Why Moderate?

What’s the added value of moderation, and how do you as an organizer get maximum results from having it? I discuss this with moderator Jan-Jaap in der Maur.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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What’s the added value of moderation, and how do you as an organizer get maximum results from having it? I discuss this with moderator Jan-Jaap in der Maur.


Jan-Jaap, welcome to our studio.


Hi Kevin


Today I have a very simple question for you. Why should we moderate?


We should moderate for a few reasons. First, it’s for opening up, it’s for digesting, for translating, it’s for implementing, it is for energizing and it is for connecting.


That’s a more extensive answer than I expected. But let’s start with the first one: opening up.


Opening up. Well, what you often see happen is, a part of a schedule simply starts without preparing the participants for the fact that it will be starting. I mean, for instance, if you have a speaker, if he simply starts without any form of introduction, people will need a few slides to get into that story. What moderation can do is that you open people’s minds for that particular part of content. And there are a few ways of doing so. Apart from the spoken introduction to the speaker, you can ask questions to the people in the room. Because by asking them questions they will start thinking about a problem. Sometimes I have people draw stuff, or I have them write down a list of their most important problems. Or I will have them guess something. Or I will ask the room an open question and they will start shouting stuff at me. And I will use that to mould it into an introduction to the speaker. Anything that I can use to open their minds for what’s coming next.


It’s kind of a warm-up for the next speaker then?


Yes, absolutely, it’s a warm-up. And it is a way of making sure that their brain knows that it is important to pay attention to what’s coming next.


The second one was digesting.


Yes. Because what we often see happen in meetings is that we stuff people with information and then we send them home. And then they will just forget about it. What I think moderation should do is help people digest what they just heard. So you should allow them time for it. So we should plan for time in the schedule to do exercises with them. For instance, have them bring a specific problem within their daily work, then have a speaker talk about it, and then tell them to go back to that specific problem. And make notes on how the information of the speaker could help them in this particular circumstance. Or again, have them draw stuff or have them talk in small groups to analyze the speech that they just heard. Anything that can help to make them choose what parts of this talk to remember. Sometimes I even do a quiz. I ask the audience ‘what were the three most important learnings of the morning?’ for instance. And people will all write down the three most important learnings. Then I will see what learnings there are, and the one with the most learnings in common with someone else will win a small prize. Anything to make them realize, to make them specifically choose, one of three things to remember.


The third one was translate. How about that?


Translate is something that you often use as a moderator in combination with the opening up or the digesting. With translate I mean, get the outside world in the room. Because if we are in a conference room or a meeting room or whatever, we are not in the situation that we are discussing. For instance, I have had a meeting with shop owners in the room, and we were talking about the internet and how they lost money to the internet. But they are not in their shop at that point in time, they are in a meeting room. So what I sometimes do then, is use exercises to make them feel like they are in their shop, in order to help them understand better, for instance a speaker or a panel discussion. So I will ask them to draw a map of their shop, and then draw in some tips that the speaker gave. Or I will ask them to close their eyes and tell me: how many clients are in your shop at this point in time? How many staff? How much money is there in the till? Etcetera. In order to make them remember, oh yes, we are talking about my shop, my shop, and then go back to the meeting room. That’s what you do with translate.


We are now halfway.




If I listen to the first three topics, it totally makes sense. But why doesn’t it happen that way in most conferences?


Well, first of all we are still in the modus of: if we just send out the information everything will be fine. And it’s proven that it’s not. And second of all, I think that people are not aware of this. Many moderators become by accident a moderator. And many do it great, and many don’t. But nobody really analyses what is happening and what should be happening. And the same goes for the meeting owners. In many cases, people who organize conferences, seminars, etcetera, are not professionals in organizing conferences or seminars, they are professionals in a topic. So they don’t know how the human mind works. Therefore they forget that information will only land, if you create circumstances that will make sure that the information lands.


OK. Let’s go further with number four, that was implementing.


Yes. Implementing is very important, because what you see happening very often is, people learn something, or say to themselves, I want to change something, but once back in the office they forget about it. What I try to do very often with moderation is have the implementation started at that point in time within the meeting room. So for instance, I’ve people send out an email, or WhatsApp, or whatever, to that one colleague they feel they need to talk about this topic. So that the message is already out there. If I now say, I will send you a WhatsApp tomorrow, I may forget. If I now take out my phone and say, stop recording, I have to text to Kevin, then the message will be in your phone. And you will see the message and respond. There are all kinds of neat ways of doing this. Having people make appointments on the spot. ‘Kevin, when shall we meet? Put it in the diary.’ Have people make lists, have people hand in the list to the organizer, so the organizer can later remind them, what’s on their list. All kinds of ways in order to make sure that implementation starts within that meeting room and not later on.


Those are all forms of interaction. Is that also about energizing, our next point?


Yes, I think energizing is an overall layer. If you use all these specific moments for interaction and these formats you will find out that people are more energized, because they are more connected to the content and to the topic. There are a few moments in a day that energy goes down: right after lunch, at the end of the day. And by being very aware of that, with moderation you can raise energy again.




Well, what I do hate, and I feel what most participants hate, is energizers just for energizing. ‘Could you turn around and massage the person behind you?’ People hate it, because there is no relation to the content and to the learning. But if you find ways of having them move around for instance. If you want to vote, you can use a voting app. But you can also think, hey, it’s right after lunch, let’s do body voting.


What is body voting?


Use your body to show us what your standpoint is. So ‘yes’ walks to the left, ‘no’ walks to the right. If there are four options, the moderator stands in the middle, four sides of the room. People walk. And you can see where people go, and then you can do interviews about it. You can make a line from left in the room to right in the room, saying this is zero and that is hundred. How many new clients per week do you think we have? If you think close to zero, stand there, and if you think close to hundred stand there. You can see where people go. So then they are working on content, on learning, and on interacting, and in the meanwhile they are moving around becoming more energized.


Yeah. We are already at the last one, that’s about connecting, connections.




What’s that about? Well, I feel that if people are connected to each other, and I mean within the audience, but also audience to stage, to speaker or to panel, if people feel connected, they listen better, they come up with better questions, everything raises one or two levels. So I often start the day with something - again based on content - to connect people. Have them talk in smaller groups, or find out which blood groups are in the room and have them discuss one topic. And by connecting them all through the day people will be more involved and more engaged, and in the end, this will make a better meeting.


OK, Jan-Jaap, thank you very much for sharing those ideas.


You’re welcome.


And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.