Best Practices for Event Moderators

November 18, 2021

Scott Osgood

Scott Osgood is a Content Writer for JUNO, a transformational digital experience platform. Scott performs "wizardry with words" to highlight how to connect and educate people in a virtual environment for events and year-round.

Moderators can be key in any hybrid, in-person or virtual event experience. They keep attendees focused, ensure chats run smoothly and enhance speaker content. 

The Client Success team at JUNO has supported hundreds of online conference sessions for emergency room physicians, e-sports experts and event pros. This first-hand experience with various speakers offers insight for future planning. We sat down with Marjorie Scarff, senior manager of client success, for a quick Q&A to understand best practices for moderating a session and why it’s important.

First off, what or who is a moderator? 

Moderator: A moderator is a person, usually a staff member, who has a good understanding of discussion topics, key information and the represented organizations. Moderators can handle a variety of different responsibilities, such as reviewing chat, handling Q&A, leading discussions and keeping audiences engaged. 

With the establishment of virtual and hybrid events, the term for moderator has been expanded to take on a variety of roles within the event. With that, organizations tend to pick moderators based on what they need, what type of discussions they are having and what type of engagement they look to welcome. 

Although moderators will change per event, these three moderators tend to be the most common and the most helpful for virtual and hybrid events.  

Panel Discussion Moderators: Panel Moderators are the most complex, because they have the most involvement within the live session. These moderators tend to lead discussions, ask questions and overall act as the “host” of a live session. These types of moderators are very helpful with discussions involving a group of people and should have some facilitation experience. 

Behind-the-Scenes Staff Moderator: These moderators tend to sit back and monitor chat, interact with Q&A and engage with attendees. These types of moderators usually have little involvement with the session itself, but rather ensure things are running as they should. They tend to keep their involvement within the chat itself, helping out as necessary.  

Front-Facing Moderator: These moderators are a little different than the ones behind the scenes, but usually they have more involvement within the session, keep their camera on and overall have more presence within the event. They are there to help out both speakers and attendees to navigate people around the session and answer technical questions, but they usually remain separated from the live session discussion.

What can a moderator do that attendees cannot?

Moderators usually have a few unique powers over regular attendees so they can ensure everything is happening as intended. Moderator control varies per platform. As an example, on JUNO, moderators can remove unwanted comments, turn cameras and microphones on and off, and even encourage and monitor Q&A.

Moderators can also control presentations (such as moving to the next powerpoint slide), bring attendees “on stage” into a live session and help the flow of the session run smoothly overall.

Another feature that helps ensure a smooth production is a “behind the curtain” chat, in which moderators have a direct line of communication to speakers to warn them of any time constraints or when the next speaker is on deck. 

What are some best practices for influencing engagement?  

Engagement is vital to the success of a virtual session, and moderators can be a key element to keep everyone tuned in. 

Moderators should be welcoming to people in the chat; sometimes just saying hi and acknowledging a new attendee can make a big difference in making attendees feel comfortable enough to engage with the chat. Moderators should also encourage people to use live interactive features such as emojis so the live session feels more exciting and reactive. Sometimes attendees don’t know when to use an emoji or laugh at a joke, but when a moderator doesn’t shy away from using those tools, viewers often follow suit.

Depending on the discussion, chat can sometimes go flat, and that is a great opportunity for a moderator to pose a discussion question to get gears turning and people thinking. Some of the best moderators are the ones who are engaged with the session themselves, get creative, have some fun and have an overall drive for the session to be successful. 

Most importantly, the best moderators are like teachers and are there to help. Moderators should have knowledge on how to use the platform and be able explain to attendees how they can troubleshoot when they run into issues.

At the end of the day, whether your moderator is leading discussions or blowing up the chat, they can be a powerful tool to keep sessions on track and engage attendees. 

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