I recently moderated a panel on diversity and inclusion. The people who spoke before me all talked about why this topic was critical to the success of the organization, why we were addressing it now, and their own professional take on both the topic and their role in making the summit a success.
The panelists all had senior roles in their organizations, lots of experience, knowledge, and war stories that made them a draw.
Moderators (often referred to as MCs or Master of Ceremonies) are there to introduce people. They keep the event moving. A time honored position, the role dates back to the year 492. As the moderator, my job has two main goals:
- Making sure the individual panel members who have come to speak are prepared
- Making sure that panel members collectively deliver a cohesive presentation that meets overall program objectives.
The panel members were impressive representatives of their organizations, each with experiences, knowledge and options to share. A conference call early on in the process allowed for us to create a series of questions that would get to the meat of the matter. Each panel member had a chance to discuss the questions further and volunteer to be the lead off responder for specific ones. I encouraged them to feel free to add to any question that they felt they could expand on – but urged them to come prepared and to be concise.
I had other goals in addition to the two main objectives. I make sure the microphones work. It’s not really my job to do the sound check but it makes for a much better event when you can hear the speakers. Since I speak for a living, I always try to get to the location early, and do a sound check. Better to catch the probelms before they occur.
I was also responsible for making sure we stayed on schedule. While I do not want to cut anyone one off or tell people invited to talk that they can’t talk – I need to respect the promises of time parameters made to the audience.
I’ve been on panels and in audiences where a presenter was given 5 minutes and took 10 (or 20!) and the audience grew more and more annoyed, hoping someone in charge would take charge. These panelists could have talked all day about the topic but they kept it to the point and the audience hung onto every word.
Another goal I had was to set the tone. As a management consultant, I conduct programs on diversity and inclusion. It’s a critical management skill set and is woven through many offerings that I conduct. But I’m not a panelist so I’ve got a VERY brief time to establish that tone and set the stage for the rest of the program.
I said that as a trainer, metaphors and analogies are tools of my trade and I had an apt one to share. I share with training participants that Diversity is like being asked to the dance and Inclusion is like being asked to dance. A murmur of recognition could be heard in the room. I then moved on to ask the panel how they defined the terms because they are the experts.
As the end of the program, (which ended on time of course) a few people told me they planned to use my metaphor as their own. Since I probably heard it and thought it was good enough to pass on, I encouraged them to do the same. One goal of a program like this is to get the attendees to go out and talk about the program, the topic, the information, the ideas — and get the word out.
I’m pleased to have been able to play a supporting role in that.