Everything In Moderation

Side x Side

Don't say, "umm", "like", "you know" or any other filler words or sounds. Don't stare at the panelists the entire time. Don't ignore the audience. Don't use, "that's great", "I love that", or "amazing" after a panelist says something of value without following it up with relative commentary. Don't be boring. Don't leave my mouth open or have RBF [definition] when focusing on someone. Don't drop the cards. Don't speak over anyone. Don't go over time. Don't mess up. – Those were the exact thoughts that were floating around in my head when I walked into the room, while we were getting mic'd, while waiting in the wings, and while I was engaged in active conversation on-stage. 

I have learned that moderating a discussion on any given topic is challenging. So, compliments to anyone who has ever taken on such a responsibility. I argue that it is more difficult than participating as a panelist, engaging in one-on-one discourse, or being in the spotlight as a keynote speaker. Now, that's not to say that any of those roles are easy. Public speaking is inherently nerve-racking for most people, but allow me to explain myself.

As a panelist, you are speaking on something you are expected to have a certain level of knowledge or expertise on. Often in this type of setting, you are set up with a question or prompt, with opportunities to chime in through natural conversation. I have been in that seat In a one-on-one setup, each person only has the other to navigate, lending itself to a more candid dialogue. As a keynote speaker, it's just you. While there is an immense amount of pressure to deliver an impactful message that resonates with the audience, a keynote can write, re-write, rehearse, and commit to the script and presentation to memory.

When I first asked for the opportunity to moderate, it was because I had been a member of the audience many times before, at several various conferences over the years. I have witnessed moderators who did not connect well with their panelists, did not ask questions that the crowd was thinking, allowed a panelist to take the mic and run with it, or took the mic and chose not to share it themselves. It was through those past experiences as a panelist and as a member of the audience, coupled with our preparation for this recent breakout session that I realized, in this type of setting, that almost everything hinges on moderation of the discussion. Does the title of this piece make sense now?

In our first group call to prepare for this panel, beyond the introductions and camaraderie building, I clearly defined my number one expectation: to deliver as many nuggets of insight and actionable value that our audience could take home and apply within their businesses. Each of us had conference experiences where we chose a specific session over another, only to walk out the door without either. 


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