helpful to know the customs of the group before whom your panel is appearing, so ask the organizer if you don't know what is customary--and if what is customary also is gendered, show them how to do it right.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by aaron gilson)

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, April 25, 2017

Back-pocket moderator questions: "Why not?" and "So what?"

I sit through far too many panels where the broad statements of the speakers aren't challenged--even gently. For me, the audience member, that's not discussion. It's deadly boring.

Fortunately, every moderator has--or could have--some back-pocket questions ready for just such occasions. You can liven things up simply by asking "Why is that?" after a pronouncement. It's a prompt for further explanation, and perhaps, clarification.

Even better, use "Why not?" or "So what?" These questions are energizing, provocative, and require a good defense or explanation. Your tone of voice counts a lot here. With a pleasant tone, a curious "why not?" or a puzzled "so what?" don't need to add too much tension. If you're concerned about sounding rude, you can always sandwich them with additional statements, as in, "If you don't mind my asking, so what? That's a pretty common circumstance. I'd love to hear why that's important to you." A smile helps, and so does warning your panelists in advance that you are likely to come back with a "why not?" or "so what?" question, which allows them follow-up time.

Don't be afraid to make these countering questions. Often, what follows a "so what?" is an empassioned defense, a stronger opinion, or just a more cogent point.

(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, April 18, 2017

Moderators: Don't ask women panelists "as a woman" questions

I'm all over the task of providing panel moderators with creative lines of questioning, in my book and on this blog. But today, I want to ask you moderators to omit a particular question, one that comes from both male and female moderators, and is directed only at your female panelists: The dreaded "as a woman" question.

Rather than try to articulate it, I'd prefer you spend time reading what it feels like to be singled out in this way on a panel. Heather Tallis, the first woman lead scientist in the history of The Nature Conservancy, decided to explain in detail what this feels like....with a twist. Her essay, Because you're a man, describes the experience as if a man were asked that gendered question:
It’s your turn. The moderator introduces you. You don’t really hear what he says. You’re revisiting your points in your head, a final check. Then you’re on. A little tense at first, but then it flows — you are in the moment. The years of learning, struggling, critique, testing, and growing are coming out of you in a brilliant stream. You see heads nod. A man in the front row puts his phone away. You know you’re nailing it. 
And then you’re done. You look to the panelist next to you with a mix of relief and expectation. What will they say? You listen closely, knowing it will go to question and answers next, and you’re already thinking of what points you might make. 
The panelists finish. This is one of those rare panels where everyone was interesting. This is why you’ve always wanted to be on a stage like this—this is where the good stuff happens! Your thoughts are flying, you quickly sort the questions you have for the panelists so you can follow up later and the points you want to make to the crowd.
The moderator asks the first question. It’s a good one. The panel is really engaged. A small exchange starts between the panelists – a true conversation. The room feels tight, the audience is leaning in, excited by what they’re hearing. You’re eager for the next question. 
The moderator turns to you, and notes that you are a man. He asks if you can talk about why it’s important to have men in conversations like this. Can you cite any studies or give us any data on what men in particular contribute to the field or the topic?
You freeze. You wilt. Then you catch yourself and try to sit up straight again. You thought this was a panel about the topic, not about what’s inside your pants.
Tallis's article is clever on many fronts, but primarily because it serves as a reminder that we rarely hear moderators ask male panelists how they feel about a topic because they are men--so why do we do that to women? Put this article on your required reading list before you moderate another panel.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by the World Travel & Tourism Council)

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, April 11, 2017

Great guide for moderators: @franksesno on the power of questions

If you're a panel moderator or speaker looking for an in-depth tutorial on how to frame questions--and how your audiences are framing them--look no further than the new book by journalist Frank Sesno, Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change.

I say that in part because of the moderator's role. In public speaking, no other type of speaker is expected to both ask questions and field them. We--speakers, moderators, panelists, audiences, organizers--tend to take that role for granted, and one of the marvels of this book is that it takes very little for granted when it comes to questions and questioning.

