A Moderator’s Role: Keeping the Panel Moving

Moderators serve a vital role in conference panels by keeping the conversation moving but also ensuring that all presentations stay within their time limits. During virtual conferences, moderators have the added responsibility of fielding audience questions in an orderly manner. To prepare you for your role as a moderator at NECoPA 2020, this post provides information on best practices for making panels run smoothly.

Preparing for your panel

Review all abstracts and bios submitted by the presenters.

Follow up with the presenters to request their presentation slides if they have not been provided. In the event that a presenter is unable to share their screen, you will navigate their presentation slides for them.

You may reorder the presentations within your panel however you see fit.

If you would like to serve more of a discussant role, develop questions about the research, positive and constructive feedback, and connections between the presentations or an overarching theme.

Before the panel start time

Be sure to enter your panel’s assigned Zoom room 10-15 minutes before the start time. During this time, ensure that your and the presenters’ speakers and microphones are working and confirm that presenters are able to share their screens.

We suggest informing presenters before the panel begins that the moderator will send a private message to presenters to alert them when only 2 minutes remain in their allotted presentation time. Inform them that a private message will be displayed as a red indicator at the bottom of their zoom screen. If a presenter does not notice the warning and continues presenting past their time limit, you, as the moderator, should unmute yourself and gently ask them to wrap up in the next minute.

During the panel

Housekeeping to start the panel

Be sure to start no later than 3 minutes after the panel’s start time.

Begin by introducing yourself, the title of the panel, and any brief information about the overarching themes that you wish to share.

Explain that time will be reserved following the presentations for questions but the audience may submit questions using the chat feature at any time.

Introduce each presenter just before their presentation rather than introducing all of them at the beginning.

Once the first presentation begins, either you or the IT person assigned to your panel will mute all other participants. Be sure to manually check to make sure that you are muted during presentations.


Panels with 4 presenters have a time limit for each presentation of 15 minutes. Panels with 3 presenters can accommodate up to 20 minutes per presentation. This will allow for a 15 minute discussion.

Send a private message to the presenter to alert them when 2 minutes remain in their presentation time. If the presenter is still speaking when the time limit is up, unmute yourself and ask the presenter to wrap up in the next minute.

Presentation Slide Difficulties

In advance of the panel, you should receive all presentation slides from the presenters. Each presenter will share their screen during their presentation. If technical issues arise, you will share your screen and navigate the presentation for a presenter who is unable to do so themselves.

Fielding Audience Questions

Once all of the presentations are complete, you should start the Q&A, beginning with questions that were submitted in the discussion chat. Invite the audience to continue submitting questions through the discussion chat during this time.

When reading out questions submitted by an audience members, begin with “from [name].” Participants submitting questions may jump in to provide clarification or follow-up questions from there. Once all questions in the chat have been addressed, you can open it up to ask for any remaining questions from the audience, allowing participants to unmute themselves.

Thank you, in advance, for your contributions as a NECoPA 2020 moderator. It is your dedication to maintaining an organized panel that makes for an inclusive and memorable conference experience for all participants.

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