This year, I had an opportunity to volunteer to be a mentor to a youth attendee. As luck would have it, I was matched with a young Ugandan man who I've been linked with for some time on social media - the incredibly dynamic Patrick Segawa. Patrick's organization, PHAU (Public Health Ambassadors of Uganda), focuses on "edutainment" to raise awareness for sexual and reproductive health and rights in Uganda. Among other incredible activities, PHAU organizes dancing flash mobs in Uganda - please check out their website for more information about this great organization! Patrick was also recently nominated in the 120 under 40 campaign, which highlights young leaders in reproductive health from around the world. He is a rising star in our field, and I am very much looking forward to finally meeting him in person.
Tips for moderating a conference session
1. Email your speakers before the panel to ensure everybody is aware of how much time they will have to present. Leave 15-20 minutes at the end for Q&A with the audience.
2. Ask your speakers to send you a few (2-3) short sentences about themselves; this will help you introduce each speaker before his/her presentation. Keep these introductions short - no more than 1 minute per person.
3. In the days leading up to your session, encourage people that you meet at the conference who may be interested in the topic of your panel to attend. Share the day, time, and location of your panel. Consider sharing information about your session on social media to build excitement.
4. Before the session, ensure that all speakers have uploaded their presentations. Familiarize yourself with the technical setup in the room, such as where the presentations are stored on the computer, to avoid any technical mishaps during the session.
5. Ask your speakers to arrive in the room a bit early so that you can introduce yourself and introduce them to each other; this helps to set a nice tone for the session.
6. When the session begins, briefly welcome the audience, clarify what session they are in (in case anybody has wandered into the wrong room), and proceed to introduce the first speaker. Remember to smile and have fun while moderating - you want the experience to be fun and interesting for everybody involved!
7. When the speakers are presenting, it is your responsibility to ensure that they keep to time. That means giving them a 1 or 2 minute warning before their time is up. It is very important to gently but firmly ensure that speakers keep to time, so the panel does not run long. Let them know in advance that you will help them keep to time by giving them a 1-2 minute warning. Often, people make a little sign that says "One minute left", you can quietly hold this up to the speaker when they have that amount of time left, without being too disruptive to their presentation.
8. Decide in advance if you want the audience to be able to ask questions after each presentation, or if you want all questions to be held until all presentations are delivered. One nice way to handle this is to say that 1-2 short, clarifying questions will be permitted after each individual presentation, but that broader questions should be held for the Q&A at the end.
9. After all of the speakers have given their presentation, let the audience know that you will be opening up the session for questions. It is usually helpful to suggest that questions be kept short and to the point. Your role will be to facilitate a smooth conversation between the panelists and the audience, taking care to ensure that no single person dominates the discussion. You may want to ask audience members to state their name before asking their question.
10. It may be a good idea to have a few questions of your own prepared, just to get the conversation started, in case the audience is shy or quiet (usually not a concern at ICFP)!
11. If an audience member asks a broad question and does not direct it to a specific panelist, you can try to help the panelists decide who might be best suited to answer. Try to ensure that each panelist gets an opportunity to respond to a question or two.
12. When the session is over, be sure to thank the panelists for their contributions, and the audience for attending and contributing to the discussion.
13. Celebrate moderating your conference session!