The Ortus Club has been hosting roundtables and panel discussions dedicated to executives all over the world and in various sectors for more than five years now. As such, we have had the privilege of working with brilliant, diverse and reputable moderators, thought-leaders and subject matter experts.
Many of our events have been successful thanks to the skilled and charismatic speakers mediating each roundtable. They help us orchestrate each discussion, set the tone of the conversation and encourage guests to participate by sharing personal insights.
Although each moderator has a different style and approach, we noticed that an animated audience only makes a good event when paired with an engaging moderator! So here are some tips we gathered while observing the very best.
1. Get to know the participants
Going through the list of attendees before a knowledge-sharing event can go a long way. This includes doing some research on the sponsor of the event if there is one. Having an idea of who the participants are, their roles and responsibilities, as well as the companies they joined throughout their career, can help you instigate a good conversation and ask more relevant questions. Guests often come from a diverse range of sectors and backgrounds, and it will be easier to find common themes for them to discuss if you know who they are.
2. Study the topic
It is of course extremely important to understand the event’s topic and ensure you are capable of following the conversation in all of its details, not just at the high level. Senior executives will find it interesting to discuss detailed aspects of certain themes that they often cannot share with more junior or inexperienced individuals. You must imagine the event as an ensemble, with you as the conductor and the topic as the full score to effortlessly lead the orchestra.
3. Prepare engaging questions
A well-formulated question can help the conversation flow naturally. It is useful to start the discussion with a question that targets actual experiences as these have very straightforward answers. You can then move on by asking to share opinions once everyone is more comfortable sharing and has had the time to think. It can help to have a few key participants in mind to bring into the conversation, especially at the beginning. Try asking questions that inspire even more questions to help the conversation move through the program by itself.
4. Keep an eye on who is online
Remember to keep an eye on the list of participants who are actually online as some may have poor connectivity or accidentally drop off the meeting, in which case it may not be ideal to put the spotlight on them.
5. Make it personal
Discussions sometimes need a little push to get started. Participants may be shy at the beginning and refrain to be the first ones to share. In these cases, it can help to break the ice by answering your own questions first e.g. “Which company do you think is doing customer experience really well? In my opinion, it’s this company because of this reason.” Prepare a list of experiences you can share with the participants, a few anecdotes and some interesting ideas you noticed other companies implement.
6. Avoid long speeches
Always remember that the focus of the event is the discussion. Moderators are meant to facilitate, not dictate. They are meant to orchestrate the conversation but should never take centre stage. A great moderator knows when to pause and allow others to speak. Always take the time to listen and refer back to what participants mentioned throughout the event. Sharing personal anecdotes is encouraged, but not in the form of long speeches or self-promotional presentations.
7. Don’t forget the program
It is very easy to get carried away while talking, especially when a topic is interesting and sparks a variety of thoughts and memories. This can sometimes result in guests going on for too long, taking over the entire discussion or getting off-topic. Make sure you politely interrupt when this happens and bring the conversation back to the main theme. Keeping track of time is extremely important, especially with online events. To make the most of the hour dedicated to the roundtable, make sure you are tapping on all the questions on the agenda.
8. Summarise the discussion
At the end of the discussion, it is often appreciated for the moderator to briefly summarise the main themes discussed and share some learning points. A good discussion doesn’t end at the event but carries on after the session. Encourage participants to keep in touch and continue sharing their thoughts on the topic on other channels.
Ortus events are normally hosted over a three-course meal or online. If you’re interested in moderating a discussion for The Ortus Club, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org