So you have been asked to be a webinar moderator …now what?
A high percentage of the marketing webinars our clients are producing today make use of a moderator. Although the data indicates that the one-man-show webinar is still the format utilized most, it would seem our consistent reminders of the importance of a moderator and a discussion format is moving the needle.
So what exactly is the role of a moderator?
In the most basic format the moderator will introduce the topic, review the agenda, introduce the speakers and handle housekeeping items like how to ask questions or get help with technical issues.
This however, is the bare minimum only.
In my opinion the moderator can greatly enhance the viewers experience by following these simple steps.
1. Make sure they are right for the job!
Often the moderator is selected because they are close to the content. The fact is the moderator should understand the content, be curious about the topic but not be an expert at all. The experts and those closest to the content should be the speakers.
If you are too close to the content you will have the urge to contribute to the presentation which you should avoid at all costs.
2. Give the viewer a voice.
Every webinar has a Q&A segment and generally the moderator will read the questions to the speakers – literally becoming the voice of the audience.
It shouldn’t stop with the formal Q&A. (I would argue the formal Q&A model should be traded in for constant Q&A but that is another post for another day!). The speakers are often so close to the content that they will use acronyms that your audience doesn’t understand, reference past events that your audience may not be aware of and in general revert to industry jargon as they work through their speaking points. The moderator’s job is to step in, gain clarification and speak for the audience who is there to learn.
3. Handle logistics while promoting interaction.
Think about the way a live TV broadcast promotes upcoming elements of the show.
“Stay tuned for the NFL halftime report with Chris and Terry.”
Or more relevant
“Join the conversation at #cnnshowname as our insert guests name will answer your questions next.”
As the moderator you can encourage engagement by reminding the audience to submit questions or letting them know how to get more information or download additional content.
A surprisingly low number of webinar attendees take action during a webinar so they often need to be prompted to do so. In the end those who do take more action have a more positive opinion of the webinar.
4. Keep your eye on the shot clock.
A big problem with the modern webinar is speakers who want to jam way more content into a webinar than the time allows. This happens regardless of how much webinar producers ask speakers to prepare a 35 minute presentation to allow for Q&A and engagement.
As the moderator keep your eye on the clock and ensure that the webinar stays on schedule to ensure time for engagement.
This may feel awkward at first especially since the speaker is generally a guest or your resident thought leader but take the time to give them a heads up before the show.
5. Create the energy.
Not all webinar speakers are great at presenting. Often it is their knowledge that got them selected for the role. They may be uncomfortable with the medium, nervous about the technology or may be having a bad day. As the moderator you always talk first, welcome the speaker and address the audience before your guest gets going. As such you have the opportunity to set the tone for entire webinar. I have seen it over and over again as I moderate discussions. I come out hot with my Intro (some would say a little too excited to be there!) and I watch the guest speakers try to come up to my level. They never quite do (which is by design) but I can generally get them up a few steps from where they were in rehearsal.
Bonus Tip: On that note – don’t do a rehearsal right before a live event and if you must then make it an abridged rehearsal! Here is a sample of what I think is a decent job of moderating a webinar (full disclosure it’s me in the moderators chair!).