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.