Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it. 


The question, ‘What is a moderator?’ was often discussed during my workshops on workshop facilitation. Everybody understands the term differently. One reason for this is that there are different types of moderators with different functions. The following MindMap gives you some roles a moderator might fill.

Roles of a moderator.
The different roles of a moderator worked out during a workshop.

Furthermore, the roles might change during one single programme. For example, a moderator might first guide participants through the programme, help certain group processes to begin and then be a trainer on a subject.

Roles of a moderator and their Objectives

If you are hired as a moderator your contractor should make absolutely clear what your role and your competences, as well as the objectives of the moderation (expected outcome), will be. It’s up to you to get that right as most companies and organisations do not know the differences. So continue to ask questions until you establish a mutually acceptable framework and fix it in writing, which of the different roles of moderation you should fulfill. This helps to avoid disappointment on both sides and has the secondary benefit of demonstrating your professionalism.

In the following subchapters we have compiled some guidance for the different main roles.


Rather than being a moderator in the true sense, a host will have the role of an announcer or presenter. Although hosting is more specifically concerned with accompanying group processes, many people will still see this one of the roles of a moderator. Tasks include:

  • Welcoming the audience as well as the guests.
  • Announcing the next scheduled item on the program.
  • Guiding the group in terms of logistics, for example, directing participants to where food will be served during lunch breaks.
  • Winding up the programme and summarising its activities.
  • Creating a positive atmosphere.
Roles of a moderator: conference leader
Shireen Naqvi of the School of Leadership (SoL) hosting the annual Young Leaders’ Conference in Karachi.

Therefore, it’s crucial to know the objectives, the audience and especially the guests/panellists/resource personnel. You should dress suitably, be interesting and create a positive environment with warm words, encouraging contributions and a steady smile.

You should face the audience and address it constantly. Only when welcoming and directly speaking with a guest should you have eye contact with him or her.

Before the event some research is required concerning the topic and the resource personnel on:

  • Life of the participant
  • Interests
  • Character
  • Quotations on him/her
  • Awards and other achievements

Only then you will be able to find words for the next guest on stage and to create curiosity and excitement. Here, a slightly exaggerated example.

We have been waiting for a long time. Many years have passed. He never came to Islamabad as his precious time, his contemplation in the world of arts, and his dedication to his outstanding talent did not allow it. All his life, at school, at college, at university, throughout his career, day and night, be it in Lahore, Paris or New York, he dedicated himself to his vocation, his desire to create harmony between people like you and me, between Indians and Pakistanis, between Muslims, Hindus, and Christians. 

Many times we went on our knees to Lahore. Every time we returned empty handed. But finally, he promised to come. We are proud, delighted and excited that he has now fulfilled that promise and will share his extraordinary experiences with us. He needs no further introduction. There can be only one star who combines all of these extraordinary talents, one for whom we have been waiting for so long and only one who is unmatched in his approach. 

Roles of a moderator.
The different roles of a moderator worked out during a workshop.

Please join me in welcoming this living legend of the New York art scene. Please give a warm welcome to our guru Mr. … 

TV Anchor

While in group moderation you have direct contact, immediate reaction and can sense the atmosphere; this is not the case in a television studio (except shows with a live audience). This will be different from other roles of a moderator unless you have three or four people on the panel. Moderation in this context has different objectives: on the one hand you might be more of a presenter and on the other an agent provocateur whose role is to incite a heated debate to ensure good ratings. This kind of discussion is not aimed at results and solutions so much as entertaining the audience at home.

Generally, you face your studio guests and you will face the camera only when addressing the audience at home directly. Normally, you have a resting pose or “home position” for your body from which you will make an occasional gesture. The amplification effect of television means that anything more could give a hectic impression.

In this format your role is mostly not moderation as the aim is not to calm down heated arguments but rather to instigate your studio guests. Nonetheless, the overall chain of six steps is more or less identical [see Preparation]: after welcoming and introducing the guests you ask for their opening statements, from which you select (not in a democratic process —TV is not democratic) and deepen the issues for discussion, before you have more or less tangible results (mostly less) or a consensus of the panellists (mostly not) and wrap up the programme (mostly very abruptly).

Like an announcer you have to be prepared to present your studio guests as well as to introduce the topic. Consequently, some research is required. Have some initial questions ready to start off the discussion. Have some more questions ready in case your guests are not too talkative.

For television appearances it is important not to wear clothes with checks or with narrow stripes. For technical reasons these will be highly disturbing interferences on the TV set.