Monday, June 10, 2019

A Moderator's Questionnaire

I've moderated many panels over my 35 years as a pro writer, including WorldCon, World Fantasy Con, and SFWA's Nebula Awards Weekend. I've participated both as a panelist and audience member in those that were beautifully handled and those that were disasters. 

Skill as a writer does not qualify a person to moderate a panel, even though big names may draw an audience. Therefore, I think it's a good thing to consider what actually makes a good moderator and look for that, not just name recognition or fannish or literary credentials.

Convention programming might consider a follow-up questionnaire for anyone checking the box that they'd like to moderate a panel. Questions might include:
  • Have you moderated a panel before? What was your experience? What went right? What challenges did you face?
  • If this will be your first experience as a moderator, what background or leadership skills do you have?
  • What's the worst thing that can happen on a panel? How would you as moderator handle it?
  • How should a moderator express her or his own opinions on the panel?
  • What is the responsibility of the moderator to make sure every panelist has the chance to speak? How is this best accomplished? 
  • How do you as moderator handle a panelist who is disruptive, loud, rude, or insulting to co-panelists or audience?

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