My Moderation Checklist

Facillitation, Meetings No Comments

I was speaking with a friend and client earlier. We were chatting through our respective approaches to moderation.

After some syntactical knowledge exchange we came up with the checklist – which regular readers know will have made me very happy.

If you are booked to ‘moderate’ are you clear what you being asked to do?  Do they want you to facilitate, for example, see this tweet – the big difference being how far you suggest the agenda and lead pre-work such as surveys and speaker coaching…and maybe the propensity to split a large group into smaller conversations too.

And are you clear what sort of moderator the client is expecting – a sage, joker or host? And can you do what they are asking – best to say no at the start than be found out as not very funny or wise!

1) Prepare well
– Do you know how the speakers have been briefed (what have they been asked to do, for how long, is there breathing space between them for you to use for a comment, humorous aside, summary etc?). The bigger and more formal the meeting the more important it is for all speakers to have been rehearsed…by the event company probably, though you might want to get involved too, which can cause tensions with others who don’t see the importance of this (both speakers and conference organisers).
– What is your pre event routine…depending where you are on our reactions assessment, things like making sure you sleep well or do not arrive with a coffee OD after a party the night before, really matter. Personally I like to try and get 8 hours sleep, go for a run, do a short meditation and visualise the day – all before getting on site 2 hours before it is due to kick off.  You can see I try to get to bed early the night before!
– Know your contingencies – for example if the day is flat or you go over time…use a buzz group or shorten a Q&A.

2) Know how you will set the tone for the whole meeting.
– First things are fateful and what you say and do in the first 10 minutes really, really matters. If you run through housekeeping and just introduce the first speaker the die is cast, the day is lost – the meeting is almost certain to be passive and dull unless you are lucky to have totally brilliant speakers.
– As an expert moderator you might want to include your SCQ early on. In our Brilliant Thinking Made Easy course Ross shares the Minto Pyramid. This starts with Situation, Complication and Question. You might wish to outline what you’re hoping to discover as you listen to the days proceedings – you can then keep referring back to what is emerging for you and keep asking the group about it too.
– As a performer you might want to tell some jokes – and even other types of moderator might want to find some smirkful segue
– As a community builder finding out a few things with a show of hands can make a huge difference even when you don’t have time for any sort of small group discussion that would meet the facilitation principle of “all use their own voices in the first 10 minutes”. For example, my ‘human pie chart process’ asks who has travelled the furthest, what first languages are spoken, who knows less than 10 people and who over half, what job roles and organisation types are represented etc.

3) Keep track
– Keep an eye on time – are you on schedule for breaks, key time points?  Do you know where you have flexibility to catch up? (eg Q&A sessions, long breaks etc)
– Do track speakers as they work through any slides – reminding a speaker who looks like they are going very slow at around half way through their allotted time.
– Do notice and use in real time what is happening in social media about the event, for example hashtag comments on Twitter. These sort of illustrations make great segue!

4) Managing conversations
– Are you a fan of Buzz groups – these can work even in large events. But in the wrong hands (or at the wrong event) are a bit naff.
– What about setting a question for the group to take to coffee – and asking for a few responses to it later?
– And what about asking people to hand in questions, comments to you on paper (a sort of conversation with you!) – you can read out some on arrival. You can even get them to try and throw them in as paper planes for a prize if you are feeling playful.
– I am not a fan of stacking Q&A to the end of a whole morning or afternoon…I sometimes suggest what I call the “seminar sandwich” – with Q&A or table work etc every two speakers….
– The degree of ambient light in the room (natural or artificial matters)…the more light the more you are signalling interaction and less a show. Sometimes those working on the AV side of an event don’t get it when you ask for more house lights. Some clients like the theatrical darkness too. By the way, so do I for some things (eg a selection of photos with music before a start, a video after a break etc).

5) Knowing how to manage panel discussions
– This is the hardest thing for most moderators – especially after lunch! However a lively and interesting panel can be THE event highlight.
– Be clear how far this is a broadcast show or really a chance to engage the audience. Panel discussions are more of a “sell and tell” event format, less of an “engage and shape” one – so if you don’t think it is relevant say so and find other uses for the time (NB though, a ‘pure’ moderator doesn’t challenge the client agenda and ‘merely’ seeks to bring it to life).
– I recommend choosing a TV or Radio interviewer (news anchor, chat show host etc) you admire and who you think has a relevant style, and try to imagine what they would do – tone of voice, sort of interactions, how they play guests off each other. Give it a go.
– Do you want to play it nude or natty! Do you want to dive straight into the discussion or start with some witty CV summaries…”And in her last/on twitter job Lisa said…” to kick it off.
– Try to avoid pre prepared reflections to start from each panel member. At the most you might allow some quick, spontaneous comments from each member of what they have learnt if the panel is about the day – or what they are wanting to discover/explore if the panel is a new topic.
– How will you engage others in the audience – will you leave the stage and bound around with a mike, or use runners?

6) Capturing the event
– how far are your comments part of the record?
– who is capturing the meeting and how – video, cartoon, narrative record (idenk style for example) etc.

Once again, be authentic. However, as a rule of thumb, plan to take 1 or 2 risks a day, things that are out of character: what seems safe is often the most risky thing to do, for a dull day is lethal…it won’t be neutral. It will be good – or bad. Try to bet on good.

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