10 reasons why a moderator is crucial to the succes of your online event

24 juni 2020
Categorieën: Art and value of moderation
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You want your online event to be succesful, right? Then bring in a moderator!
Either a professional one, or someone from your organisation who is well trained for the job.

Here are 10 reasons, why a moderator is crucial to the success of your event.

JJ Overshoulder

1.   Energy

Your moderator can bring the extra energy that is desperately needed, online.
By setting the pace, interacting and doing some little exercises, participants will stay fresh longer.

Also, she will constantly monitor the level of energy.
If needed, he will take action by making little changes to the program or maybe adding a power-break.

2.   Connection

If you’re in a room together, almost automatically you will form a group.
Online, this is different, because everyone is watching ‘home alone’.
The moderator will merge all these individuals into what I like to call a ‘temporary tribe’.
Once you feel part of a group, you will surely be more concentrated and less likely to leave.

3.   Culture

The concept of the Temporary Tribe also is about culture.
In order to make a meeting succesful, participants need to know what the ‘Rules of engagement’ are for this specific event.
The moderator will be the guardian of this culture.

4.   Make it human

The risk of going online is that it will be about technology only.
Your moderator will constantly reach out to your participants.
Showing them, that they exist and that they are important.

After all, every human being wants to be seen, heard and loved.
A great online moderator will have plenty of tricks up the sleeve, to make sure about this.

5.   Inclusion

When online, the risk of participants not feeling included or not feeling safe to share is enormous.
It’s the moderators’ job to make sure to pay attention to every individual, every once in a while, providing trust to all.
And yes, that can also be done with hundreds of participants!

6.   Make it effective

You organize your event for a reason. You want ROI.
The moderator will find ways of making participants open up to content, digest it and put it into practise.

7.   Focus

Online makes it hard for participants to stay focussed for a longer period of time.
Choosing the right form of engagement at any given time through the event will do wonders.

A great moderator will know exactly what to do when, to keep everyone concentrated.
By directing their focus. Or by allowing them to relax for moment, using breaks deliberatly.

8.   Design

Your moderator will not only help you ‘read’ the event, while in progress.
She or he will also help you in the design phase of the project.

After all, a seasoned moderator has ‘been there, done that’.
Moderators know how to build an effective program.
And when to choose which kind of engagement or what type of interaction format.

9.   Leadership

Once your event is on the road, you need someone to be in charge.
You and your participant will be in the safe hands of the moderator, taking on responsibillity for everything running smoothly

JJ having fun

10.               Fun

Laughing, fooling around, playing … having fun.
This will make everything better, including online events.

The moderator will make people laugh, cheer, do spontaneaous shout-outs.
All to make them more happy, fresh and connected.

If you have any questions about meeting moderation, interaction or engagement – live or online – feel free to contact us.
Masters in Moderation is happy to help.


Jan-Jaap In der Maur

Webinar online moderation & engagement design

20 april 2020
Categorieën: Art and value of moderation, News
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Do you moderate meetings and events? Do you design engaging programs and formats? Are you – like many others! – struggling to make the paradigm shift to online? Or are you simply looking at your first ever virtual moderation or meeting design?
Then this workshop (online, obviously 😉) is for you!



(picture by Alfred Rowe on Unsplash)


Masters in Moderation will help you make the change. We will practice moderation of virtual groups and we will work on making online events more engaging and interactive.
We will serve you four topics, spread over two days: on day one we will cover opening/closing and basic moderation & interaction tactics. Day 2 will have you look into the design of an engaging program and the choice of platforms/tools/team.


Per day you pay € 225 (corporate) or € 125 (self employed). For the full two days, rates are € 395/195.


The first training will be on September 10 & 11 (trainer: Kjell Lutz).
On both days, we will work from 15.00 – 18.00 CET.
(don’t worry, if you can’t attend all four topics: you can do one in a later training or get the recording in your mailbox)

Info & registration

Wanna now more? Drop us a note at info@mastersinmoderation
Wanna participate: book quickly! We have a limited amount of seats.

How to touch people, when your event is virtual

18 maart 2020
Categorieën: Art and value of moderation, News
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There are many reasons to choose a virtual, online event over a live one. But when you do, be sure to avoid the most important pitfalls: invest in making it interactive and engaging, instead of going back to ‘sending only’. Make participants feel that you genuinly reach out to them, even though you can’t touch them physically. Show your viewers that they are part of the show, not just spectators. Basically: do everything you would ‘on stage’, but then online.
Here’s some ideas, to make your virtual event about people, not about technique only.


(picture by Alfred Rowe on Unsplash)

Design for digital

Treat online events, just as you would go about a live meeting: start with defining the objectives, then design the most effective formats. And then trust in the fact that whatever wild ideas you come up with, there will be a solution to make it happen. This also means not doing it the other way around. So don’t start with the choice of platform, tools etc. before you know what you need.

What you shouldn’t do, is simply copy the face2face format to online. The human experience should be equally engaging, the design should be broken down and rebuilt specifically for online.

Design a great opening

Just as in live-events, you do the ‘coding’ in the first few minutes of your virtual meeting. On a subconsious level, you need to show your participants what kind of meeting this will be, what contribution will be expected of them and what rules apply to this temporary tribe.
That means that if you want the session te be interactive, you should start right away. Skip the endless introductions and start making a real connection. This will allow you to set the tone of voice, the pace and the objective of the meeting.

