Welcome to yet another episode of eventplanner.TV. Why would you spend money on a moderator for a conference if your director can do the job as well? I ask it to Jan-Jaap In der Maur who is a professional event moderator himself.
Hi Jan-Jaap, welcome to our studio. We are going to talk about moderators, but why is it important to hire an external moderator and not do it just yourself.
Well first of all it is not always important to hire an external moderator, sometimes you can do it yourself but there are very good reasons to think about external moderator.
And those are?
Those are first of all, somebody who is neutral; I mean if you take somebody from your own organization, you will not have the freedom of asking anything that will have to be asked, I mean the level of critical questioning is not that high as mine.
If you have to ask a critical question from your own manager...
Yeah absolutely, absolutely. So that’s one, the second one is stupid questions. If you work within an organization you know everything, so you will probably miss the stupid questions. For me when I come from the outside I will ask the questions which any consumer will ask or any attendee to a conference might ask. So it’s the level of stupidity, level of being critical, it is the level of being professional and leading interaction because you might know everything about your organization but there’s something completely different that knowing everything about interaction about how to get people to talk about each other, to really listen to each other, to really feel what is happening in an organization.
It is good that you touched the subject of interaction because what I see happening in lot of events is that interaction is kind of a trick that people use but if it is not real it doesn’t work.
Yeah absolutely, absolutely. I mean if you made a choice to interact then everybody will know if you do it simply for the sake of interacting. If you want to interact you really have to do it to the max, to the hundred percent. That means that reactions might occur that you have not foreseen or that you will not like.
Do you have some examples for that?
Well sometimes people I work for tell me we want to interact with the audience but here is a list of 3 questions we do not want to answer. And I will tell them in that case I will not ask you the question myself but if somebody from the audience does ask that question you can’t just wave it away, you have to have an answer if you do want to interact really interact and then start with interaction because that you often see that’s happening is that they say we want to interact and they start off with three speakers and after the three speakers there’s five minutes of Q&A time. Turn it around, if you want to interact first ask question to the audience then go to a speaker. Ask a speaker to take half of the time speaking and leave the other 20 minutes for Q&A. I mean interaction is something you have to really do or leave it.
And how important is it that the moderator knows the subject of the conference?
Well sometimes it’s important, sometimes it’s important he doesn’t. If there is lot of specialists in a certain field, in the audience the moderator needs some level of understanding on the topic because they know all about it so you don’t have to blabber around ask questions that they already know. On the other hand does he have to know everything? No, because it’s start, he’s not to know everything. He starts to guide a process happening in the audience. But on the other hand if the audience is a lament audience, people knowing nothing about the topic, then it will be an advantage if the moderator does not know that much about the topic too. Because then he can ask their questions from the Speaker.
Now we kind of touched the subject of event architecture of course you said okay let’s turn around, first question then speaker and so. How important is event architecture for a moderator?
Very important. If the event architecture is not good the moderator has a very difficult task because then you are working in an environment that is not facilitating what you want to do. So the event architecture has to be the base of the process, once the event architecture is in place then the moderator will exactly know at what point in time to ask critical questions and at what point in time to leave open space to the room to think about things. When to speed up the program, when to slow down it, etc. And one more important thing, once the event architecture is in place you will know which moderator to hire because there are all kinds of moderators with strong points and weak points.
I just wanted to ask you, should the moderator be involved in setting up the architecture but that’s kind of difficult because you say it depends on what moderator you need.
Absolutely. If you look at it in a black and white perspective you have to say no. The event architecture has to be there before you make a choice with moderator. Because if the event architecture lead you to a program with very much interaction, you need an interaction moderator, if the event architecture takes you to a program with lot of interviewing you need somebody who knows how to interview. So on the other hand the sooner the moderator is in the process the better he will understand the program, the people in the audience, etc. So there is balance, the first part of event architecture, choices in what kind of program it will be, have to be there first, before you choose a moderator, then you choose your moderator. But please do not finish the event architecture into every detail without the moderator, because the moderator does need the chance to talk with you, okay you want to open with interaction, why is that? So what kind of interaction would we choose? Will I walk into the audience? Will I work with the voting system? Etc, etc. Those details are better to do with the moderator.
And can it also be a good idea to have for example two or three moderators, to say ok, I have a part that is very interactive, and I have a part with in depth interview and I take two of three?
In general the best thing to look at is there’s one moderator with the exact right balance of expertise to do everything because you have one person in charge the audience gets connection with the writer but if there’s very different parts in the program, yes absolutely the option is do a moderation, I have done several myself, my people have done several, where two different moderators who have two different characteristics and two different parts of the program.
May be to conclude with, if you have to choose a moderator how do you choose the right one?
First get your event architecture right, and then look at three things. What capabilities do the moderator need, interviewer, interaction leader, debater, etc. Secondly what type of person do you need? You have very outgoing moderators. There are very modest moderators; you have very confronting moderators and very smooth moderators, all kinds of types. Your personality is very different than mine. With some audiences some goals, your personality will work so will mine will. So first what will you do, secondly what kind of person is he or she? Thirdly, that is the knowledge of the topic, necessary or not. Those three points bottom line you get the right moderator.
Thank you for those tips and thank you for coming to our show.
And you at home thank you for watching our show, I hope to see you next time.