Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Oscar Wilde (1854­–1900)
Irish poet and author

The word moderation stems from the Latin word moderare — to moderate, to temper, to rule and to restrain. Someone who moderates is someone who both calms down but also who sets rules. Clearly, the theoretical ideal is not always achieved in practice. How often does one see a television debate moderator provoking his guests? Or panel moderators breaking the rules that they are meant to monitor? Or even workshop moderators shouting to keep control?

Are these good moderators? What does it take for someone to be a good facilitators (for the synomous use of facilitator / moderator see here)?


A training or seminar requires a leader — a committed leader. But what type of leadership? Karl Weick’s argument that ‘action without commitment is seldom effective’ holds true here: without a committed audience you will not get anywhere. Bruce Klatt defines leadership as democratic process plus results. You are more a midwife than a dictator. You lead the group to find their results instead of giving them answers.

The leadership role is very tempting. And the role of seminar leader confers a certain authority, which can go to the head of an inexperienced trainer. But authority should be based on knowledge, skills and intellect — not merely on position. This is true in the military too: you might have a rank, but if you are not trusted, or if you have not merited your position, your formal status will be rendered meaningless in critical situations. Be a guide on the side, not the sage on the stage!

In order to fill the role you have to be competent, relaxed, and open-minded:

  • Know your subject!
  • Be technically competent!
  • Be informed and care about the participants!
  • Continue to develop your skills (through feedback and learning)!

Thus, a good moderator is aware of him- or herself. He or she knows her own weaknesses and strengths. In this, the TWL Wheel of Competence is a very useful tool.

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