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[HOW-TO] The art of moderating effectively

Date: 2006


A moderator can make or break a meeting. The moderator’s role is therefore crucial in meetings and events.

What is the moderator’s role?

Pretty much like the conductor of an orchestra, the moderator’s role is to structure the discussion with the participation of speakers, panellists, or other experts; serve as a bridge between the audience and the discussants; and ensure a focused discussion of good quality and flow. 

What are the essential skills needed for moderation?

One of the starting points is to consider whether your meeting will be online, in situ, or in a blended format (part online, part face-to-face).

In online or blended meetings, successful moderation relies on a smart mix of old and new skills. Old skills are as old as any human meeting. They include understanding the shared purpose of the meeting and the context in which the discussion is held, and nurturing a high level of empathy. In the shift towards online environments, new skills come into play. These include a basic ability to use meeting platforms; fast thinking and reaction in case of technical issues; and the ability to feel the pulse of the online participants. 

How do diplomatic meetings differ from other meetings?

Over time, a certain level of ritualisation emerged through protocol rules, with the purpose of structuring conduct and content, bringing in different views, and managing conflicts. 

As our Swiss Knife for Multilateral Diplomacy illustration explains, the more politicised and formal the meeting is, the more diplomatic protocol and meeting procedures are involved.


How can diplomats adapt their meetings to the online environment?

Moderation and procedural skills need to be adapted to the new environment, that is, adjusted to the spirit and style of online communications. While moderation of a diplomatic meeting should be on the conservative side, you can make breakthroughs by – for example – asking delegates to submit written statements instead of reading texts. 

When engaging with online audiences, interactivity helps increase one’s attention span. If you’re engaging with younger participants, more sophisticated online engagement tools can help make an online environment more interesting to meet and work.

You also have to maintain clarity about the rules of procedure. For instance, you need to inform participants about your intention to record the meeting. Trust is essential for the success of meetings, just like any other human interaction.

From our archives

Watch: What makes up optimal online moderation?

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