Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Being a moderator

I really enjoy being a moderator on panels.

I've done a few at the Pune International Lit Fest 2013 and 2014, the Times of India Literary Carnival and a couple more. I can't speak for the panelists, but I think this seems to be the formula that works for me:

1. Make them comfortable by speaking well of them and their book while introducing them. Of course, put them at ease earlier too. Many are nervous of being in the spotlight, even if briefly.

2. Involve the audience at an early stage and tell them what you plan to do for the next hour.

3. Use humour. But it has to be done carefully. It may be out of sync with the topic or your sense of humour may be a bit too different from the others. But smiling always works.

4. Tell the panelists that you plan to ask them tough and provocative questions. If possible share the questions with them earlier to give them time to think of a response. And if a new question comes up, ask with a smile so that they don't feel threatened.

5. Make sure you allocate time carefully between all panelists for balance. I make sure I do three rounds.

6. If possible, speak well about one or the other aspect of their books. Not all are good at reading from their books - they speak softly and with a monotone, which brings down the energy in the room. So reading could be very limited.

7. Get the audience involved (that is, you need to stop asking questions) at about the midpoint of the conversation and make sure there are at least 3-5 questions from them. Move the mic around the audience. Paraphrase their questions since some tend to meander or speak very softly.

8. Don't talk about yourself. It's their moment of happiness, so be generous. You are simply getting them to express themselves, their views, their book, their plans.

Of course, if you lack confidence, and can't control the panel or the audience, all the points above are moot.


meg dobson said...

How much research do you do before moderating? How long do you typically have to prepare?

And I've seen some authors who 'take over' on answers so the mix gets unbalanced. What do you do then?

Vasudev Murthy said...

At least an hour of discussion is advisable. It's not possible to read every book thoroughly. If it is possible to glance at the book, I look at the style of dialogues, the way the books is organized, the context etc and base my questions on that.

I make sure that I add a few words while asking a question. Like 'Very briefly, tell me about what drove you to write this book.' or 'In twenty words of less, tell me.... '

Seems to work! But if not, you will need to interrupt!