Оn the Art of Moderation with Jan-Jaap In der Maur

One of the immense changes that the event and meeting industry has undergone the last decade or so is the conversion of the event moderation from simply a giving-the-floor job to a real art that can totally transform the look and feel of any event. Moderators have become one of the key factors for engaging the event attendees and crucial figures in some new interactive event formats that have not long ago emerged on the event scene.
To gain some insights of the art of moderation, we interviewed the professional moderator and trainer Jan-Jaap In der Maur who reveals his vision on the profession and gives some useful tips for event professionals.

It seems that the role of the moderator in an event has become more important than ever before? Do you agree and why?

Yes, I agree … because otherwise, I would be out of business :).

But seriously: meetings have changed. From speaker-oriented to participant-centric. And that means: more focus in interaction and group dynamics, and that logically leads us to more need for professional moderation.

Furthermore, there’s a growing awareness of ROI. So meeting owners will invest more in setting clear targets and effective meeting design. Both of those are ‘only on paper’ and need to be executed on stage. And why would you leave that to someone not capable of doing this effectively?

Has the art of moderation changed over the years and how?

For sure! In the (not so distant) past, it was enough to do be able to do a simple introduction and coordinate a Q&A. With meeting designs becoming more complicated, skills needed have boomed. A moderator nowadays needs to be able to interview, lead debates, design & execute work formats, facilitate processes, know his way around event tech, chair panels, read minds and has basic knowledge of psychology, biology etc.

What’s the future of moderation?

The next generation of moderators will be the first to have actively chosen to become a moderator and will be the first to have officially graduated in the profession.

Moderation has moved on from being a well-payed moonlighting gig to serious business. The next step will be, that is becomes a true profession and that requires real education/certification.

What are the most important qualities and skills a moderator should have? What makes a good moderator?

A great moderator is a dancer: physically, you move around all the time. And on top of that you lead, while sensing the needs of your partner.

A great moderator is a good observer, loves every person and values every contribution to the conversation. Finally, he or she is ‘radically neutral’.

Is someone born a moderator or this could be learned/ trained?

A bit of both. The DNA should be there; all great moderators share this caring, sensitive, yet goal-driven attitude. At the same time, the basic ‘hard skills’ can be trained, as I do together with Kim Coppes in our very successful workshop Mastering Moderation

How to select the best moderator for our event? Is there a formula?

The easiest way is to call me: I know the strong and weak points of many moderators and I have this gut feeling you need to make the perfect match. But there are some basic criteria you can follow:

  1. Decide what skills are needed for a specific event and look for the moderator that excels in exactly those (do not believe moderators, who say they will score a 10 on all moderator-skills!)
  2. Take a look at the ‘personality of your participants’: will they love a charismatic showman, or a soft- spoken masseur?
  3. Make your choice: celebrity, internal moderator, expert on the topic, professional moderator. Each has advantages and disadvantages

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career as a moderator so far?

My biggest challenge was to let go and become less of a control-freak. Once I started loving the audience and trusting on the combined intelligence of the participant, I became a better moderator.

What made you choose this profession? What do you love most about being a moderator?

I did not choose the profession, it chose me. I ended up on stage by accident and fell in love with the profession right away: to be able to help people make thing better, is what I like so much.

Where could we see you in action (moderating) in the near future?

Come to Eventex in Sofia, where I will be moderating the Award Show and the Conference. Later this year, I will be speaking on the ‘art and value of moderation’ on IMEX Frankfurt and The Associations World Congress in Berlin. And of course I would love to welcome you in London for www.masteringmoderation.com … maybe you could become a (better) moderator yourself!

Jan-Jaap is owner-moderator at Masters in Moderation. He is a firm believer that a carefully selected moderator-facilitator will make meetings more effective, more fun and definitely more worthwhile. His dream is to raise the standard of meetings worldwide, by providing them with the best moderators. His mission is to upgrade the moderator profession, by training both professional and unexperienced moderators.