How to moderate an online meetup, panel or presentation?

caio_caladoo profile image Caio Calado ・5 min read

Ignite 2020 is around the corner and this is my first year as a volunteer to help the community as a moderator.

This post is my own opinion to help anyone to be either a chat or a technical moderator in an online event or meetup.

Due to covid-19, I have been hosting "meetup" sort of online event and since April 2020, I hosted more than 50 open / online events for different communities - I am not counting the ones that I was a speaker or panelist.

My goal here is to help anyone who is going to do something like this for the first time, but it can go beyond the Ignite and help other communities to do this transition to the online format.

What happens during an online event?

Every event is like a movie. It has an intro, development and conclusion.

As a host or a moderator: is your job to help the presenters and the audience to keep engaged and keep sharing things during all the time of the event.

Something that I learned with time is that a good moderation is when the audience and the speaker feel heard - your job is to support both sides.

There are few things that you can do during each stages of the agenda to moderate a successful online meetup.

Here is how I divide the stages of an online event:

  1. Introduction: Icebreaking
  2. Development: Presentation, Panel or Q&A
  3. Conclusion: Wrap-up and final thoughts

During all the stages, don't forget to be respectful and to practice active listening. Be there for the speakers and the audience, and they will be there for you too.


This is a nice name for an opening. This is when you go live and introduce the agenda. It's also when introduce everyone and try to create (or enable) rapport of the speaker(s) with the audience.

For accessibility reasons, it's nice that you introduce and ask anyone that is going to speak in the session to say something in the very first minutes. Just an informal "Hello" helps people with low / no vision to hear anyone's voice - so in the future, this person can know who is speaking.

There are other things that you can do during this moment, like it's really important to address the code of conduct of your event. Also, it's a good opportunity to share some guidance to the audience and quickly present the agenda

If you have the time and the event allows you to do this, engage with the speaker(s) with some icebreaking questions. This helps the person to feel the moment, but also the audience to alert any audio or video issue.

Presentation, Panel or Q&A

If this is a presentation, remember to let the speaker knows when their slides or screen are being displayed in live stream. Also, help the audience understand this transition from opening to the presentation or panel:

"Alright, let's start with your presentation? I am adding your slides on the live stream and will be watching the event from the backstage. Will be back in the end for our Q&A session. To whoever is watching us, please share your questions at any time on the chat session"

If this is a panel or Q&A session, well... it's like you're sitting in a table having a conversation with some other folks.

As a moderator, it's up to you to lead the conversation and guide the panelist during this session.

Sometimes, not always, it's nice to give an intro to the audience or share few slides to help the audience understand what the panel will be about.

However, you need to be careful on how you do this: some moderators talk a lot and sometimes, they want to frame their as also an expert in the topic, but you're not there for that - your job is to help the panelists.

If you're not an expert in the main topic of the panel, it's ok to show that you don't know much. Let the audience know that you're there to help the panelist and it's interested in learn with the conversation - this is great and put the audience in your side, also, you can ask help for the audience too by sending questions.

There is a good book for that The Gifts of Imperfection

Good moderation means that you will handover the questions and help the panelists to share their experiences with the audience. If someone is struggling with something, it would be nice of you if you show up and help the person - ex: make questions to help the person remember whatever this person were about to say.

Good moderation also means connecting the dots or addressing the right question to the right people. It's like a maestro knowing how to combine or to call out the right instruments in the right time. The same goes in the opposite: avoid put a panelist in a spot or addressing a hot or complicated question.

To do that, it's important that you're listening the conversation and feeling the vibe from the speakers. There are two communication and soft-skills that you can put in practice here:

  1. Nonviolent communication - Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD, defines on his book as: “Nonviolent Communication shows us a way of being very honest, without any criticism, insults, or put-downs, and without any intellectual diagnosis implying wrongness.”
  2. Mirroring - this is really good for sales, but it's a great tool to help panelists keep sharing their thoughts and help them to focus on their thing. Here is a quick an fun video that explains this communication tool.

Don't forget: this is not your moment to shine - it's the speakers or panelists' moment.

Wrap-up and final thoughts

A good technique for this moment is to recap all the main topics presented in the panel and highlight some thoughts from the panelist or a particular slide in the presentation.

Hint: if the presentation or panel really went to another direction or didn't follow the session proposal, let the audience know what happened and try to share the main value of this change of course.

This was a great conversation and I really had fun. We were here to talk about X, but then we talked about Y. We stick with Z because of W

Some hosts ask the speakers to share a final thought and usually, the speakers quickly explain what they present.

Another way to address this moment, is to ask the speakers to share a final thought or share something that this person didn't say during the event. This way, this person will need to say something new. In addition, You can get creative and ask something different, like: "Any suggestions for a movie related to your talk?"

Don't forget to thank everybody for sharing their time and thoughts with everybody.

This is your moment

Now is your moment to help others to learn and to share. Trust me, it's a really great feeling to empower others to achieve more.

I hope you learn a lot during Ignite 2020 and if you would like to continue to learn, connect with other folks and build new things, here is my invitation to be part of the Reactor - which is one of the communities that I am part of it.

Microsoft Reactors are community spaces where technology professionals meet, learn, and connect - to both their local peers as well as industry-leading ideas and technology from Microsoft, partners, and the open source community. With a diverse mix of workshops, presentations, and networking events customized for each city, there’s something for everyone – whether you’re just getting started or working on complex projects. Our programming is always free and inclusive of a broad set of products, tools, and technologies.

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caio_caladoo profile

Caio Calado


I love to host meetups, connect and empower people. Sometimes I write things about career, community and tech.


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