Sesno breaks questions down by type, with chapters on questions that are diagnostic, strategic, or empathetic; questions that help you bridge to another topic, confront someone, prompt creative answers, solve problems or lead with a mission; and questions for situations that are scientific, entertaining, or evaluating a life and legacy. You'll never look at questions as a generic tool again.

In addition to the chapters discussing the types of questions, there's a fantastic hands-on "questions guide" that further breaks down each category, giving you different ways to ask questions of that type. Some are big, 30,000-feet-view questions; others are more detailed and probing. He also asks journalists and other everyday questioners to share their insights on asking effective questions in a wide range of situations. And because Sesno is himself a sought-after moderator and on-stage interviewer, you'll also find real-life moderation examples.

I suspect a lot of moderators and audience members just ask questions without thinking too much about their purpose. And Sesno notes that we're all missing a lot of great content due to the questions that go unasked:
What inspired me to write this book was a number of things—being a questioner myself, doing it for a living, doing it with people from all walks of life, and seeing around me how much was left on the table because others didn’t ask questions. When I was at CNN, a senior executive joined the company, and I watched him ask no questions as he arrived. Ultimately, he was not successful. I have been on boards of trustees and I have covered presidents. And thinking about leadership, I’ve found that when you don’t ask questions, you don’t find stuff out.
After you read this book, I doubt that will be a problem. Think about this as a guide that helps you get more out of each question: better answers, better engagement, and better completion of your goals for the session.

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, April 4, 2017

When you're the panel's Twitter moderator

The Twitter backchannel's here to stay as part of any presentation, conference or panel discussion. Audience members use tweets to describe what speakers are saying in real time, participants are announcing that they will be live-tweeting a meeting, and speakers are asking organizers "Will there be someone monitoring Twitter?" -- a step beyond just doing it themselves.

Moderation plays an important role when channeling online feedback. At conferences that were were quick to put up screens and broadcast the backchannel--without taking the time to give feedback to the speakers in real time--the organizers are finding that they've got to figure out who'll take on that task.

Speaker coach Olivia Mitchell wrote this useful and free e-book on presenting with Twitter that covers this territory, and there's more in Cliff Atkinson's book, The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever. Jay Rosen added guidance from his efforts to remake a panel at SXSW, although many speakers will not want to be in charge of the Twitter moderation (he suggests having a panelist handle it). In most cases I've encountered, it's been the moderator (for panels), emcee, or a separate designated Twitter moderator, who can be arranged in advance, or pressed into service from those who are tweeting in the audience.  Let me add a few practical tips if you find yourself in this role:
  • Set up a multi-channel way to observe Twitter:  Tweetdeck and other tools like PeopleBrowsr make this easy, with the ability to set up several columns across your screen. You'll want several searches in front of you: one with the session's hashtag, one with the name of the group or its Twitter handle, one for each speaker (name or Twitter handle), and one for retweets (RTs) of the session items.
  • Pay attention to which tweets are in the room, or beyond it:  Those able to tweet fastest and most comprehensively will be in the room, and it's their tweets about room conditions, audio and other problems you should be focused on first.  But keep an eye out for tweets from beyond the room, especially with questions. They're working with less context and their questions may need more detail--so alert the speakers when you convey the question.
  • Figure out how and when to alert the speaker or panel to a Twitter question or issue:  You can call a few "Twitter breaks" to let people in the room tweet while you share some questions privately with the speaker or panel; arrange in advance that you'll raise your hand or a white card when you want to share Twitter questions; or just pass a note to the speaker to "speed up" or "go back and explain part one again."  Make sure you and the speakers know how this will be handled before they start talking.
  • Remember to holler back down the channel:  Be sure to send a reply that lets the questioner know his or her query has an answer, once it's been shared in the room.  Close that loop.  The same goes for alerting the in-room crowd on Twitter that issues have been fixed--don't just announce it out loud, correct it on Twitter.
  • Encourage other tweeters in the audience to share questions they get:  Not everyone "listening in" will use the hashtag or other official channels. Some tweeters' followers will just contact them directly.  At the start of the session, invite them to share those questions, too.
  • Don't neglect either audience.  The folks in the room should not feel you're only taking questions from Twitter, and those on Twitter shouldn't feel like they're talking to a brick wall.  This is why I encourage panels to use a separate moderator for Twitter, so another traditional moderator can scan the room for the live audience's feedback.  What you choose to do will depend on the size of your audience, the outside-the-room interest in the speakers (tough to gauge ahead of time), and the skills of your panel, emcee and moderator.  Remember, even a small group can generate a lot of tweets and comments in a short time.
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, March 28, 2017

