Jan-Jaap, Founder-Moderator at Masters in Moderation from The Netherlands says he will dive deep into the meeting design, in order to truly understand the set-up and how I should act, every minute of the day. Read an extensive interview with the one and only “Master in Moderation”.

How did your passion for moderation start?
I was asked to be a moderator, some 17 years ago. And at first said ‘no’ to the request, but in the end decided to give it a try. Then, from the first moment, I felt at home on stage. I loved being able to have a direct impact on the success of meetings and to have people really listen to each other. I’m convinced that great moderation can help make the world a better place.

What makes a good moderator? Are there some characteristics you need to be born with or can anyone develop moderating skills?
Yes, you can develop skills. But some basic things need to be in your DNA. A great moderator knows how to be a leader-servant, guiding participants and at the same time knowing this meeting is not about you. It’s a rare combination of high charisma and low ego.
Furthermore, you need to be able to value every human being, be thankful for everyone who has the guts to speak and be very sensitive to everything (verbally and non-verbally) that is happening in the room.

How can a carefully selected moderator-facilitator help improve an event, conference or congress?
Simple: by making sure that is on paper (objectives, meeting design) gets executed in the most effective way. And this is not at easy as it sounds.
A true professional knows every step of the way, what decision to take: on the level of content, workformats, tone-of-voice, group dynamics etc.
All thought leaders in the industry on ROI and Meeting Design stress the importance of great moderation.
Careful selection is important, since no two meetings and no two moderators are the same. So there needs to be 100 % alignment in skills needed and personality. Sometimes you need a great MC or interviewer, other times it’s about debate, workformats etc. Sometimes you need a friendly builder of bridges, sometimes an agent-provocateur.

In your opinion, what kind of events are the hardest to moderate?
Ill-designed ones, without any clear goal or objective.  If the combination of clear objectives, great meeting design and the best-suited moderator is there, any meeting will be magic.

You are the founder of the Masters in Moderation agency. You also offer personal coaching, in-company trainings and workshop Mastering Moderation. How hard it is to train people to become masters in moderation and how many have passed through your classroom?
Training is both hard work and lots of fun, if you focus on personal learning points and if you make everything about the experience. We do not do theoretical workshops. We throw people in at the deep end, and help them swim. The only way of learning how to moderate, is by doing.
Over the past 3 years, some 250 -300 people were trained.

We assume that along with the meetings industry also the business of moderation is changing. What is trending right now?
The profession at this moment in time is very much about balancing eventtech and human2human interaction. And about balancing content with entertainment, fun, engagement, gamification etc.
In the slipstream of meetings changing from speaker-oriented to participant-focussed, the art of moderation is becoming a true and respected profession, rapidly. And I love that.

If you look back, which was the best event you have ever moderated and why?
This one is soooo hard to answer. On the one hand, every meeting is great. On the other, in every meeting there was room for improvement.
More generally speaking, meeting where people hardly notice that I’m there, are the most magical ones. If I can make people feel that moderation is easy, I’m happy.

Do you ever “freestyle” or are you always thoroughly prepared?
You can only freestyle, if you are well-prepared. If you don’t prepare, please don’t call it free-styling … call it a lazy attitude.
In daily life, sometimes as a moderator you are forced to free-style. Like the time, when one of my colleagues got sick and I had to take over last-minute. But then again, it’s not freestyling … it’s saving the day.

You are coming to Ljubljana this August to moderate Conventa Crossover Conference. How will you prepare for this “out of the box conference”?
I will dive deep into the meeting design, in order to truly understand the set-up and how I should act, every minute of the day. I will talk to the meeting owner, maybe suggesting some typical moderation-solution to add value to the meeting. I will talk to all speakers, in order to make sure we are on the same frequency and to be able to introduce/interview/engage them in the most effective way.

Will this be your first visit to Ljubljana and Slovenia or have you been there before?
It will be my first visit, but Slovenia was high on my wishlist.

Jan-Jaap In der Maur quick quiz:
Your favourite type of event is: when everyone goes home, feeling he was part of something special; part of real change.
You never like to hear the audience say: nothing … a complete silent room is the moderators nightmare. A professional will know how to change this, but it’s hard work.
If your microphone dies in the middle of an event you…. Will be very happy, that I’ve got as “voice like a foghorn” (as we say in Holland). I can handle a big room with no mic. And if that doesn’t work, I will set up a system of messenger, bringing my announcements to the rest of the room.
The weirdest thing you did on stage to amuse the audience is: show them my butt, just after I have completely torn my trousers.
Your favourite destination in the world is: Home. With Ljubljana in second place.
When you travel to a certain destination for the first time you like to… learn the language and talk to the ‘real people’
The best thing you learned by becoming a moderator is…. The world is full of beautiful people
You advice to people coming to listen to you at Conventa Crossover is: Do not listen to me. Interact with as many participants as possible.