Moderating corporate events such as round-table discussions, lectures, conferences, forums, etc can be challenging; even for persons who consider themselves to have mastered the art of public speaking. It requires skill and adequate preparation. I have had many opportunities to moderate corporate events and I have received good reviews for my work. In this piece, I share seven tips on how to successfully moderate corporate events.
1 Do thorough research: Moderating a panel discussion can be intellectually challenging even if you are familiar with the topic. You need to research to understand the context of the topic and the grey areas. Write down your questions and get a knowledgeable person in the relevant area to vet them. It is also important to research on each panellist and what perspective they bring to the discussion. You can never go wrong with thorough research.
2 Arrive Early and Interact with Participants: Many people come to these events with various expectations. Arrive at least thirty minutes before the start of the programme and engage some participants. Introduce yourself with a smile and talk; just talk. Engaging participants before the programme officially starts puts you at ease and takes away stage fright because you already know who is in the audience. Arriving early also gives you the opportunity to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Engage event organizers on any changes to the programme. This will minimize any miscommunication that may affect your output.
3 Prepare a great introduction: As a moderator, you are the ‘facilitator in-chief’ of the programme and you need to make a good first impression. You have one shot at making a great introduction. Prepare, rehearse and deliver a strong opening that keeps everyone on their toes by giving them a teaser on what expect. Your introduction must address the questions ‘What, Why and Who?’ That is to say, what is the programme? Why has the programme been organized? Alternatively, what is the purpose of the programme and who are the speakers to look forward to? Make it brief but captivating! As you wrap up your opening, remember to share information on the location of washroom(s) and or emergency exits. If the programme is being telecast, remind the audience to minimize movement in order not to obstruct the cameras.
4 Make it a conversation: As a moderator, you are responsible for the enjoyment, energy and interest of the audience and the panellists. You ought to see yourself as a talk show host. Loosen up and show your personality. Feel free to laugh, share a thought and engage more than one panellist at a time. Make the panel discussion a conversation between a bunch of interesting people instead of a boring question and answer session. Some presentations can be boring but find a way to make the conversation engaging. Well-timed questions and answers will typically ensure the audience stays engaged and interested. Remember that simple and concise questions stick with the audience.
5Stay on Time: Part of your job as a moderator is to manage the time allotted for the session and ensure that at least everyone is heard. Ensure panellists get equal time to share their perspectives. Do not hesitate to intervene if a panelist is taking majority of them time or veering off-topic. Know how to cut someone off politely especially when the person is rabbiting on long after the point has been made.
6 Allow a good number of questions: Your responsibility as moderator is to tease out the issues and open up the discussion. The audience must feel part of the programme. Allow as many questions as time will permit so everyone walks away with deeper insights on the subject matter. If allowing one question per person is fair, stick to it. Unfortunately, many do not know how to ask concise questions or make brief remarks in our setting. Take charge and do not allow people to overrun. Announce ahead of time when the floor will be opened for questions. Remember to work with questions that participants submit through technology also.
Summarise Key Points: If your audience walk away after a panel discussion not remembering anything, you have done a poor job. Always do a quick summary of key points after moderating a panel discussion.
The writer is a Communications consultant and a professional corporate mc/moderator.
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