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6 Tips to Being a Power Moderator

Deirdre Bolton  Follow

Maybe you raised your hand. Maybe you didn’t. Either way, your boss has asked you to moderate a panel of experts at an event that is approaching frighteningly quickly. 

You might be thinking, “I have a full-time job, I know this field well, I can just wing it.” Please don’t. 

Moderating takes prep work, and great moderating takes more; but the rewards for your personal brand and your company’s brand are exponential. Good communications and visibility open doors and win business. Speaking opportunities can change career trajectories.  

Here are six ways to lead a compelling conversation:

1. Prepare! 

Ideally, you hold a Zoom call with your panelists in advance. You need to see who is introverted, who is extroverted, who is relaxed and enjoys public speaking, and who is anxious and needs time to ask lots of detailed questions prior to the event. 

Have a discussion outline ready. Most panelists are nervous. They want to know that you are a good captain of the ship; you may change your discussion outline based on your prep call, but have a plan to start. It will (help you stay organized and) reassure your panelists that they are in good hands. 

2. Show Leadership.

During the prep call, ask your panelists for three contributions to the conversation; ask them the best way to use their voices. What are they most excited about? What are they working on? What are they seeing and hearing that is important to them that they want to share?

3. Know what each panelist does.

Someone’s title is not always the most helpful or descriptive. Know how to describe what each of your panelists do as if you were explaining it to a smart 15-year-old. When you are moderating your event, you will be able to remind the audience why you are asking that particular panelist that particular question. “Susan, since you are investing in emerging markets, how are changes in the global supply chain affecting your investment decisions?”

4. Start strong off the mark.  

Your audience is giving up time, headspace, networking opportunities (and precious time from their day job!) to listen to the conversation you are leading. Make it worth their while. You have roughly eight seconds to get a group’s attention. Put your strongest and most important question first. Show the audience you and your panelists will deliver useful information to them.  

5. Always have extra material.  

You may be planning to lead a panel with four participants, but what if one doesn’t make it due to travel at the last minute? You should always have an extra round of questions ready or another theme to explore. Separately, you will need additional questions if you have a silent audience instead of a lively Q&A. It happens, even when you have led a great conversation. It is always better to be equipped with some extra dry powder.

6. Remember: It is a conversation.

Even if you are asking pointed questions, the goal is a friendly idea exchange that benefits the audience.  

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