Starting interactively can be anything. Be creative about it: play a game. Have everyone scan all camera’s and post how many of those people they already know. Do a quick poll or wordcloud. Have 100 camera’s together form the logo of the company, by using coloured papers in front of the lense. Be playful.

Plan for designated interaction moments

In general, with online events we tend to allow participants to constantly post questions or remarks. We prefer to work with specific timeslots, so people can listen first and respond later; or think and give input first, and then listen.
A suggestion might even be, to ask for specific responses or a specific kind of questions. This will give your event the structure it needs and helps participants understand what it is you want them to do.

Keep them on their toes

When online, minds drift even more than in real live. So it’s key to engage the participants on a regular basis. We advise to actively involve them at least every 3-5 minutes. And note: actively involve is more than just saying ‘if you have a question, please post’. Actively involving means: making them think, move, act.
On top of that, it’s important to change formats regularly. Every briljant format gets boring after a while. So cut your virtual event up in pieces and for each one, decide what the most effective format is. If you need inspiration, send us your specific question and we’ll come up with some suggestions. There’s an endless amount of ideas out there, that will also work online.

Get to the point

In real life, a long rant by any speaker is horrible and will make participants switch of. Online, the attention span is even shorter. So if you present: get to the point, cut the crap.
This might mean doing a short summary only and posting a document with further details in the chat or sending it by email. Or you could put some info on-screen and give people some time to read and understand, before you go on.

Change groupsize

Every part of a program requiers a different dynamic. So if you can, have people work in groups of 2-4-8-10 people. And yes: that may be a challenge, when everybody is at home and is participating from their individual screen. But fear not and be creative: there are platform that allow breaking up in smaller groups, you could have people cooperate in a whatsapp group, arrange for conference calls or shout at each other from balconies.
You can have these groups dig deeper into content, tell each other stories, prepare questions, come up with potential solutions, work on an assigmnent. Once you start thinking, there’s a million of options and formats. We will most gladly help you find or design the one, that perfectly matches your online event.

Use multiple streams

Not everyone is interested in the same content. You can communicate what will de discussed at what time, so participants can choose when to log in. Or you can have a number of sessions simultaneaously, for people to choose from.
And even when you want all participants to attend all sessions/speakers, there’s the option of splitting the group. Instead of having – let’s say – a 100 people listen to four speakers in a row, you can ask the experts to do their presentation 4 times: you can imagine how a group 0f 25 will bring a different dynamic than a team of 100.

Allow them to switch of

Human beings need time to themselves: to think about a question/problem, to prepare for a next session or to digest information. It may feel strange not to broadcast anything for a few minutes, but believe us: there is a lot of power in asking participants to individually write down a list of challenges, take a five minute walk around the garden to think something over or to make a drawing of ‘the future’. It will revitalize them ánd make them more carefull listeners.
And obviously, people have other stuff on their minds. So why not do regular breaks, for toilet, email etc?

Use tools

When online, it is kind of hard to do oldskool stuff like bodyvoting, raising hands etc. So look for tools that will have the same effect, but online.
First of all, there’s the option of polling/voting, using tools like Slido. They will help you get a quick insight in to what people think, need and want. Some of these tools are also great for crowdsourcing the most important question. And a quick wordcloud works wonders to get a grip on the most important challenges, solutions etc.
If you’re looking for more functionalities, like networking and all kinds of playfull stuff, take a look at Presenterswall.
And might you want to dig deeper, we suggest looking into our own tool ConsensIQ. It allows groups to do more accurate forcasting, have more thorough dialogue on dilemma’s and take more balanced decisions, backed by all.
All in all, there’s a tool out there for everything. So don’t hold back, come up with crazy ideas and start searching.

Have fun

Also online, people love to play around. So why not do a quiz or other games? Or look around for fun stuff like ‘the wheel of names’. Give them crazy assignments, like googling do the most stupid solution ever. Or whatever you can come up with.

Prepare and get your tech right

Sure, a certain degree of improv will make your event better; more human, if you will. But only in preparation you will find room for flexibillity.
So please, prepare content! Make sure that participants feel that you are on the game and that they don’t find you searching for the right information, document etc.
And get your tech in place. This means being on the designated platform, way before the participants come in. Especially the opening is vital and asking people to give you 5 minutes to do the settings is deadly.

Know who is watching

Just as in real live events, it is crucial to know who your participants are, to avoid you telling them stuff they already know or things there’s not interested in. The most simple way to do so, is by asking; before the meeting an/or during it.


If you switch from live to online, it changes … nothing! It’s just another medium, with different dynamics and tools. But the participants and their needs stay the same. Be creative and everything is possible.



Neurology science shows: the moderator does matter.

27 januari 2020
Categorieën: Art and value of moderation, Je publiek beter bereiken
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Moderating and (co)designing the Best Event Awards World Festival in Milan was a privilege: lots of learnings, networking, interaction and engagement. The speaker line-up was worldclass, with something to please everyone. For us – the professional moderator – the workshop by Ben Moorsom (Neuroscaping) was one of the highlights.
Ben specializes in the neurology science and psychology of events, providing scientific research in to ways we can optimize the participant experience and approaches that help meet objectives better. I was happy to find that some parts of the typical Masters in Moderation way of hosting are actually proven to be effective. What we have been doing for a long time based on our gut-feeling is backed by science.

