Site icon Joanna Campbell Slan

How to be a TERRIFIC Moderator

One of my author friends just emailed me with this compliment: “Last year I saw you moderate a panel (I think
it was at Malice), and your panelists were very intelligent, famous, witty
women. You did an incredible job moderating. You were articulate, funny, and
you have each one of them an opportunity to shine.” She went on to ask me for any advice I could give her, since she’s been tapped to moderate a panel at a writers’ conference.
So here’s my best stuff…
Drink warm or room temp water. Cold water strains your voice and makes you
screech. Sounds petty, but it helps.
               2. I
introduced my panelists myself–and sometimes edited the intros they gave me.
Usually if you let them do their own intros, they hurry through the good parts,
mumble, and/or act like a mic hog. Also, you can spice up their intros and
really emphasize their accomplishments while separating out the dreck. But DO
make sure you know how to pronounce their names. ALWAYS speak the intro out
loud a couple of times before your panel. Mouth memory is different from sight
               3. Get
lucky. Good panels have fun ideas to contribute…but I suggest you prod the
authors and ask them for any help/thoughts/ideas they might offer.
               4. I
told the panelists, “The point of this is to entertain. It’s not for me to
be in charge. So if you have a question for each other, or whatever, go for
Google them. Look at their websites. The books are only part of the story.
Listen to any previous interviews.
Relax. Remember, the audience sincerely WANTS you to succeed. They don’t want
or care if you are perfect. They just want to have fun.
Find out if the panelists know each other and try to get them to tell stories
on each other. Interaction among them helps.
Don’t be afraid to get involved. People are curious about you, too. As long as
you don’t hog the mic, you can add your insights. The trick is…can you
amplify something the
they’ve said? Can you expand on it? If so, the crowd will
usually be okay with your interjection.
               9. If
you are worried about Q and A afterwards, write up questions on index cards and
sprinkle them through the audience. People love to help.
Every author has an “oh, crap” moment. A time when he/she thought,
“I’m going nowhere.” That usually makes for a great session commentary.
Have fun. Yup. If you are having fun, everyone else will have fun, too. I mean,
what’s the worst that can happen? You could puke. (George Bush senior did that
at dinner with the Chinese.) You could faint. (Elizabeth Lyons did that at SinC
into Great Writing.) You could screw up someone’s name or a book title. (An
announcer at Barnes and Noble said I was there to sign copies of the
“Scrap and CRAP” mystery series.) You’ll live through it. Besides,
you’re a writer (or a fan), for goodness sake. You aren’t auditioning for late night TV!
Immediately before the panel, go through the audience and introduce yourself to
the members. They’ll love you for it. It’s hard, so hand out bookmarks as a
“crutch,” but it pays HUGE dividends.
Did any of you see my panel at Malice? What do you think about my list?
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