Moderating a Panel

This weekend I attended the Willamette Writers Conference as a moderator, representing Ooligan Press. I figured this might not be something people get to do everyday, so I wanted to share my process of how I got ready.

Three months before the conference: Per asked me if I would be interested in doing something for the Willamette Writers Conference. I said yes, then pretty much forget about it until after finals and vacation.

A month and a half before: Per offered me a panel—How to Develop an Author Platform—and asked if I’d like to participate as a moderator. I said “Of course!” and added it to my ToDo list. *looked up what the hell a moderator does on Google* *felt pretty good about myself*

A month before: I researched my panel topic, my panelists, how to moderate things, and brainstormed questions. I sent them to Per, got some feedback, and revised.

Two weeks before: I sent the questions out to my panelists for their feedback. I drafted my talking points and added the timing so I’d know what I’d like to hit. I went over the questions five times a day. (Anyone who knows me, knows this is not excessive… for me.)

A week before: *nervously sweats* I started to freak out. I realized I would be speaking in front people, asking questions, and generally doing something I’ve never done before. I kept going over the questions. And I drank tea. Copious amounts of tea.

Two days before: I created some new business card designs and sent them to the printer. I also went over my questions with Molly, one of my friends here at the Ooligan Press. I had been saying it out loud in front of my cats and it was good to practice in front of a person. I also advertised on Facebook and Twitter.

The day before: I gathered my items—binder with paper, pens, water bottle, coat, folder with my moderator stuff in it, bag, keys, wallet, business cards. I tried on a bunch of different outfits. I was perfectly calm.

The day of – T-6 hours: I got up early and dressed. I wore my orange pretzel socks from one of my best friends, Meredith, because they were awesome and I needed to be awesome. I fed the cats and made breakfast. Then, after hugging my cats for good luck, I left.

The day of – T-4 hours: I hung out with Bess, another Oolie and a friend of mine, for a while, waiting for our turn to start this whole crazy moderating thing. Bess was cool as a cucumber. Oddly, I was, too. We met up with Molly right before Bess’s panel. I watched Bess fly through her moderating business. She did amazing. I was still okay.

The day of – T-1 hour: My coolness vanished around lunchtime. I think the process of sitting down with my own thoughts and eating made me realize just how close this insane thing I was doing actually was.

The day of – T-30 minutes: We had just finished lunch. I was nervous. Super nervous. I’d like to say I hid it well, but I probably didn’t. After heading to the panel room, I met with some of my lovely panelists Mary Bisbee-Beek and Todd Sattersten. I was proud that my hands didn’t shake when I poured and handed out the water glasses. (My peeps from high school will tell you, my hands shake when I get nervous.)

The day of – T-10 minutes: I met my final panelist Karelia Stetz-Waters. I chatted with her a little, getting more anxious about the stream of people trickling in. I made sure my talking points were in easy reach. The venue staff came by and handed us mics. I (internally) freaked, since I had never really used a mic before. I told myself it would be okay. I checked my phone to make sure we started on time.

The day of – T-30 seconds: I took a few deep breaths, gave myself an internal pep talk, and grabbed the mic. I fumbled a bit with it at first. The attendees were nice and mimed how I should hold it. *internally freaked out because I always want everything to start off smoothly… … … got over it and moved on*

The day of – 1:313:00pm: The panel went smoothly after that. And oddly enough, even though I was nervous to begin with, the nerves fell away while I was asking the questions.

The day of – 3:00end of day: Completely relieved, I watched Molly moderate her panel—she did awesome—and hung out for a little while, then went home. I made sure to email (and Tweet) the panelists a thank you and announce on Facebook that I had successfully completed the event and everything went well. Then, I crossed it off my list.

Annnnd that’s my process! Really, it was all about having confidence that I could actually pull this thing off. (I gave myself lots of pep talks.) I also prepared quite a lot beforehand, practicing out loud and such. Remember, the preparation process is different for everyone. Do what’s right for you!

It was also lovely to have my friends there, too, so we could root each other on.

Overall, I’m glad I did it. It was an interesting experience and one I can put on my resume. If you have the chance to do it, I’d say go for it! (And coming from a woman who generally doesn’t like speaking in public, that’s saying a lot.)

Warm regards,
Kellie Doherty

Post Script – I have some super exciting news to share with you all, and, because of that, there might be a Bonus Post sometime later in the week!

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