Here’s what I learned:

Our mental landscape is deeply polluted
Since we have so much on our mind, it is very hard to really concentrate on (new) stuff, making deep-learning a huge challenge. In our way of moderating, we always use interaction-formats to open up for each specific part of the program. This helps participants to consciously decide what it is they need and to focus on what the next speaker/workshop/session can bring them.
The way our moderators constantly reach out to the audience (rather than making them just ‘sit and listen’), helps them concentrate and block out distractions.
As professionals it is our job NOT to simply add more pollution. The benchmark these days seems to be, that all moderation should be high speed, dynamic. In my view, that is just adding more noise. Great meeting design and professional moderation will also plan for downtime; for quiet, more introspective moments that will allow people to digest and refresh.

Attention is something we must give and receive
You can’t expect people to give attention to speakers/content, without any effort. You can’t expect them to come up with questions/ideas/input, just by themselves. The only way to make a session really interactive is by reaching out to people and by actively investing in making them reach out to stage. And this – I’m happy to say – is one of the central trademarks of ‘our way of moderating': we constantly bridge the gap between stage and audience, by reaching out; both literally (walking into the room) as well as metaphorically. And we constantly challenge delegates to come up with input.
Giving our attention takes effort and the research Ben shared during his talk makes that clear: attention can decline after just five minutes. Strategic interruptions knock our audience out of their mental “autopilot” and get them to interact with new content and ideas in a more meaningful way. So that also means, that the moderator needs to be present regularly; or that a speaker should be able to regain attention every now and then.

Cognitive barriers stand in the way of engagement
Engagement is thé buzzword of my profession and of many event-organizers. The thing turns out to be: engagement is not something to be gained easily. In fact, our own mind is keeping us from really engaging. Science shows that peoples minds wander of up to 52% (fiftytwo!) of the time.
What really helps is if you don’t fight the wandering, but use it. Mind wandering is off-topic uncontrolled thoughts or images that pass through our minds. It could be a list of things on our to-do list or an upcoming meeting.  But it’s not all bad. Mind wandering is a way for our brain to save energy by “turning off” deep thought. Sometimes we (and our brains) need a break. A moderator needs to keep this in mind, generating audience stimulation during good discussion, but avoiding constant audience interruption – allowing the audience to recharge.

Distraction makes the memory of an event less positive
What does this mean? For example, if you were to use your phone during your child’s soccer game, research suggests that you would remember that game as being less enjoyable. In other words, distractions reduce our enjoyment during an experience and after, when we remember it.
So by making sure people are really ‘in the moment’,  you will raise the appreciation of an event. And you can imagine that a higher rating will make it more likely that people will actually act on the learnings. At the same time , there’s research that suggests people are only paying attention for about 25-32% of the time.
Moderation might help on two aspects: first of all, the moderator can help – both in design of the session and in interaction – to get maximum attention. But probably more importantly: the moderator can help make the most of that 25-32%, by drawing attention at the right moment(s) and by helping participants choose when to pay attention. A professional moderator will know when to act, when to engage participants and when to give people time to think, digest & plan for action.

Savouring makes the experience better
The more you look forward to what’s coming, the more you will like the experience, the deeper the impression will be, so the bigger the change or learning. Given that scientific fact, the better you can understand two of the moderator-tools we stress in all our trainings. First, there’s the introduction of the next speaker/topic etc. The value of a well-designed introduction is very much underrated and we feel that moderators should put more time into it. A great introduction can bring the savouring that people need.
A second form of ‘guided savouring’ are what we call ‘basic moderations: small interactions that help participants already focus on the next topic and assist them in opening their minds for what’s coming.
You can compare this to an upcoming holliday: the more time you put into looking forward to it (daydreaming, looking at brochures etc) and into preparing (booking, packing etc), the better the experience will be, acccording to research.

Optimal Room and Environmental Design leads to better concentration
As moderators, we also consider seating, light and sound (partly) to be our responsibility. And research suggests that these areas are important. As it turns out, bad conditions quickly bring down our learning capacity. And the reason is quite simple: if your brain needs more power to simply hear what’s being said- to filter out distracting noises or changes in the environment – there’s less capacity left to actually process the content. When seating is not exactly in tune with the format, people lose brain-capacity. So, there’s an important role for the moderator here, if only to stop the show when for instance a sound issue needs to be taken care of.

Ben Moorsom’s overall conclusion was: ‘There is immense competition on the gateway to the mind. Don’t compete. Navigate’. As a moderator, we can be that navigator.




Best moments of the Best Event Awards World Festival

10 januari 2020
Categorieën: Art and value of moderation, Best practices ... or not, Je publiek beter bereiken
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Although the list of great projects we – as Masters in Moderation – did in 2019 feels almost endless, there can only be one absolute highlight: the recent Best Event Awards World Festival in Milan. In cooperation with Salvatore Sagone and his briljant team at ADC, everything we do emerged into one big climax. Our efforts were highly rated by the participants, the captains of our industry. I’m happy to share my thoughts on this great event.


For those of you, who don’t know us yet: we provide professional moderators, moderator-trainings and interaction design. And you can imagine what it felt like, being asked to moderate and (co)design the Best Event Awards World Festival: it is like playing the Premier League and a huge appreciation of our efforts to bring a new way of moderating to the world.
In Milan, we were designing and moderating for the peers in our own industry, so we were extra happy when the evaluation-ratings turned out extremely high.

Traditionally, the festival was divided into three parts: the pitches, the educational conference and the award show. On each of these elements, we stayed true to our typical Masters in Moderation style of doing things: engaging, participant-centric and objective-driven.

