Preparing to Moderate a Panel – The Basics

I’ll be attending Arisia, a science fiction convention, this weekend. I’ll be doing some moderating, as I often do.

I’ve been attending sf cons since I was a young teenager, and serving on panels, and moderating them, for more than a decade. *blink* Yes, really.

Here are some basics of how to prepare to moderate.

1. Read the panel description ahead of time. Think through what the description seems to be asking for–since some descriptions are very brief or generalized, you might want to make notes about the direction you think the panel ought to take. Consider any other panels you might have heard on this subject. How will your take differ?

2. The panel might require research, or at the very least a list of questions for the other panelists that will help direct the discussion. What questions will you ask? How would you answer them? Research might include books or it might consist of reading a series of recent blog articles on the topic. I always feel more confident if I’ve made notes ahead of time, even if I don’t end up using them.

3. Decide if you’re going to ask questions and answer them, or only ask questions of the other panelists. In most cases, the moderator should be prepared to participate in the discussion.

4. Look over the list of other panelists and, if you don’t know them, email them, or at least look up their website. Note down some questions specific to their expertise which might be relevant. Also remember that last-minute schedule changes happen, so don’t count on any one panelist to carry the discussion.

5. Look over your schedule for the convention and the venue itself, to make sure you’ll have adequate time to get from place to place physically and adequate time for meals between panels. If you’re moderating, you really don’t want to be late!

Any other suggestions?

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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