The Art of Moderating – Moderation

I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to Moderate a fair number of Literary Panels in the past 3-4 years. Currently, I am in Delhi moderating several sessions on behalf of the European Union at the World Book Fair. While the event is still ongoing, and I have sessions that remain, I thought I’d share whatever little I’ve come to realize about the ‘art of moderating’.

So particularly to the uninitiated who are interested in this kind of thing, the first thing is get the ‘fear’ out of your system. Writers/Authors are human beings just like us. They want to engage at a real and human level, just like we ordinary mortals do. So to go into something on the assumption that the people are going to be ‘difficult’, ‘stuck-up’, ‘intellectually highbrowed’, in most cases, is a myth. So relax, and take a deep breath.

Second, be well researched and prepared. Again this does not mean you must have read every word ever written by each author on a panel. But you must have more than a general sense and background about the person and his/her work. Genre, sphere, readership, country of origin; things of this nature. And part of the preparation also is to try and solicit as much detailed information about the ‘subject’ and ‘theme’ of the discussion itself, as much in advance as possible, from the organizers.

Third, try to meet the panelists in advance, strike a rapport. Going in completely cold, unless one is a natural peoples’ person, leads to awkwardness which on stage is a dead giveaway.

And finally, and to my mind most importantly,  be Moderate! It is kind of like an interview really. And many people who interview, tend to be either too verbose, or not engaged at all. One has to find a middle ground, strike a balance, ask relevant questions and then allow the panel to respond freely, give them time and space, try not to interrupt. Judge the mood and direction of the audience as well as of the panel, and if need be, divert from your script or whatever you had in your mind in terms of questions. Let the conversation build organically.

Be polite, well informed, well judged, and always ask the audience to acknowledge the panel with applause and gratitude.

 

Great Conversations can be EASY!

Many many students of mine of all age groups essentially want to become good conversationalists. And I keep telling them, just as there are Myths & Misconceptions associated with Writing, there are too, with being a Great Conversationalist.

Whatever the ‘conversation-scenario’ might be, you need a few KEY prerequisites, and I promise you will be on your way to holding a meaningful, engaging dialogue.

  1. LISTEN: Making conversation is NOT about going yap yap yap to PROVE that you KNOW IT ALL. Listen. People appreciate that. Besides, a conversation is a 2-way street. Unless you pay attention to what the other person/people are saying, how will you carry it FORWARD!
  2. GK: The more AWARE you are, the more well informed you are, the more you will engage. There is NO substitute for this. I get that it is BORING to read newspapers, depressing even. I dislike it myself. You know the 2 places I get my GK from? So here’s my trade secret!!! KBC, as in Kaun Banega Karorpati. And this neat app on android and ios called In-Shorts, available free on any play-store, that gives you diverse, interesting news. The best part, each news-story has a visual or video, and is limited to 60 words!!
  3. RESEARCH: Lack of Confidence is sited as a constant niggle. It becomes such a monster, that it can seem all-consuming. You know what the key to alleviating this is? RESEARCH. No matter what the social-scenario may be, there is, logically, a certain about of PREP that can be put into in advance. For example, you are going to your college orientation. If you do a little research about the school, its professors, and the city/locality/history/culture in advance, not only will your nerves have VANISHED, you will definitely engage & delight!
  4. DISPOSITION: Try to keep a friendly disposition. Often times without realizing, our nerves/irritation manifest in our body-movements. We twitch, shake, do not make eye contact, and keep our arms crossed (as if to stay shut off to the world). Breathe. Why Shahrukh Khan has become the legend that he has? I have a theory. What’s his most iconic pose? Arms wide open in slow motion…right? Well, it is all about positive body language and a disposition that says, come, I want to engage with you!

Making conversation is a wonderful thing. It is educative, entertaining, and most importantly, builds relationships. And today, perhaps more than ever, we need that!