Events wrapped up last week pretty well as we concluded the panel discussion organized by Institut Francais du Nigeria. (If you want to read how it went, please click here to read the full story on Green Habitat Initiative blog.) It has been months of preparations discussing who will make up the panelists and audience, venue, how the discussion should play out and the likes. For me, it was the first time I was going to moderate a panel discussion. So when I was contacted to do this, I accepted the offer and looked at it as a great opportunity to learn. Saddled with this, I started paying attention to panel discussions on different topics. Attending the International Environment Roundtable for Africa on 1st September was also a good opportunity to see a panel moderation that fresh in my memory. I have attended a number of panel discussions, but nothing in 2016. I watched a number of YouTube videos. I watched how different moderators interacted with panelists, asked very good incisive follow-up questions and even at a point, cut the speaker.
It was one of the things I read that I must pay attention to. Knowing when to stop a speaker from going down the rabbit hole. And boy it almost happened. But it was difficult for me to cut the speaker, I tried twice and succeeded once. The time I failed, the panelist just kept on talking ignoring my instruction. If I have to moderate a discussion again, this would be somewhere I know I will have to improve on.
The challenge didn’t end with the panelists, but the audience were also challenging during the Q & A session. A questioner, who I specifically gave instruction to ask a single question insisted he must ask two. And he had his way. It was interesting for me when I think of great discussion moderators who appear on BBC, CNN and other popular media channels. They do the job perfectly, knowing exactly when to interrupt and steal the discussion away from the speaker. They are just good at their game.
Another important thing I had to pay attention to is not to take the conversation away. It is very possible for moderators to speak at length like the panelists when they are also versed in the topic which is wrong I heard. Being conversant with the theme, the intention I had on my mind throughout the period of discussion is to dispel my knowledge and listen to the panelists as someone with little knowing of the topic. It helped me see what wasn’t clear in their speeches and enabled me to ask follow up questions like explain more of an idea or give relevant examples to a point.
Moderation they say is a skill and you can very well orchestrate a discussion even though you do not know much on the topic. A little research will be needed just to understand the basics of the topic, the hot issues surrounding it and keywords.
Part of the audience close to me said I did a good job. Personally, I think I didn’t do much in cutting and guiding some of the speakers to stick to the discussion at hand. But as they say, tomorrow is another day.
It should be an interesting challenge moderating a discussion about the Elections in Panama or neurology. Don’t you think?