Category Archives: moderating

Frank Sesno’s New Book


One of the very best, most thoughtful questioners I’ve ever had the honor to work with has a new book out that couldn’t be more timely: Ask More. I highly recommend it.

The Commandments of Moderating, Part 8-10: Listen, Listen, Listen.

A good moderator is well prepared, has a set of questions in mind for each panelist, and has a good idea of how each panelist will respond to each question. And then the discussion starts and things get interesting. Someone says something that wasn’t expected. They allude to an opinion that doesn’t fit what is usually expected of them, or to a decision that was a mistake. That’s why a moderator’s most important job is to be in the moment and listen — even while thinking about time limitations, who hasn’t gotten to speak yet, and topics that have to be addressed.

Listen for that surprising moment, and follow up on it.

Immigration and the Peter Jennings Project

Can a dialogue on one of the most controversial issues in American policy — illegal immigration — be passionate, and smart, and civil?  The brilliant Jeff Greenfield of CBS News moderated a dialogue at the National Constitution Center that proved it can be done.  You can watch it in full here.

I produced this discussion for the Peter Jennings Project, an organization dedicated to helping current and future journalists understand constitutional issues more deeply.  It was especially meaningful to me because I produced a dialogue moderated by Peter Jennings in 1999.   Continue reading

The Commandments of Moderating, Part 6: Prepare, But Don’t Overprepare, Panelists and Part 7: Directing Traffic

With the new year I bring you the long-overdue second half of the Ten Commandments of Moderating.  Next up: How to prepare your panelists; and how to direct traffic. Continue reading

That’s About Right

From The New Yorker:

Want to do something about it?  Try this.

The Commandments of Moderating, Part 5: Paint Pictures

The first two commandments of moderating are here, the third here, and the fourth here.   I started out without much concern on the order of these pieces of advice, but the list seems to be developing a structure: The first two commandments are the most basic.  They’ve been followed by three on formulating questions. After that, we’ll have a couple on preparation and directing traffic, followed by the most important commandment of all.  Now for the last piece of advice on questions: Continue reading

The Commandments of Moderating, Part 4: Conversations

The first two commandments of moderating are here, and the third here.  Next up:

4. Create Conversations — As I have ranted about before, far too often the label “panel discussion” is a misnomer: The event instead is a set of presentations followed by a series of questions from the moderator to each panelist.   The good news is, this creates a great opportunity for you:  If you can actually get panelists talking to each other — to actually have a discussion at your “panel discussion” — both panelists and audience will be very pleasantly surprised.  You’ll see smiles and greater engagement all around.  Here are several ways to make it happen: Continue reading