The Pitches

First, it was pitching time: from all entries for the awards, the best were invited to do a live presentation for the jury. For us, this part probably was the biggest challenge.
In four rooms, spread over a range of categories, dozens of projects were presented to the four juries. To be able to do this within a day and to make sure there’s a level playing field, timing is tight and the format is strict. This gave our four moderators (Hans Etman, Kjell Lutz, Samme Allen and Jan-Jaap In der Maur) very little room to play their part. Yet, they managed to keep the energy up all day, by playing little games, doing short interactions, by introducing quick energizers and by simply acknowlodging the fact that this long day is hard for everyone involved.
Just to give you a few examples: in ‘my room’ I had the jurymembers do a high-five run (having to do as many high-fives with participants as they could within one minute), asked the particpants to shout at the jury ‘we love you’ (and the jury in return: ‘thank you. We love you too’) and I told all jurymembers to walk out in the street, stand in the sun, close their eyes and take three deep breathts. If you think these 1-3 minute interactions are futile, you should have been there: it made people refresh, showed them that somebody cared for them and make this whole day of hard work feel like a little party.

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The educational conference

The next day, there was the educational conference, hosted by Jan-Jaap (internationally knows as JayJay). In the design, we set out to do a few things differently, using some guiding principles:
1. Half of the time will be interactive
2. No two sessions will be the same
3. Every session will lead to practical learnings that can be put into practise right away
4. Participants will feel loved, seen and involved
5. The theme will be ‘the nature of events’, the red line will be ‘co-creation’.

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We opened with a spectacular best practise: Rockin100 is the biggest rockband in the world, showing the real power of true co-creation. We practiced what we preached by really involving the participants in the opening song ‘We will rock you': weeks before the conference, we asked for volunteers. Some of them were selected to actually sing in the band. And that was no free ride: they had to practise already at home ánd spend the evening before the conference rehearsing with the band.
Putting in this effort and being on stage changed their experience, because they were a real part of the show, rather than only consuming it. It also changed the experience of the other participants ‘by proxy': seeing you fellow-participants on stage makes you feel different too.
This performance even changed the opening statement by the organizer. Salvatore Sagone had the guts to also play a guitar solo, thus connecting to the participants on a different, deeper level.

The first keynote – Walter Faaij – showed how tribal structures can change a meeting and how looking at your events through the eye of an anthropologist can teach you new values. Again, the approach was largely interactive. And we – the moderators – had silently introduced some rituals already on day 1, making the participants feel part of  tribe; if only for these two days.
What made this presentation special was that we cut it in two. At the end of part one, Walter gave the participants an assignment to do some field-research. Later that morning, he returned to stage to analyze the findings.

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After the participants co-created in changing the seating of the room together, keynote 2 took the shape of a team-challenge. Just imagine hundreds of participants walking around with furniture: apart from energizing them with some physical activity, it made them feel being an integral part of the event again; their event. After a short introduction by Michela Russo of Kantar Media, eight groups worked on a series of challenges, discussing how to engage the ‘participants of the future’. A jury of Kantar-millenials chose the winning team, that will be invited to a special webinar by the Kantar Millenial Lab.

The final keynote of the morning, Cyriel Kortleven, took the participants on a journey through creative thinking. It was exactly the light, entertaining, yet educational session that participants need at the end of a well-spent morning. Cyriel made a special effort in including small parts of the previous presentations into his talk, thus tying all elements of the morning together.

The Workshops

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After lunch, the particpants had the choice from an array of workshops. Our moderators (Hans, Kjell and JayJay again, plus Desiree Hoving) put extra effort in to making these true WORKshops, instead of just long presentations for smaller groups. The extra challenge was to prepare for any kind of numbers, since participants were completely free to choose; so a session could have 8 or 80 people in the room.
The moderators prepared the workshops in close cooperation with the speakers, expecting them to also go the extra mile to make the sessions really engaging and educational. Once the session started, we were there to help the speaker scale the format to the amount of speakers and to assist them in tuning into the needs of the attendees.

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Overall, we feel that the educational conference had the Masters in Moderation signature: choosing making true connections over a ‘glossy showcase’.

The Award Show


In the evening, JayJay and Sandy Nijhuis hosted the final part of this festival: the award show. Again, we made some clear choices:
1. This should be the fastest BEA award show ever
2. We would hand out awards at high speed; no lenghty ceremonies. In this way we created room for:
3. The audience should feel an integral part of the celebration at all times. Normally people just sit around, being bored and waiting for their own category. We wanted them to feel seen and ‘loved’ through the entire show.

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So what did we do? The awards were taken care of in a very structured, high speed format. JayJay and Sandy alternated turns from two sides of a catwalk, making sure that a category could begin as soon as the one before finished (even while pics of the winners were still taken). By having strict ‘rules’ for this approach, it made sure that the audience got into a steady rhytm, that allowed us to do one category every 90 seconds (including introducing three nominees, announcing gold/silver/bronze and taking pictures).
After a few categories, participants would get tired by this high speed format. Exactly at that point, we planned for some audience-engagement (assisted by Hans, who would walk around the room, while Sandy and JayJay were on stage). We had participants wave at each other, take pictures, cheer each other on, celebrate the jury, do the wave, rehearse the standing ovation for the winner of the Grand Prix etc. Overall, it made people feel part of the show, rather then being spectators. It showed them that instead of doing a fully scripted, ‘dramatized’ ceremony, we made it into a ‘group-party where everybody felt welcome and involved.
A special ‘thanks a million’ goes out to the event-teams from ADC, The Next Group and Clonework, for trusting us, for going along with our ‘crazy ideas’ and for providing the best staging and graphic design ever, allowing us to put up the show we had in mind.

