I recently attended a conference on Diversity and Inclusion and, given the theme of the event, was very disappointed with the biased nature of the event moderation. I spoke with one of the organisers at the end and, to give them credit, they asked if there were guidelines on 'inclusive moderation' that they could supply to their moderators, who are often volunteers. As I was not aware of any, I decided to produce my own...
When moderating large group discussions
- If possible have cabaret style seating to encourage small group and/or pairs discussion whilst reducing the sensation of being in a crowd.
- At the outset ‘contract’ for inclusive behaviours. Provide a clear vision of what a successful event will look like. Be prepared to give feedback and/or challenge over-contributors.
- Be clear you are there to work on behalf of all participants. Raise the subject, by pointing out that some people like/are prone to speak up more than others in groups. Highlight that you’ll be looking for opportunities to include anyone who wishes to contribute.
- Encourage delegates to have a conversation early i.e. what are you looking to gain today? This will ‘warm’ them up to questions and sharing of opinion.
- Randomly nominate an individual to play back group thoughts to the whole gathering, e.g. by placing a discreet sticker on one chair at each table in advance.
- Be creative in how you elicit further comments, e.g. throw a bean bag or talk-box around to nominate who speaks next.
- Allowing one person to take over and / or ‘grandstand’.
- Letting the group choose who feeds back. It will almost always be the person who feels most comfortable and not the one you need to hear from the most.
When inviting questions for a speaker or panel
- Invite questions via a show of hands.
- Be very aware of the representation of different groups in the room; invite questions accordingly. E.g. if there’s a 50:50 M:F split; invite questions from equal numbers of men and women.
- Build in time for delegates to discuss their questions briefly in pairs, trios or small groups first to prioritise their questions. You are more likely to hear from a variety of people. Questions will be better formulated and when asked, better articulated.
- Ensure you can get a microphone to people quickly. Ideally have two microphones so the next questioner can be ready to go.
- Allowing people to call out their questions
- Choosing the people who put their hands up first. Introverted people and underrepresented groups can sometimes be slower to volunteer their questions.
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Julia Philpott is Head of Coaching at Management Futures. Julia is a qualified and empathetic coach who draws on 25 years of operational, management, HR and leadership development experience to help teams and individuals enhance their performance. She has been a coach for 10 years, following a successful management career with Ford Motor Company, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Tiger Beer UK. Find out more about Julia.