April 17, 2013

Be a better moderator: Stay out of your head

Photo Credit: net_efekt via Compfight cc
The topic of "being present" during presentations or while waiting to be introduced to speak has come up a lot lately in my conversations with clients and on this blog. I find that it's one of the simplest tools to get a speaker out of the thoughts of doom in her head and into the room where she's going to speak.

Another application of this principle came to mind last week while I was reviewing a client's performance as a moderator. I noted that she had done a really good job of giving prompts and making interjections when she felt the speaker could elaborate more or explain a point better.

A lot of moderators just let the speakers go on and on and never make the effort to make the panel a better experience for the audience. After all, panels are made of of disparate speakers, who frequently don't know each other and have had no time to review questions or the format of their session. Concise speakers are mixed with long-winded. Prepared speakers are mixed with unprepared. Clever speakers are mixed with dull.

Moderators are the glue that holds panels together, but they also have the role of introducer, referee, timer, coach, guide, translator and editor.

What my client did so well during her panel was listen. She stayed present with what each speaker was saying so that, if a point needed clarifying, she could make that request. If a speaker mentioned something that should be expanded upon, she could ask the speaker to elaborate. She could call upon points made by earlier speakers and tie them into a current speaker's point.

The moderator's work made the panel discussion so much smoother and more cohesive than had she just let them run with the topic. Knowing that a major speaker had pulled out of the conference at the last minute and that this panel had been assembled in the course of a day or two made the moderator's performance that much more impressive.

Just another example of how being present, listening, and not allowing yourself to go to the crazy place where dread and fear take over can make you a better speaker, whether you're on the panel or moderating it.

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Elizabeth Scala said...

Wow, great post Lisa! So many things come to mind. In the beginning you mention being present as a way to reduce speaking anxiety. I totally agree with this and use it myself. I used to get terrified nervous in front of a group. Maybe I still do- in certain situations. But if I love my content, am ready to share it with the world, and totally believe in it- once I remind myself of that, breathe, and notice myself in my body in the room... I am much, much better to begin! So right on!

Secondly, I love, love, love your mention of the moderator. And it makes me think about myself. I host an internet radio show. I host virtual webinar tele-summits. And I never thought of myself as "moderator" but that is totally what I do. I do stay very present. I listen. (I even tell guests before they come on my show: "Now, if I hear something that is really WOW-ish... I might ask you about that... So we might stray from the formatted questions I sent you... but this is just because I know you can speak to your expertise the best and the audience will get the most out of it"). And the same with my tele-summits. I like to make them less lecture-style and more interactive with me touching on main highlights.

So thank you! Thank you for pointing out to me one of things I am good at and enjoy a lot. I will see how else I can incorporate this into my business so that I can continue to grow and achieve!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

I'm glad I could help you see one of your presenting strengths, Elizabeth! It's not easy to be present when you're also responsible for being a traffic cop, but it sounds like you're very strong mentally, and can really put your focus where it needs to be. That's fabulous!

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