The best compliment we received, was during the afterparty (and no, that person was not completely drunk). Someone told us: ‘Maybe the BEA World Festival should win the BEA World Festival next year’.


New formats and great pictures from Conventa Crossover

10 september 2018
Categorieën: Art and value of moderation, Best practices ... or not
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Recently, I moderated the Conventa Crossover Conference again, in Ljubljana. Thanks to the organisers nd the participants it was a memorable event, once more. Let me share some work formats and meeting design solutions that we used to engage and energise.

Conventa Crosover PR Lutkovno prvi dan-45

But first of all, let me thank the photographer (Matjaz Tavcar) for taking the ultimate moderator picture! This shows – in my view – exactly what a moderator should look like. Please notice a few thing about this picture (above):

1. The speaker is in focus, the moderator isn’t. And that’s how it should be, because the speaker is the hero and the moderator is just there to assist. By the way: the speaker is Patrick Roubroeks (Xsaga) … and what a great performance that was!

2. The moderator is listening to the speaker, but observing the audience! That’s where his main focus should be, since it is all about them and since the speaker is only there to serve te delegates.

Right, back to the formats. We did a few things differently:


Unlike most openings, this one wasn’t ‘big and loud’, but intimate and personal. As a moderator, I sat down at the edge of the stage and I slowed down, allowing all time to reflect on my questions.
It created a casual atmosphere, invited participants to determine their personal learnings and helped them open up and share. With that in mind, participants went into workshops right away.

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Keynotes campfires

After the workshops, there were two keynote speakers. The first one didn’t present as such, but engaged with the audience to co-create. Partcipants were asked to come up with wild ideas for events, Patrick Roubroeks commented on them and by doing so, delegates learned from the creative mind of this events-hero.
Furthermore, there was no Q&A right after the keynotes. Instead, after two keynotes, both were assigned a personal space in the room. The participants were allowed to make up their own mind: go and talk to a speaker in a smaller setting or check email, network etc.
These campfire settings made sure that the speakers would only talk to those truely interested and be able to give those people their full attention. Please compare that to the ‘normal’ situation, where 100 people have to wait for only 10 coming up with questions. And again, this contributed to the special Conventa Crossover intimate atmosphere.

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Another format we tried, was the ‘panel on demand’. This is what we did:
First, participants were asked to help change the seating of the room. Instead of putting 3 people on stage, the seats were placed in a square, leaving room in the middle for the panel to sit. Then the participants where told that they had a choice of 4 topics (within the overall theme of the panel). Each topic was assigned to one quadrant of the room. Everyone had to pick his favorite topic and sit in the corresponding quadrant. This lead to a room, where in one quadrant was 40% of all delegates and in another just 6 people.
The panel then turned to the quadrant with most people in it, giving most time to this topic. After three turns, the least popular topic was given 2 sentences per panellist. Overall it was fun: people were fresh, because they physically moved around; they were engaged, because the panel met their demands and not the other way around.

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There were also the Conventa Crossover Awards. Traditionally, this kills the dynamics of every conference: there were 16 finalists, who all had to be given the opprtunity to pitch. The initial, but rather traditional idea was to allow them all 10 minutes. This would have lead to 2 (!) hours of pitching, which wouldn’t have been fair to anyone.
At the same time, we didn’t want the pitches to be too short and we wanted the participants not only to vote, but also to learn from the projects. So this is what we did:
First, all finalists were allowed to show a video of 90 seconds and present a pitch of 30 seconds. So only 2 minutes in total. Then, all finalists were given a desk. In four rounds of 15 minutes each, participants were given the opportunity to visit a maximum of 4 projects, to ask questions and get more information.
Once again, this allowed participants to only invest time in projects they were genuinly interested in. And the finalists only had to present to those who really wanted to listen. In the end, some of the finalists talked to many participants and some only talked to a very small group. Is this fair? Wel, maybe not. But hey … this was a competition!

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Anarchy Session

One final format I’d like to share, is the Anarchy Session. In an open space format, participants were allowed to make up their own mind. We asked them to think about the future of the industry and what the most important challenges are. Every individual that wanted to discuss a challenge could claim one of the ‘conversation corners’. Everyone who felt like joining a conversation was free to do so.
It turned into a dynamic session, with people exchanging ideas, networking and sharing.

Conventa Crosover PR Lutkovno prvi dan-91

Shits happens

One of the keynotes told us, that shit will happen … and so it did: they final keynote didn’t show up. With good reasons, but still: here was a challenge.
Ending early was not an option, due to planning of the catering nd the scheduled award show. So, what to do?
The good thing was, that we did have his powerpoint presentation; and the participants by this time were friendly enough with each other, to play around a bit. And so we decided to turn it into a joint ‘powerpoint karaoke': with each new slide I threw my catchbox at someone in the audience. He or she then had to improvise his/her way through that slide. We had fun nd learned something along the way.

I hope to return to Conventa Crossover next year. This event is truely unique, thanks to the willingness to share and experiment!


Energizers & Entertainment: The moderators best friends or worst enemies?

29 augustus 2018
Categorieën: Art and value of moderation, Best practices ... or not
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Any moderator will have them in their toolkit: energizers. Any meeting owner will schedule some entertainment from time to time. If chosen wisely, they will both do wonders. But in just as many cases, they will only harm the outcome of the event.