5 last-minute moderator tasks before the panel starts

Even if you've done all the advance prep I recommend in The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels, what moderators do at the last minute, just before the panel starts, can often make or break the whole experience--for the organizers, for you, for the speakers, and for the audience. Here's my handy back-pocket checklist with 5 things to check right before you begin:
  1. Meet the panelists: Make sure they know you're the moderator, and chat with them if you don't already know them (and even if you do). Has anything changed about their presentations or expectations? Is this a special day for one of them? Do they have last-minute concerns? You won't know unless you ask. Make sure it's clear to the panelists that you're in charge, and that you intend to moderate them fairly and on time.
  2. Find out what's missing: Did anyone leave their bio, slides, or technology at home? Are all the speakers there? Did someone fail to provide all the audio-visual equipment requested? Did someone show up with 3 videos when there's no way to project them? Doing this check even 15 minutes before the panel gives you the chance to fix or fill the missing gap--or figure out a workaround. Don't fail to say, "We didn't plan on showing videos, so we won't be able to use them. Can you speak about them instead?"
  3. Make friends with the support team: Whether it's a group of volunteer amateurs or a professional sound and video crew and housekeeping department, find and introduce yourself to the people to whom you can turn in an emergency, from microphones that don't work to coffee cups that need to be cleared out of the panel's way.
  4. Review the bios: Scan your introductory material one more time before the panel begins. Did you learn anything in chatting with the speakers that will make the intros better?
  5. Watch the clock: Moderators need to be a step ahead. Leave a previous session early if you need to, or finish your lunch faster than the group.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by European Bank for Reconstruction and Development)

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, March 21, 2017

A creative line of questioning for panels in controversial times

My ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels, has a long list of creative lines of questioning, because I think they are missing from many panels. But one of them especially suits the types of panels I think we will be having more frequently, with controversial topics and opposing points of view.

Picture it this way: You have a panel of experts who are addressing a public controversy. They may or may not agree with one another, and also are in opposition to some external force, be it political, economic, technical, or artistic. How can you, as the moderator, steer their discussion and prompt them to channel frustration, anger, and disagreement in constructive ways?

For panel situations like that, I prefer using questions such as "What makes you skeptical?" to let the panel share doubts and concerns, and "What would it take to reassure you?" to take them toward a vision of what would work, a positive complement to the complaining that may be going on. Especially effective on topics where there's a lot of enthusiasm or anger, these questions get at something more complex than just pro-and-con viewpoints. They help the audience understand what to look for to fuel doubt, and to encourage positive action. And the neutral language doesn't further inflame the topic, but helps add nuance and explanation. Try it, moderators!

(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, March 14, 2017

When the moderator meets the mob: @AKStanger speaks out

When it comes to brave moderators, no one has anything over Allison Stanger.

She's the Middlebury College professor who agreed to moderate an appearance on her campus by Charles Murray, a controversial conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. The appearance was interrupted by protestors who shouted down the discussion, prompting the speaker and moderator to move to a room where it could be livestreamed, but that, too, was interrupted. And both Murray and Stanger were attacked by the protestors. For Stanger, the moderator, the result was a concussion, whiplash, and the need to wear a neck brace.

But this moderator is no shrinking violet. Yesterday, she published Understanding the Angry Mob at Middlebury That Gave Me a Concussion in the New York Times, and while what she experienced might make you reconsider moderating anything controversial, I hope you'll read it--not just to learn what happened, but to learn about why moderation is important.

