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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

5 Tips for Moderating with Excellence

Updated: Dec 4, 2022

Podium on a stage

The first time you took the stage before a presentation, were you the moderator or the speaker?

I often told my nutrition communication students at Purdue that they were more likely to preside over a session, responsible for introducing the speaker and keeping the session running smoothly, before they would be asked to be the presenter. However, putting someone inexperienced into the moderator position can have disastrous results.

What is the role of a moderator?

Have you ever considered the important role a presider or moderator plays in the success of a presentation? If it's so important, why do we rarely expend effort in preparing people to fill this role?

This tip series and the chapter it is based on from Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, are designed to correct that. Chapter 34 is titled “An Effective Presider Sets the Stage” and states, “The role of a presider or moderator is more important than it may initially seem; the outcome of a meeting or session can depend on the moderator’s effectiveness.”

5 tips for moderating with excellence...

Tip #1 Prepare in Advance

An effective moderator does their homework. They know all of the “who, what, where, when, and how” needed for a successful session or event and to help all of the pieces work together. They are familiar with the venue or virtual platform, the audience, the speakers, the desired outcomes, the technology and supplies, and the timeline. Preparation is key to their success.

Tip #2 Set the Stage

An effective moderator sets the tone. They are often the first one on stage serving as host, welcoming attendees, sharing expectations, orchestrating the schedule, and introducing key participants. Their role continues throughout the event, fielding questions, solving problems that arise, and graciously thanking everyone with a warm and professional demeanor.

Tip #3 Introduce Others to Build Authority and Anticipation

A central responsibility of a moderator or presider is introducing speakers and other key personnel. A well-planned introduction establishes credibility and builds excitement for a presentation. A moderator who knows both the audience and the speaker is able to connect the audience to the speaker and the topic of the presentation in a succinct introduction.

Tip #4 Keep Things Running Smoothly and On Time

An effective moderator keeps a session running smoothly and within the time allotted. They start on time and provide speakers with time signals to alert them when to be finished. They monitor activities and the Q&A portion of a presentation to keep on schedule and provide ample opportunities for participation. They attend to problems efficiently and with composure.

Tip #5 Expect the Unexpected

As Chapter 34 states, “Regardless of the preparation or organization by the moderator, the unexpected can happen, from the absence of a speaker to full failure of the technology. How the moderator handles the situation affects how the audience will respond. Maintain composure, work with organizers to create a smooth transition, and above all, add a little humor and smile.”

Bring to mind a presentation that did not run smoothly. How might the moderator have made the difference between success and failure? Be the moderator that performs their duty with excellence and contributes to a successful session.

How can I be a prepared moderator?

Download a free copy of the tip sheet:

Study Chapter 34 in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide. Use the handy checklist provided to make sure you don't miss an important step.

Watch this recording of a webinar sponsored by the Dietitians in Business and Communications DPG covering this topic along with strategies for successful event planning.

"The moderator slot, which is often the most challenging, is typically saved for the best listeners who also have a knack for the “art of conversation.” ~ Rebekah Iliff, Chief Strategy Officer for AirPR

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