Janine Spendlove (janinespendlove) wrote,
Janine Spendlove
janinespendlove

How to moderate a panel

One of the best moments of DragonCon 2013 for me was following a Phineas and Ferb panel I had just moderated. One of the panel attendees came up to me afterward to thank me for the excellent job I’d done moderating the panel.

….WUT?
Seriously??? Wow! Cool, thanks! :)
Then over the course of the weekend I had several people take the time to let me know that they really appreciated my moderating at different panels, and they specifically called out the fact that I kept things on track, the atmosphere positive & inviting to comment, and I didn’t let anyone take over the panel (we’ve all been there before…).
1186771_10201782618784023_1397112238_nSince then I’ve had a Con programming directly recently say “I wish you could teach my mod’s how to properly moderate a panel.”  Don’t get me wrong, this is not a “oh hey look at me, I’m an awesome Mod” post, but rather a “I guess I do an OK job at the Mod gig, so I’m going to share with you what I do, since someone asked me to.”
And honestly it’s really not that difficult. What it boils down to is communication.
-When I’m asked to moderate a panel the first thing I do is research the topic (or the person if it’s a Q&A) and come up with an outline/an idea of what I think the panel would like to discuss (unless it’s one of those times where I find out when I show up at a panel that I’m the Mod… then I just role with it – there are always generic questions you can ask like: tell us a bit about yourself/this subject. What is most important to you about this subject/why should I care about it, etc.).
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-I try to always start and end panels promptly. That shows that you respect both the panelists and the attendees. Everyone’s time at a con is valuable, not just yours (for that matter, if you are a con guest – I don’t care if you are the guest of honor, don’t be a prima donna. You are there for the attendees/the con. The con does not exist for you).
-I start the panel by announcing the subject matter, and then going over the rules. Yes, I have rules, and they are generally:
1. This is a conversation, not a “we talk and you listen” panel, so if you have something you’d like to say, please raise your hand/go up to the mic and I’ll call on you so we can all benefit from what you’d got to say.
2. That said, my job is to keep us on topic and away from any rabbit holes, so if I think we’re going down one, I’m going to rein us back in.
3. Please keep your thoughts short and to the point and don’t dominate the conversation – everyone has something worth contributing, so please don’t dominate the time. Again, it’s my job to keep the panel moving so if I cut you short, please don’t take it personally.
4. If you raise your hand and I don’t call on you, please don’t be offended. It’s not that I don’t value what you’ve got to say, it’s that I’m trying to give everyone an opportunity to speak in a limited amount of time, and if you’ve already spoken I’m going to afford someone else the opportunity to do so first.
5. Lastly, please be respectful to each other. Everyone has an opinion and a right to that opinion. This is not the place to attack each other over differences.
I know that all can come off as harsh to some, but I’ve found that it allows for open, safe spaces, where people feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and opinions, and everyone gets a chance to talk. That said, it only works if you, as the Mod, actually enforce the rules. 
BTW, the rules are not there to allow the Mod to force a specific/personal agenda – often we don’t make it through the outline I have for a panel because the panel clearly wants to go in a different direction than what I’ve outlined (but still within the confines of the panel subject) and at that point, you as the Mod, need to have a good enough sense from your audience as to what they want to discuss and what they don’t. Don’t just listen to their words, watch their body language. Are they bored? Are they excited? You need to cue off of them. Ultimately the panel is for the audience. As long as you remember that, you’ll do just fine.
AthenasDaughters-cover-front-web~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Did you miss the Kickstarter for my newest anthology, Athena’s Daughters, a sci-fi and fantasy collection written by women, about women? Good news, you can still order your copy here.
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And in other news, Silence in the Library Publishing has a new kickstarter – it’s for an awesome graphic novel called Icarus. The story looks awesome, and the artwork is simply put, STUNNING. Check it out!
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Cool stuff plug time! A solar powered flashlight that ALSO charges my phone? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!    
P.S. My dad designed this flashlight, so of course it would personally mean a lot to me if you checked it out. :)
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Lastly, need a copy of one of my books or missed the pre-order for War of the Seasons: The Hunter? Don’t worry, you can pick it, and my other books up here. 
Ailionora > http://www.ailionora.com > http://www.ailionora.com/2014/01/15/moderate-panel/
Tags: blog posts, conventions, tips
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