From the article, she establishes her reason for participating:
Though he is someone with whom I disagree, I welcomed the opportunity to moderate a talk with him on campus on March 2 because several of my students asked me to do so. They know I am a Democrat, but the college courses I teach are nonpartisan. As I wrote on Facebook immediately after the incident, this was a chance to demonstrate publicly a commitment to a free and fair exchange of views in my classroom. But Dr. Murray was drowned out by students who never let him speak, and he and I were attacked and intimidated while trying to leave campus.
And here's the chilling paragraph about what happened when they attempted, finally, to leave the scene:
Most of the hatred was focused on Dr. Murray, but when I took his right arm to shield him and to make sure we stayed together, the crowd turned on me. Someone pulled my hair, while others were shoving me. I feared for my life. Once we got into the car, protesters climbed on it, hitting the windows and rocking the vehicle whenever we stopped to avoid harming them. I am still wearing a neck brace, and spent a week in a dark room to recover from a concussion caused by the whiplash.
Stanger comes down firmly on the importance of letting an unpopular speaker speak, and have moderation. She describes clearly what a good exchange of views might have looked like:
But for us to engage with one another as fellow human beings — even on issues where we passionately disagree — we need reason, not just emotions. Middlebury students could have learned from identifying flawed assumptions or logical shortcomings in Dr. Murray’s arguments. They could have challenged him in the Q. and A. If the ways in which his misinterpreted ideas have been weaponized precluded hearing him out, students also had the option of protesting outside, walking out of the talk or simply refusing to attend.
In reading what Stanger has to say--and I'm glad she spoke up about the experience--I hear a true moderator: Someone who need not agree with the person or panel she is moderating, but who is committed to the discussion with that person and the audience. And those are great goals for any moderator.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by evinella)

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, March 7, 2017

When they try to make the moderator fill in for a panelist

Get ready to encounter this last-minute request if you're a panel moderator: "Can you act as a panelist as well as the moderator? Jane isn't going to be able to make it."

It's that no-show panelist that most often prompts organizers to make this request, perhaps because they imagine the smaller panel won't be able to fill the time. They also may be prompted by your expertise in the topic at hand. And let's face it: The organizer is bound to be disappointed by the loss of what she hoped that panelist would contribute.

But serving as a moderator-plus-panelist puts you as moderator into an awkward role, and you shouldn't be afraid to say so. Are you in charge of others' speaking times as well as your own? Yes, but don't expect that to be popular. Will the combination of your moderator speaking tasks and your panelist time make it feel as if you're talking too much? Also yes, most of the time.

Be sure to ask enough questions ahead of time to determine whether you might be called upon to fill this role, so you can prepare. (That might look like, "In the event a panelist cancels, I would plan to be ready to moderate with fewer speakers. Do you agree?") Make sure, too, that you're giving the other panelists plenty of time.

But primarily, my advice is to push back on the idea that another panelist is needed. If what you are left with is two panelists, treat it like a dual interview, and allow plenty of time for audience questions, something that's usually more welcome. Feel free to suggest that to the organizer ahead of time, and by the time the panelist begs off, it won't seem like such a strange idea.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Plaid Cymru)

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, February 28, 2017

How moderators can draw out panelists to get more content

Smart panel moderators would do well to listen to journalists who do great on-air interviews in live settings, to learn how to frame questions, how to interject, and how to get the most out of your panelists. It's why I spend a lot of time listening to podcasted interviews, and one of my favorite interviewers is John Dickerson, host of Face the Nation on CBS.

On a recent Face the Nation (audio link), Dickerson interviewed Ohio Governor John Kasich about health care and reform of the Affordable Care Act, and Kasich said, "There's going to be a problem in the House of getting anything out of there that still provides coverage to people, and that's why the Republicans have to reach out to the Democrats."

"Explain that problem to me," Dickerson interjected, and got a more specific, more nuanced answer out of the governor, one that got to the conflicts in Congress that might get in the way of reform.

