I recently had the opportunity to moderate a webinar for the first time. Over the years I have participated in many webinars and panel discussions as a member of the audience or a presenter, so I anticipated this experience would be similar. In many ways it was, but serving as a moderator did come with a unique set of considerations and preparing for the sessions was certainly a learning experience! Looking back, I realize how much I did learn from this opportunity and since many of us in association management may one day find ourselves in the position of session moderator, I thought I would share some of what I learned.
1. Do your research. As the moderator you are probably familiar with the subject(s) being discussed but don’t take that for granted. Take some time to study and read about any of the latest news or developments. This will make you more comfortable and able to take an active role in the discussion.
2. Check in with the panelists. Once you have assembled panel, don’t forget to check in with them prior to the event. Presenters are working diligently to prepare for their own participation, so consider putting together some information to assist them. This gesture will almost certainly be appreciated! Some examples of information to provide:
- Introductions: It’s always nice to know who you’ll be working with. If these individuals don’t know each other they will appreciate a bit of background on their fellow panelists.
- Reminder of Event Logistics: Date, time and anticipated length of the webinar; whether slides are required or encouraged (if so, submission instructions); event format.
- Anticipated Subjects: What is each presenter expected to discuss and for how long? If registrants are submitting questions ahead of time, consider sharing those to help speakers plan their remarks.
3. Have a plan to encourage discussion. It’s possible that the audience will not immediately engage in dynamic conversation with the panelists. Have some questions or talking points ready to help encourage discussion and audience participation.
4. Be ready for the unexpected. Despite all your best planning, something unexpected may come up. While it isn’t possible to prepare for every possibility, try to think of some that may be most likely. Do you have a plan if there are audio or connectivity issues? If a panelist cancels at the last minute can you or another panelist cover his or her talking points? If you are able, consider doing a dry run with the panelists/presenters to help identify technical glitches ahead of time and give everyone a sense of how the session will flow.
5. Review the tapes. If the session is recorded, take some time and watch/listen to the recording. It’s a terrific way to see yourself in action, see what went well and identify improvements for next time.