It all began when Nadja, our flow manager, was annoyed by some of our meetings. She decided to start moderating the ones she was involved in. Nadja's goal: give the meetings more structure and never leave without a specific result again. The impact of her moderation was huge!
The trick is really easy: the moderator's only purpose is to guide the discussion so that you reach your goal. Yes, it's that simple.
It makes a huge difference having someone participating who structures the discussion, visualizes it, engages participants if they're too quiet, who reminds you of the time and who really makes sure to reach the goal.
Sometimes the moderator also sets up the meeting, makes sure the room is prepared (with flip-chart markers that actually write!) and is responsible for debriefing (documentation/minutes, making sure each participant knows her to-dos, follow-up meetings, etc.) as well. This isn't strictly part of moderating, but in our case the moderator at least makes sure someone is responsible for each of these things.
There's really only one simple rule to follow: the moderator cannot be a participant in the discussion. To be more precise, she should not be involved in the topic under discussion. One easy example is that if you have a conflict between two people, neither of them can be the moderator. Both of the participants obviously will have strong feelings about the content of the discussion that they wouldn't be able to moderate it.
You can also add guidelines to the meetings as needed, i.e. timeboxing, specific goals, but that's really up to you how you'd like your meeting culture to be.
Of course, having experienced moderators will make meetings even more effective. They'll know different moderation techniques, will have the ability to feel of where to take the discussion next and will also be able to ask the right question to take the team forward (that's why we're starting to educate our team in moderation, ourselves included). However, just choosing someone in the group – trained or not – to be the moderator for the meeting makes a huge difference.
If you like this idea or you're already using moderators or facilitators, let us know about your experiences!
Co-founder at Jimdo
Matthias studied at the University of Kiel and the University of Gothenburg and then went into business with Fridtjof and Christian to start Jimdo. Matthias takes care of Jimdo's marketing. In his free time, you can find him hang gliding.