Here's why it works:
  • It's a simple declarative request: Not "would you like to explain" but "Explain that..." The shorter form helps it work as an interjection, and the language is neutral, allowing the answer to be whatever the speaker wants.
  • Including "to me" keeps the circle of connection seemingly small, almost as if you are asking the speaker to ignore the audience for a moment. That's fun for the audience, and may get you a better answer, one that is more specific and personal.
  • Most of all, asking someone to explain the problem keeps the content from skimming over some important nuances. Instead of letting his interviewee (or your panelist) get away with simply saying, "There's a problem!" you are there to ask what the problem is. It avoids assumptions and prompts the speaker to be more specific.
Steal that tactic for your next panel, moderators...


(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, February 21, 2017

Logistics and the panel moderator: 8 types of questions to ask

I'd love to tell you that moderating panels is all about how you look and sound on stage, and to some extent, that's true. But the smart moderator starts her interviewing with the event organizers, to learn the answers to these 8 categories of questions, at a minimum.

Each of the answers will have an impact on your time management, speaker interaction, and audience approval:
  1. Food service and noise: Is there a meal going on while we're speaking? Before? After? When does the meal service begin and end?
  2. Announcements: Does someone from the organization need to make announcements at the beginning or end? How much time will you need?
  3. Gifts: Are you compensating the speakers or presenting them with a gift? Do we need to work presentation of the gift into the panel time, or will you do that offline?
  4. Registration: What do the speakers need to do about registering? What do you need to do?
  5. Audio-visual needs (AV): Do you want to let the speakers use slides, video, audio or other media? Who is handling the logistics and equipment? If you won't have any equipment, will we be making that clear in advance? Who will let me know the AV needs and the sequence (if any) in which they need to be incorporated?
  6. Introduction info: Who's in charge of collecting the speakers' bios and photos or other advance material? When will I have access to their bios?
  7. My introduction info: Do you need a bio and photo for me? When do you need it?
  8. In-room support: Can someone meet me a half-hour before the session to go over setup and AV?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Municipal Art Society)

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, February 14, 2017

When your moderation gig is a seated, on-stage celebrity interview

Once a novelty, the seated on-stage interview with a high-profile speaker has come back into vogue, particularly in the high-tech world.

Here's how it works: Both speaker and moderator are seated in comfortable, overstuffed leather chairs set at an angle to each other and facing the audience. The speaker may be a genuine celebrity, in which case, the interviewer often is as well. But more commonly, the speaker is a celebrity in your field, and as the moderator, you're considered an expert who can hold her own in interviewing a leading light in your industry.

Why do we see so many of these on-stage interviews? This format is preferred for celebrity or high-profile speakers who do not wish to prepare remarks in advance. Instead, the moderator-interviewer poses questions. Typically far from contentious, these interviews generally avoid challenging the speaker's statements. That means you may wind up sounding ridiculous, as if all of your questions are a variant on the theme of "Tell us again how wonderful you are!"

Depending on the situation, this format may not include taking audience questions at all, particularly when the audience is very large. Another option may involve receiving and screening audience questions in advance or on the spot. As a moderator, you'll look smart if you can come up with semi-challenging questions that the speaker can answer without risk, and that's a true balancing act.

I think the biggest trip-up for these interviews lies in the lack of danger: When both speakers are seated and live-audience questions are not included, the moderator needs to work even harder to be engaging and to help the speaker do the same, while fighting the body's natural inclination to get less energetic while seated. A challenging moderation task, particularly if the speaker expects you to merely introduce her and stay out of the way.

