At some point, you may find yourself in the position of interviewing people or moderating panels. If you’re not prepared for this, you can feel out of your depths.

Lisa Elia moderating panel at Expressions of Peace Event

Photo courtesy of PeaceNow and John Lystrom.

Recently, when I moderated a panel at “Expressions of Peace,” a wonderful event that our client PeaceNow held, several people asked me how I prepared. Admittedly, I’ve been interviewing people since I was in journalism classes when I was 19 years old, and I have continued to refine my process over the years. Here are some of my favorite tips on how to be a great interviewer or moderator.

How to Be a Great Interviewer or Moderator

1. If you want to learn how to be a great interviewer, watch great interviewers, like Charlie Rose, Oprah Winfrey and Anderson Cooper. Pay attention to their timing and rhythm, and note how much research they have done to prepare prior to an interview.

If you want to learn how to be a great interviewer or moderator, study people who do both well. Charlie Rose fits into this category as well.

2. Do your research. Take the time to research the topics to be discussed and the people you will be interviewing/moderating. Read up on current events so you can tie them into the discussion when appropriate. When you have done your research, you will be better able to quickly formulate questions and to effectively lead the interview or panel discussion.

3. Practice encapsulating others’ rambling speeches. A good interviewer or moderator can sum up what was said on the spot. While some people are naturally more adept at this than others, this skill can be improved with practice.

4. Write out some questions you plan to ask during the interview or panel discussion. It’s good to have more questions than you will need to fill the time, and then to put them in order of priority, so you ask the juiciest, most interesting questions at the beginning, middle and end of the interview or discussion. You want to lead people on a journey and keep them engaged.

5. Develop a preparation ritual to relax and center yourself before you begin your interview or panel discussion. No amount of research or knowledge will help you if you get so nervous that your body goes into “fight or flight” response and you forget what you’re saying. Having a ritual to help you control your breathing, relax your body and focus your thoughts will help you to center yourself so you can be more fully present and enjoy the moment.

6. Control the audience. If you open the floor to an audience Q&A, know that there will be some people who want to take the opportunity to promote their agendas, rather than contribute to a discussion. Be sure to bring the conversation back to the topic that the panel is discussing. You may have to politely cut someone off, but it can be done with grace.

Other articles that include tips that may interest anyone who wants to know how to be a great interviewer or moderator, are provided here:

6 Tips for Effective Presentations

Media Training Resources (communication studies and useful links)

Body Language in Interviews and Meetings

How to Ace Every Presentation

Individual or group training inquiries should be directed to [email protected]  or 310-479-0217.

Lisa Elia, Media Trainer and Speaker, on How to Be a Great Interviewer or Moderator

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