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Session moderation HOWTO

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PREVENTING COMMON PROBLEMS IN MODERATED SESSIONS

initially seeded FAQ's by Katheryn Sutter, July 25th, 2011

How can we prevent evaluating and arguing before a presentation is understood?

PREVENTION: Setting aside explicit time for questions allows everyone to understand the idea and its context before discussing it.


We want natural, free-flowing discussion because it can build energy, but if the pace gets too fast, how can we prevent less assertive, less agressive, non native speakers, or less urban members' ideas from being excluded?

PREVENTION: The facilitator suggests an alternative method of discussion, such as brainstorms or small groups. Calling o people by name, or passing a material object can slow the pace. Discourage two-person dialogues by asking others to speak on the same point. Ask participants not to speak twice on the same point until till everyone else has spoken or passed.


How can we prevent situations in which people "butt foreheads" everyone insisting on getting their own way?

PREVENTION: Require good reasons for withholding support an idea based on group benefit, not merely lack of enthusiasm or personal preference, so discussion may ensue about the merits of a proposal for the group, instead of the merits of a person.


How can we deal with repititious speakers or conversations?

PREVENTION: If discussion gets repetitious it may signal the group is not yet ready for a next step. For example, a repetitious speaker may not believe they are being heard. Try having someone restate exactly what the repetitious speaker is trying to say, until that speaker agrees it is being said accurately, whether or not anyone agrees with it. This will often assure them they can move on, because their comments have been registered. Another risk is that discussants might not willingly drop a topic, because they believe the real message is that their contribution is not allowed. If this is true, make it explicit and suggest the next appropriate steps. For example, if a binding decision of the group (an agreed agenda) does not allow for a participant's favorite topic. Apoligize there will not be time for that discussion, and call on the next person. The group might stand behind the moderator on this, or might ask to change the agenda interpretation. A presenter may insist that they reserve the right to finish their presentation and it is not time for debate, but if they allow comments they support, and put off others, they are telling the group what ideas are allowed to be expressed. Remind repetitious commentators they should withhold comments until after the Question and Answer period, then to keep the trust of the group, make an open discussion period available.

This FAQ was initially seeded by Katheryn Sutter, July 25th, 2011, after the summit. Please make comments, edit, add links, categories, and add questions and/or answers as needed.

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