How to moderate a panel or webinar like a pro (part 2)

In How to moderate a panel or webinar like a pro (part 1), I talked about pre-event preparation; in this post, I’m going to give some tips for what to do once you are in front of an audience.

Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

Webinar: Lights, camera, action

If you are joining a webinar from home, make sure you have sufficient lighting so that people can see you properly. Sitting with your back towards a bright light or window will throw a shadow over your face.

Position your camera so you can look directly at it; it looks more professional and is more engaging for the audience if you are looking directly at them from the screen.

If you have a standing desk, then moderate standing up as this will give your voice a bit more energy.

Dealing with nerves

It can be nerve-wracking speaking in public.

Your heart starts racing, your hands might shake and, if you are like me, you talk faster.

Remember to breathe and consciously slow down your speech a little. It not only has a calming effect, but it gives you a bit more thinking time. It can help you feel more in control.

And if you appear calm and in control, it will help the panellists feel calm.

Set the scene

As a moderator, you run the ship; you are guiding the panellists and audience through the discussion.

Set the scene for the webinar, including what the format will be. For example, mention if there will be a poll or polls, how the audience can submit questions or like questions if you are using something like

If you are taking questions from the audience or want them to like questions, then pop in regular reminders.

Structure the discussion

When it is a moderator-led webinar, you can organise the structure and the key topic areas, but if the audience is asking the questions, it can be a bit more scattergun.

Try not to jump back and forth too much between topic areas, but if that’s how the questions are coming in, then acknowledge that with the audience. For example, you could say something like: ‘We’ve had another interesting question about X, so I want to go back to that for a moment.’

There are still things you can do to organise the discussion. For example, group questions together under similar themes, and you can tee up the fact that you will be moving onto questions about a different topic. This lets the audience know where the discussion is going, helps keep them engaged – and primes the panellists.

If you want two different people on the panel to answer a question, then pre-warn them. You could say something like: ‘I’m interested to hear from both X and Y on this, perhaps starting with you X.

Mistakes happen

You are human, you may forget to unmute your microphone, you may get a name wrong. I once mixed up the order of my introductions and got a male and female panellist the wrong way round.

Acknowledge, apologise, maybe even laugh and move on. It’s fine and people really don’t mind, they are on your side.

If you found this useful and think someone else might, please feel free to share.

Check out How to moderate a panel or webinar like a pro part 3 here

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