Editing Rant: All In Moderation

Photo 18528834 © Jose Gil | Dreamstime.com
LOS ANGELES – JULY 5: Robot Chicken panel discussion at the 20008 Anime Expo at the LA Convention Center, July 5th, 2008 in Los Angeles. Cameron Baity, Chris McKay, Jeanette Moffat, Mike Fasolo, and Tim Root attended the discussion.

ConCarolinas.org is just around the corner – May 31 to June 2, 2024. Time to start prepping for all the crazy fun!

While I’m not a guest this year, I have been one at other conventions and I often end up being a moderator. You might think “How hard can it be? Being on a panel or a moderator. After all, it is just answering a bunch of questions, and writers are good with words.”

First, writers are good with WRITTEN words, coming up with them on the fly, nowhere near as easy. Second, being on stage means it is a performance, one the audience has paid to attend. As a panelist, a speaker has an obligation to put on a GOOD performance, which requires either experience or preparation or both. Being a moderator means not only performing but, also, directing this improv entertainment. Sounds like a lot of work to do for the hope of getting someone to buy a book, and you would be right.

Now, I personally love being a moderator – because I don’t like being the center of attention, but if I can make everyone else’s stars shine as brightly as possible, I’m having a great time. Below are suggestions on how to be a good moderator.

(1) Put together 5 to 7 questions. You may not get to all of them, you might not need more. But walk in with questions ready so there won’t be a lag for the audience. (if small panel – only a couple of writers, get 10 questions ready)

(2) keep a clock out. Start ON TIME. Watch the time. Rein people in to 5 min introduction (maybe with an introduction question).

(3) know how long the panel is and when it should end. Dragon panels are 1 hour, other cons 50 minutes.

(4) Stop 10 minutes early for audience questions (be prepared for none or to manage the audience – no more than one question per person until everyone has had a chance – for the long-winded “Thank you, but I see other hands.” (if a mike person isn’t walking around).

(5) Sit at one end of the panel so you can see all the panelists easily.

(6) Be aware you will pay more attention to the panelists closer to you. In other words, self-monitor for preference and time given to ALL panelists.

(7) If the GOH is on the panel, they are allowed to ramble – but don’t let them get boring. Remember you are to make everyone shine.

(8) If you got time, look over your panelists before hand to aim special questions at them. “I remember reading your book about superheroes and menopause, since we are talking fan reactions, what sort of response have you gotten specifically for that series.”

(9) Cut people off for the following reasons (a) ramble (reword then answer for brevity and move on, (b) being rude (panelists or audience), (c) interrupting (especially watch out for the quiet and younger panelists getting interrupted).

(10) do as little talking as you can – you are there to facilitate.

(11) draw out the shy, maybe by starting questions with them.

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