The art of managing the discussion

The art of managing the discussion

As I return from moderating a panel discussion on the topic of STO regulation and the future of fundraising, I have taken the opportunity to reflect on my experience as a moderator, not only at Delta Summit 2019 but on other occasions too.

Moderating is not an easy game. The role of a moderator entails conducting a lively and engaging discussion and ensuring that all participants have the opportunity to speak. It takes great skill to foresee questions from the audience and to provoke discussion form panelists when necessary. In fact, the ability to encourage people to speak is of utmost importance. Although the moderator’s job may vary from event to event elements such as experience, knowledge of current affairs and industry trends remain invaluable.

The art of managing the discussion

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

As the saying goes, put the time in and prepare in advance and you will reap the rewards. However it’s crucial to prepare in the right way. My advice would be to email or call participants prior to the event outlining some questions you intend to start with and general topics of discussion for the event. Getting to know the participants in advance and ensuring that they are familiar with each other generates a smooth and interesting discussion when the official event occurs. The key to success here, however, is to not force participants to discuss everything they intend to say on stage. Preparation is meaningless unless it is the right kind of preparation.

Know your role

It’s best to physically position yourself sitting at the end of the table rather than in the middle between panelists. This prevents interference with the natural flow of discussion between participants. Participants should sit in the order in which they are indicated on screen to avoid confusing the audience. Your role is to simply facilitate the discussion rather than to interrupt and engage in it.

Be flexible

Although you may have prepared a plan to follow, it’s crucial to know when to step back from it; to adapt and be flexible. For example, if the fifth participant answers the same question that four people have already answered, then regardless of what he or she says, this will be of minimal interest to everyone else. In this case, it would be more appropriate to ask a related question or ask for an example to back up previous answers.

Timing is everything

Time management is vital for the event to run smoothly. If the schedule is not followed, the panelists generally begin to get nervous, the audience quickly lose interest and the organisers become agitated. Having a clock within reach or even a timekeeper is very useful to avoid any timing catastrophes.

Include the audience

Try to include the audience in the discussion. It’s important to do this early on, within the first 20–30 minutes of the discussion, as the longer you wait the harder it is to get them completely involved. Use the audience to your advantage for reactions and questions. Often, they might contribute something insightful that you may not have considered.

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