Great moderators always have a number of hard skills. One is a great interviewer, the other a talented show host, debate leader, panel moderator or quiz master. In addition, they all have a few well-developed soft skills: humor, curiosity, ... You name it.
But you only recognize the real moderator in a few personal characteristics, which form the basis for natural talent:
This is a rare combination, which seems almost impossible to find. You need charisma as a moderator, because the group must want to follow you. At the same time, it must never be about you, because the meeting is always about the participants. Hence: ego-less
Usually, a lack of ego goes hand in hand with an equally large lack of charisma. And the people with great charisma are often driven by a huge ego. The balance is what the best moderators excel at, without having to put in the effort.
This is an extension of ego-less charisma. On the one hand, you have to be constantly visible, like a beacon in the restless sea. At the same time modesty is appropriate, so that you put others in the spotlight.
A great moderator is like the use of spices in a beautiful dish: only when you leave them out, you start to notice them. So the best moderators do not stand out, until you leave them out.
Directing with a soft hand
As moderator you are the guardian of the atmosphere, the tone of voice and the culture of the event. A good moderator therefore masters the ability to be loved by everyone, even if he/she is sometimes strict. You used to have those kind of teachers at school, remember?
(Tip: also read 'The Art of Gathering', by Priya Parker)
Flexible and focused
The best facilitators love to take detours. Does that mean they will rashly run in any direction? Certainly not!
A meeting is always a living organism, with very unexpected developments and unforeseen obstacles and opportunities. The real talents in our profession deal with this smoothly, without losing sight of the objective.
So a top moderator can always make instant choices. Flexible and goal-oriented. A bit like a pirate and a bit of the accountant.
This one is close to flexible and focused. As moderator of the day, you are mainly concerned with pragmatism: how do I get the group from A to B, how do I achieve the day's objective?
Creativity is an important condition. Without it, you will not get it done. But creativity for the sake of creativity is just as deadly as no creativity at all. And so, by nature, a moderator looks very pragmatically for creative solutions.
Dynamics are crucial for a successful meeting. But that is not the same as constant hysteria. A good moderator brings energy and speed, without it feeling rushed. And he brings calm, without it becoming boring or slow. They seamlessly alternate in tone, pace and style. That is true relaxed dynamics.
In contrast to the previous six points, there is no (apparent) contradiction in this one. A true moderator is driven by love for all participants. All of them? Yes, all of them! Without sincere attention and appreciation for every contribution, all other skills are just tricks.
Even if they are obstinate, rebellious, aggressive maybe ... the moderator always looks for the underlying reason, wanting to help them participate in the discussion as well. The moderator of the day does not judge, but asks, empathizes and listens.
So the talented moderator does not score cheap points at the expense of his participants. I once heard a colleague say to a participant: "That tie, it's so out of fashion". Of course, the audience laughed. But to me he fell off the list of top colleagues.
Interest and empathy are more important than technique and skills. The latter you can learn, the former you have. Or not.
Jan-Jaap In der Maur