Helpful Tips for Boskone Moderators

Conventions like Boskone are events with many moving parts. One of those parts, perhaps the most visible part, is the Program. In order to pull off Boskone, a dedicated team of volunteers comes together every year to organize hundreds of program items from panels to solo talks, signings, kaffeeklatsches, and more. However, one of the most complex items is the program panel, which usually consists of 3-5 participants, including the panel moderator who is charged with keeping the discussion on topic and on time.

3286339096_09667ab13f_zThis year, Boskone has some truly fantastic panels that should elicit engaging and interactive discussions among the program participants and attendees. In order to help our moderators keep things on track, we put together this list of helpful hints that we’d like to share with everyone. Being a moderator is an important job, and any helpful advice we can give our moderators helps to make Boskone an even better convention.

Helpful Tips for Boskone Moderators
(and other interested parties)

As the moderator, you can help make a panel focused and fun. While you should try to keep the topic on track, don’t let any of these guidelines cause you to stop a discussion which is interesting to both the panel and audience! Keep the “big” picture in mind.

As Moderator, we ask that you:

  • Be prepared. If possible, briefly talk to your fellow panelists before the program item. Think up some questions or topics to keep the panel going if conversation lags. Make a crib sheet. And….start on time!
  • Briefly outline the topic of the panel for the audience.
  • Briefly introduce the panelists, or ask them to introduce themselves. (Do not allow others to join the panel unless the Program staff authorizes this addition.)
  • Avoid the temptation to start the panel by announcing that you have no idea what it’s about or why you’re on it. Keep others from doing the same. (Yes—it is an easy way to start, and could well make the audience feel a sense of rapport with you. It may even be amusing. However, even if this is true, drawing attention to the convention’s failings is discourteous and generally unnecessary.) If you are on a panel and are uncomfortable with or unclear about the topic, please notify Program Ops.
  • Make sure that all panelists start with an equal chance to participate. As moderator you may need to adjust or encourage panelist participation depending on panelists’ contributions. Be fair, but firm.
  • Prevent the discussion from drifting away from the topic, too much. Don’t let panelists (including yourself!) pursue individual agendas unless they are directly on topic.
  • Allow time for questions, but don’t let individual questioners monopolize the panel or drag it away from the topic. If you are in a large room, repeat questions from the audience so everyone in the room knows what was asked.
  • Keep an eye on the time (check a watch or clock). Consider asking a summing-up question near the end of your allotted time. Then, bring the panel gracefully to a close when your time is up. Thank everyone!
  • Please discourage lingering in the program room, so that the next program item can start on time. If people want to talk with the panelists, please encourage them to do it outside the room.
  • If you have a chance, we’d appreciate your “counting the house” for us, and giving us some idea of how many people attended this program item.

To the best of our knowledge, moderating has never killed anyone. Yet.

Go with the flow. Relax. Enjoy.

Being a moderator is a JOB – but it can be a rewarding one. Thank you for your willingness to take it on.

Check out Boskone 51 now!
February 14-16, 2014, Westin Boston Waterfront

  • Guest of Honor — Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant
  • Official Artist — David Palumbo
  • Special Guest — Ginjer Buchanan
  • Featured Filker — Bill Roper
  • Hal Clement Science Speaker — Bill Higgins
  • NESFA Press Guest — Jane Yolen
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