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We have now trained several thousand people in all facets of our profession. We regularly hear stories from our alumni about how they fared after the training or workshop. In it, they share observations, insights and learning points that will be of interest to any moderator.
Faced with a delayed train and undelivered beach balls, Thijs de Lange reacted by not giving up.

Everyone has those days when nothing seems to go smoothly. The work of a moderator is no exception. I recently moderated an afternoon on inclusive education. Upon entering the venue, I noticed right away that the room was laid out wrong. They had put two sets of 50 chairs in two different rooms instead of 100 chairs in one room. I happened to be there before the client and decided to act immediately following a call to her. It would look rather silly if things were still being shifted around as the audience streamed in. I informed the technicians on-site of the bad news so they could straighten things out in time. But this was not the first setback I had to face with the client.

For instance, the client and I had thought that in keeping with the summer temperatures, we would give each participant a beach ball with which they could do a variety of things. The day before the event, I received an email informing me that the balls would be delivered too late. With the gimmick no longer an option, I started brainstorming for alternatives. Fortunately, in collaboration with the client, I came up with some nice alternatives, which allowed me to sleep more peacefully. The following morning, I received the next bit of bad news, which I was already dreading: the international speaker's train was severely delayed, which meant he would arrive late. The client arranged for him to be picked up from Schiphol Airport. The speaker who was to speak after him turned up at the agreed time, allowing me to implement Plan B and reverse their order.

So far, so good. We could finally start. I walked around just before the start to check some last things. But then, five minutes before showtime, the technician was nowhere to be seen. How was it possible?! I went looking for him and it turned out he was overseeing downstairs somewhere else entirely. Seemingly relaxed, he came upstairs. He then proceeded to set very different priorities. He insisted on miking up the speaker first before he turned on my microphone, so that I could already start the introduction. I was eaten up with nerves inside; starting with a five-minute delay felt like a 1-0 deficit. In hindsight, it was not a disaster; as it turned out, I actually needed less time for the introduction than we had budgeted for it.

All this just goes to show that as a moderator, you have to stay very alert and be able to improvise. In addition, the takeaways from the workshops I attended with Masters in Moderation means that I am no longer so easily alarmed if a speaker drops out unexpectedly; you can get the room talk to each other and something sensible will always come out of it. My years of stage experience gave me the flexibility to be able to open the meeting seconds after being in conflict with the technician as if nothing is the matter. The meeting itself was ultimately a great success. Afterwards, I received a nice compliment from the beaming client: “You promised and you delivered.” I went home with a big smile on my face. I can do it!

Thijs de Lange

Picture: Timon Studler on Unsplash

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