12 October 2017

Conferencing: Tips for Moderators

In keeping with our post last Thursday on Writing better Conference Abstracts and crafting better Posters, and with #AmAnth2017 next month, I thought it timely to share this article on Tips for Moderators: Don’t Be the Barrier that Prevents Expression (Medium, 15 Sept 2017).

More than just a list of tips on how moderate (rather than dominate) a conversation between speakers, this article also provides a cautionary tale about power dynamics and voice in public platforms. At what sounds like an amazing recent event in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, "Gloria Wekker and Philomena Essed shared their experiences and thoughts as scholars, women, women of color, teachers." Amazing, except these speakers and the audience were saddled with a moderator who stole focus from the speakers rather than guiding their conversation with the audience deeper. As the author of the Medium piece laments,
The biggest failing of the moderator was one I’ve seen at nearly every panel discussion I’ve ever attended, particularly in the Netherlands. I’m sure others will recognize it. It comes from inviting brilliant people and then limiting their space for interacting with each other and engaging in meaningful conversation. It comes from misplaced and misdirected questions. It comes from the habit of control.
So, what lessons can we learn from this event and take with us as we moderate the panels or round tables or public discussions in our futures...?
  1. A good moderator knows their stuff
  2. A good moderator shuts up
  3. A good moderator listens
  4. A good moderator changes tacks
  5. A good moderator asks what the speakers expect of them
  6. A good moderator backs down
Check back on Monday when we will continue the conferencing tips theme by posting about how to be a great chair!