Moderators play a critical role in successful learning sessions. Effective moderation can enhance the learning process. Moderators not only help engage learners in discussion but should serve as extenders of faculty by supporting the delivery of key points. Moderators ask both faculty and learners questions, which requires moderators to attentively listen. At the same time, moderators need to keep track of time, address presenters that may be running long, and manage the audience's engagement. A sense of collegiality will help the group connect with moderators and faculty. Delivery style and presence can help you connect, break down barriers, and create a sense of ease among the learners that it is safe to ask questions, disagree, or point out alternative approaches and solutions. Moderators serve as facilitators, connectors, supporters, extenders, and clarifiers – all in support of participants' learning.
Steps a Moderator Should Take in Advance of a Session
A key to success is being prepared for your role as a moderator. Below are steps that you should take in advance of a session.
- Get to know the presenters in your session.
- Consider reviewing their online professional profile.
- Consider reading a recent publication from the presenter on the relevant topic.
- Review the requested content for the presenters in your session based on the meeting program.
- Introduce yourself in advance via email to the presenters:
- Remind the presenters of the recommended number of slides and time limit for their talks.
- Ask the presenters if they require any clarifications about the content for their talks.
- Plan the session introduction with your co-moderator if there is one.
- Show enthusiasm and support for participation.
- Formulate at least one question for each presenter in case there are no questions from the audience. Consider alerting presenters the question you might ask them ahead of time so that they are prepared.
- If you are uncertain about the pronunciation of a presenter's name, consider asking a colleague or looking up a website offering audio pronunciations of last names. You can also ask presenters to verify their institutions or how they would like to be introduced.
- Prepare appropriate technical preparations for online moderated sessions:
- Check the functionality of your camera/audio before the session.
- Choose a setting with good lighting and appropriate background.
- Have a plan for transitions among slides from each presenter, particularly for live sessions.
- Become familiar with the technology (e.g. audience response system). Here is a Moderator Training Guide for ACC's Conferences I/O system.
Best Practices in Introducing a Session and the Presenters
During the introduction of a session, a moderator should:
- Connect with the audience using eye contact and a strong welcoming introduction. Consider moving around the space to add energy.
- Set a tone of enthusiasm and personal connection with the topic and speaker(s). Share a personal or professional antidote that connects to session content.
- Describe how the audience will use the Audience Response System (ARS).
- Introduce the speaker(s) from a respectful diverse and inclusive perspective (See Diversity and Inclusion section).
- Consider an introductory slide for introducing presenters in a session.
Tactics to Keep Sessions Focused and On-time
The following tactics to be taken prior to, at the start of, and during a session will help moderators keep learning sessions focused and on-time.
Prior to the session:
- Review presentation content, provide feedback to faculty regarding relevance of topics covered and presentation length/duration.
- Alert presenters that they may be interrupted/alerted if they're running over time.
At the start of the session:
- Remind faculty of expected presentation duration.
- Mention you will provide notices as the time limit is approached.
During the session:
- Provide a visible presentation clock for faculty presenters.
- Appropriately notify presenters when time limit is approached.
- Utilize time flexible session elements (i.e., prepare regular or abbreviated speaker introductions, modify Q&A duration, flexible break periods).
- Engage the entire audience by making eye contact with everyone and consider moving away from the podium.
Effective Methods for Facilitating an Active Discussion and Audience Engagement
Prior to the session:
- Know your session room set-up – round table, breakout rooms, audience response systems (ARS), virtual participation, all in-person, possible to interact directly with audience, show hands, etc.
During the session:
- Include in the introduction of the session the learning objectives or take-home messages that you want the audience to leave the session with.
- Encourage the audience to participate in the discussion.
- Express to the audience that the session in intended to facilitate active listening, learning, and participation by way of question answering, recall, etc.
- Be sure to tell the audience HOW to participate (step up to the microphone, submit questions via audience response system (ARS), type in the chat, etc.) and when to participate (after each talk, at the end of the session, etc.).
- If there is ARS, show/tell the audience how to use it.
- In case there are no audience questions, have at least 1 question prepared for each presenter in the session.
- If there are several audience questions, be sure that all presenters are asked at least one question. You may have to add your own question to achieve this goal.
- When you ask a question, be sure to name the person whom you are asking BEFORE you ask the question (example, "Dr. Smith, can you help us understand…").
- Always direct your question at one person – this avoids problems where no speaker wants to answer OR two people try to answer at the same time.
- You can always ask a second speaker to respond after the first gives his or her answer. This is a great way to build engagement and discussion.
- Do not say "How do you approach the diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy? I usually do this…". Stop after you ask the question and let the expert respond.
- You can offer two possible choices and ask them how they decide between these. Example "When managing a patient with diagnosis of atrial fibrillation and rapid ventricular rate, how do you think about selecting beta-blockers versus calcium channel blockers? How does cardiac function play into your decision-making?"
After the session:
- Solicit feedback.
- Can consider a post-test assessment if more formal.