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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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.