When bringing up the subject, everyone tells some stories of horror: a congres that started with a briljant opening act, only to make people fall asleep right after that. Or the moment that participants are asked to engage in a belly-dance, making everyone very uncomfortable. Maybe the room full of people thinking here we go again, when asked to massage the neck of the person one row in front of them. Or being forced into chatting with a random person one row behind you for no apparent reason.
On the other hand everyone knows that making learnings or information easy to digest helps ROI enormously. Here are some dos and dont on energizers and entertainment.

Make it about content

People will do – and like! – anything, as long as they understand the added value of it. So choose your energizing formats wisely and make sure there is a clear connection to the subject of the day, the learning at hand or the objective of that particular part in the program.
People will gladly engage in conversation with their neighbour, as long as you make it clear to them what is in it for them, at that moment in time.

Make it about design

The general rule is as blunt as it is simple: If you need energizers, the meeting isnt properly designed.Because lets be honest: on too many occassions, energizers and entertainment are just a cover-up for the fact that the programme sucks. But listen: people arent stupid. They will be able to tell. This is exactly what makes participants hate energizers and subsequently: hate you and your event.
So invest in designing a briljant meeting that is energizing by nature. Make sure theres a constant change of formats, seatings etc, in combination with great content and learning, and you dont need to worry. If you make sure people love every step of the day, there will be energy .. even without energizers!

Make it hard work

We focus too much on having fun, where fun in itself is not what people are looking for. I mean, when you go to a bachelor party, then you look for fun. When you go to a conference, you look for content, learning, networking etc.
In general, hard work is what gives people energy. As long as the hard work is about their passion, problems and perspective. So if you are looking for new energy, look beyond fun and make them sweat for new energy. If youre not sure about this one, think of it as going to the gym: sure you will be tired. But thats a good, energetic form of tired.

Make it about them

Let yourself be guided by your participants. Observe and see what it is thy need. If you feel energy going down, act. And when you act, make sure you come to understand your crowd. If you do, you will know what the best way is to give these people new energy. It is about truely connecting to them.
And if you make it about them, you will learn not to take it too far, too quickly. At the end of a three day conference, even belly-dancing might be okay. But at the start, people in general simply dont feel safe enough to act silly in front of a few hundred strangers!

Make it about that day

What worked yesterday will not always work today. So stop doing your same favorite routine every time. Build a toolkit of excercises and choose the right tool for the right moment. You wouldnt use a hammer to cut paper, right!?
So, look at the context, the topic, the crowd and choose accordinghly. Alternate concepts and make up new ones along the way.


Make it about the moment

Energizing is not something you can fully plan. Energy is something you need to act on, when called for. Keep observing, and act.|
So, massages will hardly ever work. But even for this corny concept, there will be a right moment every once in a while.


Make it about the perfect ending

The closing act should be more then just a way to wake people up before drinks, or to reward them for not leaving early. It should help the day to an effective conclusion. Therefor the ideal conference closer is cheerful, positive, connective, sharp and summarizing the outcomes.
The closing stages are not the best time to open wounds (without time to stitch). So why put a stand-up comedian on stage, insulting all or a dance act, adressing no one? The best acts actually know and understand what meetings do. If you get a stand-upper or any closing artist, make sure you hire one that knows how to uplift your meeting.

In conclusion: design well, and there will be less need for energizers and entertainment. If you use them, make sure they really add something to content, communication and connection.

Sponsors: how to keep them happy, without pissing off your participants

25 mei 2018
Categorieën: Art and value of moderation
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We do understand why we need sponsors, right? Without them, many conferences would not exist. At the same time, we know why participants hate the sponsored parts of meetings right? The struggle is, how to make this arranged marriage a happy one. Based on our experience, we have some suggestions.

sponsored by


Arranged marriages will be more successful, if someone really puts in an effort in the matchmaking. As a meeting owner, you maybe should not take all sponsors you can get (and yes I now, thats hard but be brave). Only go for the ones that really fit the content and that really bring value to your participants. It will make all parties involved happier.

Think as a participant
Make sure that your sponsors truly understand what your participants need and let them present from that point of view. It will benefit both delegate and sponsor. That means actually scanning their presentation and format, and discuss them.
After all, being a sponsor gives you the right to be on stage; not to put the participants asleep! Even though they pay, it is okay to be strict with your sponsors.

Design & interact

We should look for sponsored concepts that are participant-centric: find formats that will bring the delegates added value. Instead of having a sponsor present, have them interact with the participants and find their common interest. If a potential sponsor doesnt want that find another sponsor!

Some potential participant-centric sponsor formats are ( and some may be combined):
Question based presentation: a sponsor gets on stage, but doesnt present. He/she will only answer questions from the audience. The effect: an on-demand engagement, rather then a forced one.

Case-study: crowdsource real day-2-day problems from the room. Instead of a sponsor then selling his product, he will use his expertise to help these participants to solve these real-life problems. The effect: Participants get valuable help; sponsors get to proove the effect of their offering.

Buzzword bingo: determine a few things a sponsor cant say (for instance: our product ). If all boxes are ticked, theres a penalty (should be a funny one, though).

Quick tour: all sponsors have a booth. Do a carrousel, where all participants in smaller groups get a 1 minute presentation at each booth. Later on, they can visit the booth again to ask in-depth questions. The effect: participants will consciously choose the sponsors of interest; sponsors only talk to hot prospects.

Planned networking: determine timeslots where people get to talk to sponsors for a few minutes. People can subscribe to 1-2 sponsors in each timeslot (great in combination with the carrousel). Sponsors will not be able to talk to everyone, , but will be sure to get in touch with those genuinely interested in their product.

