How to Be a Webinar Moderator

By Sharat Sharan, John Carucci

Not many job descriptions are as direct as this one is. Think about it: How many people know exactly what a phlebotomist, actuary, or sous-chef really does? Probably not many, but everyone knows that a moderator moderates. In other words, the moderator makes sure that the webinar runs as planned.

Using the TV production equivalent, put it in perspective. Saturday Night Live announcer Don Pardo announces the cast, host, and musical guest star every week for the show. The Price Is Right announcer George Gray announces the show, calls contestants, and introduces prizes along with the show’s host, Drew Carey, who can be thought of as its presenter.

The responsibility of the moderator encompasses a variety of roles that range from setting the scene, introducing the presentation, and sometimes taking questions during the Q&A portion of the program. A moderator must have a well-rounded knowledge of webinar structure along with an understanding of the content, or at least an effective way to present it.

But there’s another important quality that the moderator must also possess: impeccable organizational skills. That order keeps the entire operation moving ahead and engaging the audience.

On the communication side, there’s the virtue of having a good speaking voice. If George Gray, The Price Is Right announcer, were replaced by a less-trained voice, would it still grab your attention? What if it was a voice that sounded like Rocky Balboa, or maybe Bullwinkle’s flying squirrel pal, Rocky?

After the initial chuckles, would you take it seriously? (Okay, maybe you would take Rocket J. Squirrel seriously, but just for old time’s sake.) Without a clear and concise voice, it’s hard to understand what a moderator is saying.

So although a Don Pardo-type voice might be overkill (but very cool at the same time), a moderator needs to speak with conviction. Besides, the moderator doesn’t really talk for the entire webinar, but he does need to set up the essential part of the show.

Here are the necessary qualities of the moderator:

  • Introducing the webinar: Somewhere between “Live from New York!” and “Come on dowww-nnnn” lies the right style for welcoming guests to the webinar.

  • Keeping the session moving smoothly: Announces each section or part of the webinar, making sure each runs on time.

  • Moderating a panel of guests: For moderated discussions, the webinar moderator often introduces the panels, sets up the topics, and plays traffic cop in case things get unruly.