Mastering the Art of Webinar Moderation: Tips and Best Practices for a Successful Online Event

By:
Rachel Meyrowitz

Webinars are an excellent format for educating audiences and building authority in your niche. But they only achieve these benefits when well executed. That entails presenters delivering the content in a timely and respectable fashion, which foments respect and appreciation in the audience.

Webinar moderation is an art. It takes practice, and there are a few rules you need to follow to ensure positive results. Moreover, webinars are well-structured, formal events, and both characteristics are critical for the final presentation to be professional. When practiced correctly, webinar moderation allows you to maintain these elements throughout the whole webinar process.

In this article, we’ll go over the webinar moderation process, from preparation to the end of the webinar.

Before the Webinar

Moderating a webinar effectively requires strategic and comprehensive preparation. Before the webinar, you need to set goals and expectations, as well as organize the process.

The first (obvious) step is to assign the responsibility to a moderator. This is the person who oversees planning and curating the webinar experience. 

Having a moderator present is crucial; without one, presenters and other staff have to complete their main job while also worrying about webinar moderation. Delegating too many responsibilities at once can lead to missed deadlines, human error, and other detrimental setbacks. For example, it’s difficult for presenters to make a great presentation and adequately handle chats and Q&A sessions on their own. The overwhelming workload can lead to the webinar chat being neglected or the presenter veering off topic or losing focus while trying to balance too many separate responsibilities.

Once you establish a moderator, it’s their responsibility to manage the collective webinar moderation efforts. They must be a strong communicator and knowledgeable in the subject matter. 

Then, you can move into the webinar moderation process itself, which includes several important steps.

Understand the Objectives of the Webinar

A webinar normally has multiple objectives. A single event can be launched with one or a mix of the following purposes:

  • Education
  • Training
  • Marketing/promotion
  • Lead generation
  • Boost reputation or build authority
  • Networking

It’s the moderator’s duty to keep the presentation on track to accomplish each goal, which often overlap. Thankfully, webinars are a unified format that can accommodate multiple objectives.

Collaborate With Presenters and Organizers

The moderator must work closely with organizers to set, understand, and maintain the webinar agenda. This collaboration is necessary to identify goals and ensure the content and presentation remain relevant.

Working with presenters is important for moderators because it acts as a quality control measure. Presenters understand their contribution to a focused and engaging presentation and cooperate with the moderator to prepare a structured experience that flows well. During the presentation, the moderator will actively support the presenters according to the arrangement made during the planning stage.

They ensure the agenda is understood and followed and so should work with presenters and organizers to facilitate timely transitions. Presenters must be aware of the window they have to cover a topic and be ready to move on within a reasonable time frame. These expectations are set beforehand with the moderator.

Prepare the Platform Setup

Collaboration with technical support occurs as well and is an important part of the moderation process. The moderator assists them at the planning stage to ensure the event is ready on time. They can also preemptively troubleshoot technical issues among the organizers and presenters.

During the Webinar

Once the webinar starts, the moderator plays a continuously active role in its execution. Their main focus is to ensure that the preparations made during the planning stages are applied during the event.

Webinar moderation normally requires moderators to communicate with presenters, organizers, technical support, and the audience. The scale of their communications should be limited and concise, with the single-minded goal of making sure everything goes according to plan.

Start the Webinar on Time and Set the Tone

First impressions matter, and a bad one will jeopardize the entire webinar. As such, webinar moderation must work to make a strong first impression once the webinar starts.

Time management is another ongoing responsibility for a webinar moderator. The most critical task here is finalizing the preparations and launching the webinar on time. This ensures the webinar begins on a good note, as being fully prepared and on time are key indicators of competence.

At this time, moderators must also set the tone (usually a respectable one). The moderator should make introductory remarks and provide a rundown of what the audience can expect during the event. The way they deliver this information is as important as the information itself because they’re setting the mood for the whole webinar. This is also where knowledge of the subject matter and good communication skills are critical.

