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September 12, 2005


Ingrid (I.J.Parker)

It strikes me that the moderator's job is a thankless one, doubly so when you consider the tough instructions in the manifesto. A lot of moderators are also authors and should be able to mention their own books/work.
My recent panel was, from my point of view, a great success. It was moderated by Vicki Delany, an author who did just about everything right as far as I'm concerned. We all got along pleasantly and courteously, had equal time, covered the subject, knew what to expect (don't spring surprise questions on nervous panelists!)and ended up liking each other very much. I understand the audience also was pleased with the panel.
It was probably a little staid and businesslike compared to David's thriller panel, where a leading question about sex scenes addressed to Barry Eisler produced gales of audience laughter, but none of us were Barry Eislers.
My last panel experience three years ago was not good. The reason was one panelist who kept interrupting the others to talk about his own books. I will never serve on a panel with that person again.
In any case, my heartfelt appreciation goes to the moderators.


I've ranted on for years about how moderators can make or break a panel and I was sent a draft of this guide - with my HUGE thanks to Jon - since I think I'm one of the few people who actually has had the experience of planning convention program. I've done it twice and it seems i'll be doing it again for LCC 2007.
Moderating isn't thankless - I've done it a bunch of times and here's what i've gotten out of it, ok?
a) I've LEARNED stuff. And that seriousy is why I go to panels.
b) I've helped people at a convention learn stuff. Ditto.
c) I've thinned the line between pro and non-pro; and btw I've moderated panels about bookstores as well as writer-oriented panels, but I still like to think that thinning the line is important.
Thanks to the writers of the manifesto for such points as the whole "put your book up on hte dais' thing which is NOT encouraged, is TACKY and not a good idea. Thanks also for all the "do your homework" tips - I cannot comprehend why anyone would agree to moderate a panel then do nothing and show up with a "I dunno any of these people, so I'lm going to let them introduce themselves and read a chapter from their books" (true experience, i can still tell you who, when and where. I was in the audience and I was SOOO peeved.)
Thanks to for "go to panels". Yeah. You/we can ALL learn stuff and watch how it's done. And enjoy ourselves.
And don't forget - the convention STAFF should be there to help you, both before and during the event; If the room is cold, if there is no water - well ideally there's a "room monitor" and if not? Find a friendly face, ask said person to go FIND a conention staffer and see about fixing it. Ideally there's a green room; ideally you've met in advance. Ideally, the convention staffers are easily identifiable so they can be buttonholed. We ARE - or should be - THERE to help make the convention as good as it can be.
I'm hearing LOTS of discussion about panels being a little too "well in MY book" and "well but in MY book" recently. It's also up to us convetion staffers to try to create more interesting programs with more interactive discussion; that requires imagination, feedback, brainstorming, stealing the good ideas and not assuming we know everything. I know I don't, which is why folks who want to be on program when I'm involved get questionnaires - detailed ones - saying "what do you want to do?" and presumably , you'll pick what you're good at. The topics HAVE to be more than yes/no, more than standard "plot, setting, character, dialogue (this is not, after all, a writer's conference) and that ain't easy; some of hte standards work well, and are standards for a reason, but I don't go to panels just to hear Writer A promote her latest book then Writer B promote his. It's got to ENGAGE my attention. I have to have learned something other than that i order to feel it was worth my time.

Pat Abbott

As someone who attended Ingrid's panel, I have to say it was exemplary. Everyone was courteous, informative and enthusiastic. It couldn't have been more fun.


One word: audio. Be sure that the person doing sound has ample time to test it and that people in the back of the room can hear the panelists CLEARLY. Also, be sure to provide copious water for all the panelists. They're going to be using their throats a lot. Further, be sure that there is someone there with a portable microphone so that both audience and panelists can distinctly hear the question.


Many thanks for this very helpful information. I am preparing for my first moderating effort in February. This checklist is exactly what I needed!

Janet Reid

I'm preparing to moderate a panel for the NYC chapter of the Womens National Book Association on "Dangerous Books" (not books about crime, sadly!). Your manifesto provided great guidelines, most particularly about introductions. Thanks for putting this together!

Tod Goldberg

The one aspect not covered here is the hostile witness. I moderated a panel at the LA Times Festival of Books that featured one author who, categorically, did not want to be there, did not want to answer any questions, did not want questions asked of him, did not find me funny, did not find the other panelists funny, did not like green eggs and ham in a boat, he did not like them eaten by a goat. So, the way I got around that was I simply mocked him until he made a few guttural sounds that the audience took as great unspoken profundity. A true success story.


Tod I had one like that, though not quite as hostile. It ended up with him, wittingly or no, providing GREAT comic behavior because there I'd be asking a question and person a would answer, in depth and in real answers, and person B would give thoughtful responses and person C would be funny and then there was The Guy Who Wasn't in the Mood. Who'd say " I dunno". After about 3 of these, it was funny. Sort of like some musical performance where the guitar solo is great, the fiddle solo is great, the mandolin solo sails, and then someone hits a flat note on a trumpet. BLAT. Stop, start again.
In their next "how to be a great PANELIST" write-up let's hope we cover "if you don't want to be on a program FOR CRYING OUT LOUD SAY SO" because you end up looking like a jerk, and you don't win ANYone over. And boy, do we keep lists.

Clea Simon

Good post! I was lucky enough to have some very lovely, respectful panelists for my debut moderating effort at Bouchercon. I didn't, therefore, run into the one problem I feared most: How do you politely stop a run-on talker? I was thinking I could interrupt with a "And that's agood point would Judy want to coment on that..." but that seems so hamhanded. I did tell all my panelists beforehand that I considered myself largely a traffic cop and put my watch on the dais in front of me, which may be why everyone kept their answers brief. But for next time... thoughts? Advice?

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