Whether it’s their first time or they’re already a seasoned player, moderators need a lot of practice because anything can happen. From researching and studying the topic to listening to the attendees and bringing them back to the agenda, moderating requires a broad set of skills, but it’s highly doable with an organised plan.
Check out how Sara Christine Chojnacki, the founder and principal of Hello Sara Christine and a partner moderator at The Ortus Club, shares in this fantastic video her best tips and tricks on how to make moderation the most effective tool in any knowledge-sharing session.
Before the event
An excellent moderator is a proactive one. They will do research beforehand, learn about the topic, prepare questions, and get to know the participants. The role of a moderator at the beginning of each event is critical. They have to prepare the atmosphere, provide basic rules to follow, and set the tone of the roundtable discussion.
Create a script
Focus on creating a script used as a reference for the moderator and everyone involved. Having a script helps keep the moderator grounded and organised for what comes next. A moderator must stay on track.
The script must always have the opening topic and the initial questions. A moderator must set up the attendees. Determine who will be leading, listening, and participating in the discussion. It’s critical to know who the moderator is working with from the partner side.
An introduction question is essential in the script because a moderator will adjust the opening question based on the topic. But, then, a moderator must always have a few optional questions because things can go differently. For example, someone might say this, and then someone else might say that, and we can make a connection to dive deeper into the topic.
Know your audience
Research your audience: The attendees, the partners, and the event’s sponsors. Look into their brand, understand who they are, their goals, who they are as a company, where they want to be, and what they are looking for.
Conducting these events is all about making connections and having conversations. Think about your audience’s questions, what they want to get out of this session, and what they want to know from the other attendees. A good practice is to look them up on LinkedIn, set up an initial meeting with the involved people, and do two dry runs.
Set the scene
Get yourself organised before the event. Set up the laptop, a few extra monitors and printed materials if needed. It’s highly recommended that you print out the script and bring that with you if it’s an in-person event.
When attending a live event, it’s best to get there early and spend a little time with the partners. Ask them how they are and if they’re comfortable or have a particular direction they want the session to go in.
In a virtual event, set up the scene with your script in front of you. It’s recommended that you set up thirty minutes before the event and encourage the participants to join the pre-meet. Then, the moderator can open the chatbox and have everyone know each other before the event proper.
As a moderator, always check the chatbox or any hands raised for questions. Be ready to take notes, listen to what’s happening, and bring all those bits of information to tie them back to the event. A moderator’s goal is to be the guide that creates that energetic and safe space for partners to connect successfully.
During the event
As Sara mentions in her video on “How to effectively moderate any virtual event!” a moderator’s job is to do the least amount of talking and get your participants to do the most amount of talking. So, as the event starts, make sure to lead your attendees to ask questions, open up about their thoughts, and check in on each participant to get what they want.
Listen and take note
It’s essential to take note of the discussion and the people who are coming in. This is an excellent way to take note of who to bring up in the debate if it’s a topic of their expertise. Once introductions have been made, this is the perfect time to use interactivity like poll questions to break the ice. Usually, a moderator would read each question and let the participants start the conversation.
Look for connections
Get the energy going and keep people talking by making the connections. This is a critical time for them to hear every single person’s voice. Start by asking cross-question, and they will start raising their hands. Some events may not do that, so the moderator’s job is to keep integrating from the script.
As a moderator, it’s essential to listen to the answers to respond. Then, take that conversation and pivot it where it needs to go. This is why the script helps keep moderators grounded—setting up the scenes and being prepared as much as we can allow moderators to anticipate each event’s spontaneity. This creates a rich and engaging environment for attendees to pick up their energy and get to know each other.
Keep an eye on the time.
Check in with the participants and let them know that there are only fifteen minutes left to continue the discussion. A moderator must always be aware of the time, especially when the conversation is constantly moving. There are only one to two hours in the whole event, so it’s important to remind everyone to maximise the time and not get carried away.
“A moderator’s job is to do the least amount of talking and get your participants to do the most amount of talking.”
After the event
A moderator should never forget to thank the guests after each event. Sara shares in the video how she always sends the guests a gratitude email with the notes that she takes down. The notes include what each participant had to say, the biggest challenge, some light bulb moments, and the outcomes noted. She also includes a screenshot of the poll questions to connect with the attendees.
Ask for testimonials or feedback because it’s always good to grow. Learn from the outcomes and then adjust to move forward.
Most of all, after the event has been completed, you should pat yourself on the back as a moderator. You deserve great praise for balancing so many different kinds of components. In addition, you worked with various attendees, connected the partners and sponsors, and worked out a remarkable experience.