They should deliver the agenda and the rules the audience should follow. This should also include informing attendees when they’ll be able to participate and how. For example, if a Q&A session is scheduled, audience members should be aware they’ll have a formal timeslot where their voices will be heard so they save their questions until then, rather than interrupting the presentation.

Introduce the Presenters and the Topics

Following the initial remarks, moderators can then move on to introduce the presenters and the webinar subject matter..

Your webinar presenters are the primary sources of the event’s respect and authority and so deserve an appropriate introduction. This includes clear explanations of who the presenters are and what information they’ll present.

After, a brief explanation of the topics is in order. Audience members should already have a thorough understanding of why they’re present thanks to your registration page. However, some additional clarity on specific areas may be necessary before the presentation begins in earnest.

Manage the Flow of Conversation and Questions 

This is one of the most important moderation responsibilities. With proper preparations and strong introductions though, this step is easier to carry out. A strong moderator who is well versed in the topic and possesses sharp communication skills is best suited to ensure a webinar flows while remaining orderly.

A moderator also manages time slots, meaning they queue presentation segments and facilitate transitions. This subtly but decisively keeps the schedule moving as intended.

When it comes to Q&A sessions, moderators have a more central role. The exact process can vary depending on the specifics of the webinar but, in general, moderating these sessions entails:

  • Selecting questions from attendees in the chat box
  • Ensuring questions are relevant and meaningful to the audience
  • Politely reminding/redirecting to keep the sessions on course when necessary
  • Controlling the pace of interactive sessions to ensure overall timeliness

The importance of communication skills in these sections can’t be overstated. Those who moderate them must enforce etiquette as well as relevance and timing without coming off as dictatorial. 

Moderation means handling problematic actions and behaviors professionally, which makes emotional control an important qualification for a moderator. Spamming, trolling, and derogatory comments cannot be allowed to slide; rather, these behaviors must be met with calm but decisive responses. Losing control of such situations can jeopardize the entire webinar, which risks ruining the experience for the audience and your stakeholders. Likewise, moderators should avoid overreacting to an honest mistake on an audience member’s part.

Troubleshoot Technical Issues

During the presentation, the moderator collaborates continuously with technical support. They work to maintain the setup and standards created during preparations.

Just as in the preparation stage, webinar moderators can also assist with technical issues as they arise during a webinar. Even with careful planning, audio and video problems may pop up. The moderator must pay attention to these issues and have technical support ready to handle them.

Strong moderators are proactive about technical issues: They maintain contingency plans in case serious problems arise. The goal is to eliminate any single point of weakness that could jeopardize the entire webinar. For example, if audio devices malfunction, technical support should have a fast, workable solution waiting.

Keep the Audience Engaged and Active

Presenters are largely responsible for engagement. But moderators complement their efforts by encouraging interactivity among the audience.

The presenters deliver the presentation and answer questions, which is demanding on its own.

Meanwhile, moderators enter the picture in between presentations to fill in “engagement gaps.”  They’re in charge of the use of interactive tools like quizzes, polls, surveys, and other participatory elements. This serves to collect data and keep the audience engaged throughout the event. Additionally, they can directly ask attendees questions and invite responses at the right moment. 

Adjacent to this is the simple but incredibly important task of making audience members feel comfortable. The moderator can encourage people to share their opinions and experiences more explicitly, which helps build a more relaxed and inclusive community.

Lastly, moderators can employ more basic tactics such as visual aids to hold the audience’s attention. This both encourages engagement and reinforces the knowledge the presenters impart.

Conclusion

Your audience’s webinar experience rests on several factors. Ensuring success requires a strategic approach that anticipates potential issues during the event. Specifically, a comprehensive webinar moderation strategy can address many of the most serious challenges.

A webinar moderation plan tackles many problems that arise during the planning and execution phases. In this article, we’ve gone over how you can create a robust webinar moderation plan, but you also need to consider a broader webinar strategy to maximize your success.

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