Moderating a Program

Be a Greater Moderator

Believe it or not, the moderator’s efforts (or lack thereof) can often make or break a program. In addition to our content delivery tips, here are a few more to help you run your program smoothly from start to finish.

Before your program begins

  • Encourage attendees to seat themselves toward the middle of the rows (or front tables) to better accommodate larger crowds or latecomers.
  • Take a moment to share with the audience the nearest exits in the event of an emergency.
  • Please also encourage audience members to silence their cell phones. Remind them that these programs are being recorded.

During your program

  • If assistance is needed during your program, call the AALL staff office (Room 140 AB in the convention center) at 202.249.4019—you may want to program this number in your cell phone. There will also be A/V “rovers” in the hallways before and during your program to assist with any technical issues.
  • In the event of an emergency, dial the convention center’s public safety office at 202.249.3333—or, from a white house phone, simply dial 3333.
  • Keep an eye on the clock and keep things moving!  Every year we hear about speakers who take up too much time on a program, leaving too little time for the other speakers.
    • Work with your speakers in advance to determine approximately how much time each one will have.
    • Consider implementing a system of alerting them once they’ve only got five minutes left, and again once they’ve only got two minutes left. You could sit in the front row and hold up five fingers, then two. Or if you’ll be sitting at the head table next to them, slide cards with ‘5’ and ‘2’ on them onto the podium at the appropriate times.
    • Don’t be afraid to bang the gong! If a speaker does not heed your warnings, take charge. Convey appreciation for all that’s been said, regret that there isn’t more time, and welcome to the next speaker in your lineup.Explain to your speakers in advance that it’s nothing personal—chances are they will appreciate your help. Remember, if you’ve got three speakers and each one takes an extra five minutes, your audience will have to rush to make it to their next program on time, and your own program room will be under siege by the next program’s incoming audience. That is not what you want your audience to remember about your program!

Wrapping up your program

  • If there is time for questions from the audience, ask audience members to speak into the aisle microphones. If that is not possible, repeat the question into a microphone. Remember, the program is probably being recorded, and these questions could benefit the entire audience.
  • You may wish to prepare in advance a couple of seed questions to get the Q&A started. (Sometimes it takes a few moments for audience members to compose their questions and approach the audience microphones.)
  • Encourage audience members to complete the online program evaluations (sent to them daily via email). Let them know that the feedback they provide really does help to shape the programming for next year’s meeting!
  • And if attendees want to share their experience at your program right away, they can tweet about it using #AALL19.
  • Make sure that your speakers do not remove any AALL-provided equipment from the room.

As a rule of thumb during your program, if you find yourself wondering whether somebody should do something (about the buzzing microphone, the temperature in the room, the speaker who is going to fall off the riser if he doesn’t stop tilting his chair back, etc.), guess what? You’re that somebody! (If you’re a speaker as well, consider recruiting a friend to sit in the audience and help you with some of these responsibilities.) More tips for moderating a program can be found below. Consider printing this information to have on hand during your program, too.

So much hard work has already gone into your program—ensure its success by being a great moderator! Thank you!

See also:

Conference Rules, Part 1 / by Linda K. Kerber, from The Chronicle of Higher Education
Mastering Moderation / by Steven J. Bell, from American Libraries