My ebook, available at the links below, shares all the types of moderation gigs with what you should consider before you say yes--including question to ask the conference organizers.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Matthew Hurst)

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, February 7, 2017

The all-in-one on introductions: For panel moderators

You can make the argument that introducing the panel is the main job of the moderator (although it's more complex than that). Introductions set the stage, establish the theme, and lead to clearer understanding between speakers and audience members. If you're just reading someone's bio, there's much more to learn about proper panel introductions in these 8 posts loaded with help and perspective:
  1. Toward better panel introductions shares my most important do's and don'ts for this key task. Start here for intros that will delight speakers and audiences.
  2. Your introductions should *not* steal the speakers' best content, and I have 3 good reasons why, tempted though you may be.
  3. Using a three-speaker limit to keep panels on time works to reduce time for introductions, always an important part of your time calculations.
  4. Does the moderator need a script? Yes, she probably does, and the introductions are a major part of the reason why I recommend it.
  5. Embracing your inner housekeeper as a moderator will help you avoid common complaints like intros that take almost as long as the panel itself. (Yes, audiences notice those.)
  6. 3 rhetorical devices even moderators can use include some that fit nicely into your introductions back-pocket.
  7. Should the moderator introduce herself? may sound like an obvious question with an obvious answer. But many moderators miss this opportunity.
  8. Does your pronunciation of panelists' names matter? Yes, but not for the reasons you may be thinking. It has less to do with offending and more with comprehension and connection.
You'll find much more about introductions in my ebook at the link below. Enjoy expanding your range with this critical skill.

(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, January 31, 2017

What panel moderators can do to advance gender equity at conferences

Conference organizers looking to avoid issues related to gender equity at their gatherings need look no further than your best back-pocket tool, the panel moderators.

That's because moderators--deployed as they are across the program and empowered with the mic--have the power to make gender equity a reality in several key ways. Organizers can make this more of a certainty by discussing the following options with all of your moderators, in advance:

  1. Women moderators can refuse to serve as window-dressing for all-male panels, and all moderators, male and female, can turn down moderating all-male panels. Of course, organizers can make this easier by not permitting all-male panels in the first place. But if they do not act, moderators worth their salt should turn down the gig, and make it clear why.
  2. Panel moderators can announce the conference code of conduct at the start of the panel--not just noting that one exists, but what it means for speakers and participants. In addition to making it clear, announcing the code puts participants at ease and violators on notice, making it easier for people to report infractions. (Moderators, ask about codes of conduct when you are called for moderation gigs.)
  3. Alternate calling on men and women during Q&A to counteract the implicit bias, honed in the classroom, of calling on men more than women. Believe me, the women in your audience notice. Bonus points if you announce at the start of the panel or Q&A that you will alternate calling on men and women, to encourage more women to put their hands up.
  4. Make sure you are engaging female panelists equitably and not interrupting them more than you do male panelists. Managing panelists also can fall victim to implicit biases, and research shows that men interrupt women more in mixed-gender conversations. So moderators have a double duty: Don't interrupt the women more frequently when you are in charge, and don't let the men on the panel do so, either.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by the 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, January 24, 2017

3 things conference organizers wish moderators knew about better panels

I've shared 3 things moderators wish conference organizers knew about better panels. Now the shoe's on the other foot. Here are 3 things your conference's organizer is hoping you'll realize before the panel moderation begins:
  1. Enforced start and end times matter:  Starting and ending on time, so often fudged by speakers and moderators, is a must to the conference organizer. She knows that a late-starting or -ending panel results in grumpy attendees--made late, or made to wait--and bad reviews. Be sure your eye is on the clock. I find it helps if the moderator announces a commitment to starting and ending on time right at the beginning, and asks the audience and the speakers--out loud--to help her keep that schedule.
  2. They need you to clear the room at the end: Hand in hand with a panel that ends on time is a set of ground rules, announced at the start by the moderator, that help attendees and panelists leave the room promptly. Moderators can help conference organizers keep things moving by agreeing with panelists on a meetup spot *outside* the meeting room--the coffee break area, for example--then directing attendees to follow-up with speakers there. "If you have more to say to one of our speakers, they all will be in the coffee area right after this panel, so meet them there," is all it takes.
  3. They want you to allow plenty of time for questions: Nothing gets the audience more angry (and likely to take it out on the conference) than a lack of time for its questions. My own rule of thumb is 50 percent time for the panel, and 50 percent time for questions. Don't give the audience five or 10 minutes at the end of an hour and expect loving reviews.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Simon James)

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, January 17, 2017

BBC Woman's Hour top tip on moderating the long-winded answer

What are moderators for, if not to rein in the long-winded among us? We've looked before at how the moderator can best handle the long-winded questioner. But what about the long-winded answer?