Sponsor hackathon: at each table, a sponsor works on a specific case-study or challenge. Participants are free to contribute to each case-study they like (in an open-space format). The effect: freedom of choice and a dynamic energy.

Panellist: sponsors get to be one of the experts on a panel, together with other speakers. This helps get them to talk about a topic rather than about their product. If they do well, people will automatically be interested in the product. The effect: the sponsor becomes a valuable part of the content and meeting design.

Sponsor-quiz: do a few rounds of a quiz-format throughout the conference. Do 3-5 questions per sponsor, who get to comment on the right answer. The winner will win something really great/useful (to be provided by the sponsors, from their product range). The effect: people will have fun, while getting the obligatory sponsor-info.

In summary: only work with sponsors and formats, that bring added value to the participants. Thats the only way all stakeholders will be satisfied.


No more speakers … experts, please!

19 oktober 2017
Categorieën: Art and value of moderation, Geen rubriek
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What happens, if you put a speaker on stage? Yes: he or she will speak! Participants will sit back and listen (at best); the speaker will talk … endlessly, sometimes. But what would happen, if we would stop referring to them as ‘speakers’, and would from now on call them ‘experts’? That would open up an endless number of engaging and interactive options. And that is exactly why we – the moderators – don’t want speakers on stage. We want experts!


In our Workshop Interaction Design we take the average congres as a starting point: a line-up of speakers. And then we take our participants on an expedition, finding alternative formats for these speakers, in order to make each session more fun en more effective. And the great thing is: none of these formats take extra time or money. But they d bring extra engagement between expert and participants. Here are some options:

Moderated interview

Instead of allowing the expert to talk, all by himself, get your moderator to interview him/her. This will ensure that the most important questions are answered, that the perspective & needs of the participants are met and that there will be interaction & engagement.
Once you take this step, there’s an number of options to involving the audience actively: having them prepare questions in groups, using eventech to find their most urgent challenges to talk about, etc.

Another form of moderated interviewing is the panel-conversation. And yes, I know: in many cases the panel is even deadlier then a speaker. But believe me: if well executed, a panel can be inspiring and energizing!

Participative interview

With the moderator interviewing him, the expert is still mostly in the lead. If you take it one step further, it will be the participants directly interviewing the expert, with the moderator only being there to streamline this proces.
A well-known format is the town-hall meeting or college tour: the expert is on stage, only to answer questions from the audience. If giving the initiative to the participants completely is too frightning (or if you need to make sure that a minimal amount of content is covered), let the moderator split the timeslot into a few clear chapters, allowing the experts to open up each of them with a 1-minute talk.

Another variation to this theme is the so-called campfire-session, fit for smaller groups: The expert and the participants sit in a small circle (as if sitting around a campfire), as equals. The experts is allowed a 1-2 minutes opening, but then it is over to the participants. The great thing about this format, is it’s intimacy. It allows participants to feel more free to talk to the expert and to each other.
I often use this one in the ‘dying moments’ (sometimes they are, almost literally) of a congres day, when often there’s less people in the room. Changing the seating to a campfire will bring new energy and engagement.
But, you might say, this only works with smaller groups and you have 300 delegates in the room. True, but think of this option: instead of having each speaker talk to 300 people, let each speaker do 6 campfires in a carroussel. This will bring the numbers down to 50 per session!


There’s a long list of TV-formats that include experts and that can be brought to stage with some minor adjustments. The great thing is, that participants will recognize the formats immediately and will be ‘into the story’ within seconds. But beware: every TV-format has it’s pro’s and con’s, so choose with care. A ‘late night talkshow’ for instance will do wonders for the energy, with all the high-speed comedy etc, but at the same time is kind of superficial. At some point in your schedule, this is perfect; on other moments, take another option.
The same goes for the moderator, by the way: not every profesional moderator will feel comfortable in every format. So when you’ve designed the meeting, look for the one moderator that will be the perfect match.

When looking at TV-formats, you tend to look at the talkshow/interview-format/newsroom-like options first. But let’s take it one step further: imagine using the Out-of-the-box format and having an expert reflect on the outcomes. Our how about this one, having the expert walk around, commenting on what is happening. How powerfull would that be, compared to a speaker on stage!?
One more suggestion: why not use a playfull TV-format, like ‘Have I got news for you’, in which 4 of your experts engage in friendly battle? It would certainly spice up things.

Case Study

The thing with speakers is that they bring you their story, leaving it up to the audience to translate the learnings to their own daily reality. By turning the speaker into an expert, we can turn this around. It is so powerfull, to have the participants work on a case study, an assignment or an example from their own life and then have the expert function as their side-coach. Instead of a room full of listeners, you will then see groups of people working together and/or individuals sweating on a task. The expert is there to help them when they get stuck, or to explain general learnings once they experienced them.


We all know that even grown-ups learn better, when they play. So let’s organize a pub-quiz rather then a dull presentation. Have teams fight for ‘the grand prize’, answering questions. And let the expert explain the answers or be the jury.
Or take any party game you know, and turn it into an expert-format. Let’s take a board-game for instance, where participants put a question to the expert on each spot on the board, have the expert role the dice and answer whatever question comes up.


Have participants talk to each other first in any given format: House of Commons debate, table-sessions, Lego Serious Play … anything that will have them think the topic over, before the expert comes on to respond to their own findings. It bet you, that the experts’ performance will be more tailored to their needs nd that they will pay more attention to the experts’ answers.

