3 Key Insights to Moderating Memorable Interviews & Panels
More than Public Speaking
Public speaking has been a part of my professional life for 25 years now. I enjoy engaging audiences with relevant topics that add value to their life and work. Good content delivered in a memorable fashion often sparks beneficial change in the lives of the people experiencing the presentation. It’s an honor to speak and I’m thankful for each opportunity to do so.
More recently, over the past 5 years or so, I’ve been approached with increasing regularity with opportunities to moderate interviews and panels. This is a new area of learning for me and I’ve found it to be quite challenging to moderate interviews and panels in way that will be memorable for the audience. It’s quite different than presenting content as a speaker. Good moderation requires different modes of thinking and focused execution. I’ve come to enjoy these opportunities very much and have committed a good amount of time becoming better at it over the years.
Here are 3 insights I’ve gained in moderating memorable interviews and panels. I hope you find them helpful if you find yourself in this role.
Insight #1 – Center the conversation on the one(s) being interviewed.
This sounds like common sense (because it is!), but it’s surprising to watch so many moderators who think the center of an interview is the one interviewing. Good moderators know how to contribute meaningful questions and content without being the center of attention. It’s important for moderators to really focus in on the words coming out of the interviewee or panel members rather than running through a list of questions they want to get through. While it’s definitely essential to be well prepared with questions, it’s even more important to be present in the moment as the conversation is unfolding. I always try to put myself in the shoes of the one(s) being interviewed to think through their mindset and hopes for the conversation.
Insight #2 – Think deep rather than broad.
No interview will be able to cover everything the audience wants to hear about. Unfortunately, too many moderators react to this by only asking surface questions that cover a broad spectrum of topics. Ultimately, the audience leaves the experience feeling like they really didn’t get anything substantive out of an interview. I’ve found that it’s better to go deeper on a few topics than go broader with many. I will often search online for other interviews that my interviewee has participated in and take time to listen and try to understand their unique perspectives and even behaviors during interviews. People generally enjoy more substantive content and this can only come by going deeper, especially since most interviews are limited in time.
Insight #3 – Bridge application for the audience.
It’s important to make sure bridge application points during the tail end of an interview when possible to help the audience internally articulate what they’ve just heard. I try to think ahead on what potential points of application that may come out of the interview. While I may not use all of these application insights, I do find that I do use many of them if I have done a good job of preparing for the interview. This really helps to “bring things home” at the end of the conversation and nicely frames the interview for the listener so they can walk away with something tangible.
If you are a moderator or have moderated in the past, what are some things that have helped you in preparing for interviews? I’d love to learn from your experience.