On a panel, that might come from either a panelist-speaker, or an audience member. But recently, in this episode of the BBC's Woman's Hour radio program, presenter Jane Garvey did a masterful job of reining in one Member of Parliament Philip Davies, newly appointed to a committee and seemingly intent on describing his views at a longer length than one might recommend.

Garvey gently attempted an interruption, saying simply, "Mr. Davies..." when he cut back in and chided her.

"I wish you'd let me make my point!" he said crossly.

"Please, do," said Garvey. The pause at the comma is critical to the meaning of this sentence, and signals to the audience that the moderator's well aware the speaker has been going on too long, without having to say so. This was on radio, but in a live event, do resist the urge to add an eyeroll.

Garvey is a master of restraint, well worth your emulation. It's worth having a couple of gentle retorts in your back pocket so you are ready to use them when the opportunity presents itself. Bravo, Jane Garvey! We'll have to add this to our list of ways moderators can interrupt speakers.

(BBC photo of Garvey)

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, January 10, 2017

Why moderators' pronunciation of panelist names matters

Knowing how to pronounce the names of your host and your panelists sounds like a no-brainer. It's common advice for panel moderators. But not every tipster understands the real importance in a name.

Who wins in the name game shares some insights that moderators might want to keep in mind, particularly about pronouncing your panel speakers' names correctly and fluently. From the article:
[T]he ability to pronounce someone’s name is directly related to how close you feel to that person. Our brains tend to believe that if something is difficult to understand, it must also be high-risk.
So practicing pronunciation--with guidance from the person being introduced--is not wasted time. It will connect the audience to the speaker, and make easy that early moment when we don't know enough about her.

For truly complex names, try actor Brad Pitt's method of making the foreign familiar to an audience. He introduced actor David Oyelowo, whose name is difficult for some to pronounce, using a sing-song method and audience participation, at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Notice that he begins by breaking down the syllables backwards, and uses the singing to pronounce it starting at the beginning. As for Oyelowo? He said, "You know you've broken through after Brad Pitt sings your name." If you want to emulate this approach, do coordinate in advance with the speaker in question. Here's the video:


(Creative Commons licensed photo by Dean Shareski)

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, January 3, 2017

What kind of panel moderator will you be in 2017?

Whether you can't count all the panels you've moderated, or are just starting out on this challenging public speaking role, the new year is a good time to set some intentions for how you are going to approach panel moderation in 2017. I think panel moderation can be thought of in three categories that might help you see how you are going to change--or renew--your moderation this year:
  • Control: We appoint moderators with the hope that they will control the clock and the conversation, so how can you improve your controls in the proceedings this year? That might mean more announcing what you want to see happen, coming up with creative limits within your questions to panelists, or more thorough pre-panel discussions with organizers and panelists.
  • Content: Contrary to popular belief, the moderator wields a great deal of influence on a panel's content. Will you lead a panel with no slides and just discussion? Start with the audience's questions? Use more creative lines of questioning? 
  • Conversation: Moderators also can consider many ways to enliven the conversation started by the panel. You can alternate calling on men and women (and announce that you will do so), put creative limits on questions or answers from audience members or panelists, and learn new ways to move along long-winded questioners or answerers.
You also might want to think of a theme for your moderation this year, or adjectives that describe the type of moderator you want to be. 

Finally, I think all moderators should consider in the new year which types of panel moderation gigs they want to accept, and which don't make the cut. That might mean eliminating moderation for poorly organized conferences, or seeking out more high-profile moderation gigs, for example. Then be sure you enforce your choices so that you can look back on 2017 as a satisfying year of moderating panels. 

(Creative Commons licensed photo by the Brookings Institution)

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.