Participants are the experts

Why does the expert have to be on stage? Or why does it even have to be someone outside the group? In many cases, the real expertise is in the room, with the participants. So even is you have a speaker, don’t treat him like some sort of half-god who knows it all. Make him part of the group and help him find extra knowledge there. If you have expert and delegate-expert cooperate, wonders will happen.
I had an opening key-note once, who insisted on staying for the full day. He took part in all discussions and work-formats, constantly referring back to his opening-speech, asking questions and learning new stuff himself. This speaker was not bigger then the group, but made the group bigger!

In conclusion

I could go on endlessly. And so could you, if you simply allow yourself to be creative.
So can we please remove the word ‘speaker’ from our vocabulary? Using them as experts instead will make meetings more enjoyable and effective, and that is in everyone’s interest: participants, moderators, meeting-owners and speakers … sorry: experts!

The why of moderation: open, digest, translate, implement.

2 juli 2017
Categorieën: Art and value of moderation
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Why are moderators doing, what theyre doing? Why are they using the interaction-formats, theyre using? What is the real added value and how do you profit most of the role of the moderator?
These questions can only be answered, if you have a clear view on the bigger why of moderation.


Really effective moderation is so much more then just making things run smoothly (as the dictionary says). Moderation is about interaction, engagement and dynamics. Theres a few basic reasons for the moderator to open his mouth and connect to the participants; a few functions that his interventions can have.

Opening the mind:

If you want people to take in information, if you want them to learn or change, it is vital that they are open to it. This is where the moderator can play an important part.
Prior to a speaker, a round of workshops, a panel or any other part in the programme, the moderator can help prep them for whats coming next.
Theres a large number of options that every professional has in his toolkit. Basically, theres a few categories (and none of them takes a lot of time or budget):

  • you can ask the participants a questions, have them chew on it and then ask for responses.
  • You can give the participants an assigment, like drawing, building or writing stuff.
  • Or you can have them talk: to others, or to themselves (youll be surprised how powerfull private reflection time is!)
  • And so on


At most meetings, we stuff participants with information and inspiration, without allowing them time to swallow. Its a lot like how gooses are fed to get better foie gras.
Great moderation means: planning timeslots to give people time to reflect on what theyve just learned. And using specific workformats to do so. This will help them to consciously decide, what it is they want to remember of this speaker, this workshop, this panel, this day, etc.
Theres a number of options, here:

  • You can have participants work on a project all day long (individually or groupwise), allowing time for that after each item in the programme.
  • Or you can simply allow time to take notes. And even order them to do so.
  • And once again, you can have them talk to each other, in a vast number of formats.
  • And so on

Note: when you plan for a Q&A, also plan for digestion-time. It is simply not fair, to ask participants to come up with briljant questions, just 3 seconds after the speaker is finished! In an earlier blog, I wrote down some Q&A-tips


The next step in effective moderation is to help participants translate what they digested into its use for day to day reality. After all: meetings are (almost) always in a meeting room, far away from the actual workplace, situation, problem or whatever.
A great moderator will find ways of having people (in their minds) go from the meeting venue to the world outside. This might mean things like:

  • Asking people to close their eyes and envision the effect of what theyve just learned on their job.
  • Or telling them to map out the perfect situation as they see it, after this speech.
  • Or discussing on the spot with other stakeholders, what the perfect picture would look like.
  • Or whatever creative option you can think of


If people dont take action, nothing changed and the meeting has been a waste of time. Moderation can help to get real output, after each part of the programme and at the very end of the day. The trick here is, to actually get participants to take action on the spot. Being satisfied with them promissing to do stuff tomorrow, brings along a great risk of them not keeping this promiss.
One way of doing this, is by having participants form taskforces, make appointments or set processes in motion, even during the meeting (instead of postponing this till after the event, as happens a lot). This doesnt have to be limited to the actual meeting room: getting your participants to make one call, or send one email to start things up is great moderation.

Bring energy:

Vital to all elements mentioned so far is that participants still have the energy to do all that. Obviously, the risk of fading energy is low, if you do all of the above, but still
Moderation means: keeping an eye on energy and taking action if its gone. There is ofcourse a number of general energizers, but honestly people are kind of fed up with those. Preferably, there is some sort of connection to the content.
Some options to work with are:

  • Change groups, see new faces
  • Have people move around: take a short walk for the next digestion timeslot or vote with your body, for instance.
  • Change the seating of the room; from cabaret to campfire, for instance. And have the participant move all the tables they will love it and it will bring so much energy!
  • Change the programme: swap speakers. Change a presentation into an interview anything to create excitement
  • And so on


Allow people to make a real connections, have a real conversation and they will love it. The moderator is there to make it happen.
The best meetings Ive witnessed, made participants connect in constantly changing formats: one on one, group of 3-5-10 and plenary. By constantly looking for the best groupsize and (networking) format, you will help reach the objective of the meeting.

And the same goes for connecting the crowd to the speaker: as a moderator, you need to find the right tone and format to make it feel like a one on one conversation. Opening the mind, digesting translating and implementing (as mentioned above) will be better, if you choose alternative formats like:

  • Interview
  • Town Hall Meeting
  • College Tour
  • Campfire
  • Etc.

Conclusion: a lot of moderation you see, is just random interaction for the sake of it. Real effective engagement will only happen, if your moderator understands your objective, deeply gets your meeting design and translates that into a well thought of choice of options. That will take the moderation from why tot wow!