How to moderate a meeting? – Hosting a meeting! (PT 2-3)
In the first part of this series on “How to moderate a meeting?” we talked about the preparation and how to establish yourself as a respected moderator prior to the meeting. Now we it is time to look at the meeting itself and the moment of truth, when you are actually tasked to moderate.
Let us start with some basic thoughts to out your mind it the right place and help you find into your role. As a moderator, you exercise power. That is part of the role. Remember the sports metaphor form the first part? After all, a referee doesn’t discuss with the players whether he should give the yellow card or not.
- You protect the quiet ones
- You channel the loud ones
- You ward off disturbances
- You ensure factual equality and
- You improve the exchange.
That is your job in a nut shell and obviously excludes you from one particular action. Can you guess with one? Right, you do not further the factual discussion with your thoughts and ideas. This might sound irritating especially if you moderate a meeting within your own team, but it very crucial to keep the respect. Remember the referee, he or she does not advise the trainer or players on the strategy either. Stick to your role and improve the exchange. Now let us look at the meeting itself.
There are two very different systems of communication and understanding them can improve your skills to moderate drastically. The vertical and the horizontal system. Most of the time the “vertical” one applies to males and the “horizontal” one applies to females. Vertical means that the person has a strong sense of hierarchy like a vertical line going form top to bottom or bottom to top. Horizontal means that the person perceives others as equal and does not care for hierarchies and structures so much. This is a very brief description but might help to keep the general idea of the different perspectives present in your head. It is important that you don’t judge or generalise your participants. Women equal horizontal, men equal vertical. It is not that black and white. But it is important for your way of moderation since you can eliminate a lot of problems right from the start. For the more “vertical” participants it is very important to define your role as moderator and thus referee which has the sole power over the meeting. It helps them to understand you as the leader and align themselves to this situation. For the more “horizontal” people this clear role definition helps to perceive everyone in the meeting as equal and every idea or comment as equally valid. Now let us look at the meeting itself.
Once you start the meeting make sure “you” start the meeting. Do it on time no matter how many attendees are there. The referee does not wait for the players to start the game nore does the bus or train leave late to wait for a passenger. For face to face meetings in same room choose an exposed position at the head of the table or stand in formt of the people. This displays dominance even to horizontal mammals. For online meetings choose a software where you can mute the participants if necessary and put yourself on big picture when you want to.
Start the meeting by greeting everyone and thanking them for their attendance. Then state your full name and your role. This could look something like this: “Hi everyone and welcome to our meeting. I like to thank you for your attendance and attention. My name is Stephan Plesnik and I am the moderator of this meeting.”
This puts you on top of the food chain and everyone else on the same level. It might feel weird to state your full name when your colleges normally call you with your first name but it is a strong signal that we all know from our childhood days. Remember your mom getting angry at you for reaching into the cookie jar one too many times? All of a sudden you are not cute “Jessi” but “Jessica Maria Flint“. Notice any difference? The same effect applies to any other situation. Even professional work based meetings. Because even in professional work based meetings we tend to remain human beings.
After your introduction have everyone else state their name and role in the team as well. This way everyone can keep a record of attendance and knows who is who. Then turn to your code of conduct form the preparation and point out what the meeting is about and which goal you all want to achieve. At best keep the goal visible at all times to everyone.
Once the meeting is over read out the results and remind everyone to evaluate wether you have reached the goal or not. Let everyone write down some feedback on the results in factual and personal form. Thank everyone for their attendance and then end the meeting like you started it. For example: “Thanks everyone for your attendance and attention to this meeting my name is Stephan Plesnik and I was happy to moderate this discussion on the topic of […].”
Of course this is just an example and it is up to you which words you use. It has to feel natural and good to you. Never try to copy any management or organisational technics. Understand the idea and then explore the best way for you make use of it. In the next part of this series we are going to cover the communication within the meeting and how to deal with unpleasant people.
If you like this article, please consider sharing it with your network. Also tell me your thoughts in the comments below and check out my professional workplace trainings. Thanks for your attention, this is Stephan signing off and stay curious to Re:Think.