Moderation

As well as enjoying the panel offerings of my peers at South by Southwest, I had the pleasure of hosting a session too.

There are two ways to approach speaking gigs. You can do a proper presentation with plenty of preparation. That’s what I’ve always done in previous years and that’s what Richard and James opted for with their talk, Wireframing in a Web 2.0 World. The presentation was excellent although much of the humour derived from putting this picture on screen for all to see. And what were the chances that Derek’s presentation immediately afterward would feature a further two Star Wars related pictures of me?

The other approach is to do a panel. This is quite a different beast to doing a presentation. In this case, too much preparation can actually be harmful. If you ever find yourself in the position of having to moderate a panel, I suggest you read the wise words of Derek Powazek:

Do not get everyone together beforehand. Do not have breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Do not start an email thread and make everyone participate. All this does is rob the panel of any spontaneity. Your panelists learn very quickly where the hot buttons are, and will avoid them later, which makes for a boring panel. And when the audience hears a panelist say, Well, as we were discussing earlier … it just makes them feel like they missed the good part.

The secret to having a good panel is actually pretty simple: get together a bunch of passionate, smart, sassy experts and let ‘em rip. I was lucky enough to have a dream line-up for Building Portable Social Networks:

They were all wonderful and the time up there on the stage just flew by. I had a lot of compliments on the panel afterwards. The kind words of Jeff Veen in particular meant a lot to me—he’s my public speaking role model.

I’m coming to realise how much I love moderating panels. It started with the Hot Topics panels at @media and now I’m hooked. I probably enjoy moderating panels for much the same reason that I enjoy moderating Werewolf: a feeling of power and the chance to get some cheap laughs at the expense of other people’s public humiliation …all without the hard work and preparation that goes into a proper presentation.

So if you’re putting together a conference and you’re looking for a dictactorial sarcastic bastard to moderate a panel, come see about me.

Meanwhile I’ll be eagerly refreshing the podcast coverage from this year’s SXSW until the audio from my panel is made available, at which point I’ll get it transcribed and published. C’mon Hugh, don’t make me break out my bitchin’n’moanin’ mojo.

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