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Doing the Maths on Moderation

By Jan-Jaap In der Maur

Our society changes, rapidly, from a hierarchic organisation to one of co-creation. And so our way of meeting, deciding and achieving changes.
At the same time, focus on Return on Investment makes its way into our industry, and therefor effective moderation becomes more important (at least, we think).


About time for a true professional theory on the value of moderation-facilitation.

A meeting is successful, if it effectively contributes to the right to exist of the meeting owner and all stakeholders. This success - in our opinion - is always based on three elements.
We have brought them into a mathematical equation:

Successful Meeting = Goal x Meeting Design x Moderation

Let's take a look at the individual parts of the equation and focus on their contribution to the amount of success. This will give us a better grip on the content-concept side of meetings.


If there's no clear goal, there's no effective meeting: You can only call something a success when you defined what the criteria are for calling it successful.

Without measurable goals, any meeting beforehand is aimless and therefor meaningless.

Meeting Design

This is the art of translating goal and content into an effective concept, as for instance described in the book 'Into the heart of meetings'.

An effective program is designed in every detail, to make sure all stakeholders get the right information, have the right experience, learn the right skills and meet the right people at exactly the right time in the best suitable format.

You will sell your goal short, by just 'throwing some random elements together'.


This is about executing the meeting design effectively, so goals will be met. Every plan looks good 'in blueprint', but is only worth something when put 'on stage' properly.

This is where moderation comes in, in all its appearances: facilitation, interview, debate, interaction, master of ceremony etc.

The moderator can only do his/her job properly, with a clear 'moderation design', extracted from goal and meeting design: a well thought of approach in tone, pace and style.

The term 'moderator' does by the way not necessarily mean 'professional'. In some occasions a non-/semi-professional (like the general manager, for instance) might be the best suited person to do the job.

Validation and Impact

We may discuss the weight of the 3 elements, but we set GOAL x MEETING DESIGN x MODERATION to a ratio of 10:5:2.
The idea being this ratio is: having no goal makes the meeting pointless anyway, so this deserves the highest 'ranking'. This goal only becomes effective with great meeting design, so therefor the silver medal. And a good moderator helps al lot, but is - in all modesty - only a part of the meeting design.

The impact of this equation is then a simple one: a maximum score on all elements gives you 10x5x2= 100% effectiveness. But forget about one of the elements (in mathematical terms: put it to 'zero') and you'll fail completely.
But even a partial fail on one of the elements has big impact. Put - for instance - the wrong moderator on stage, score a 1 instead of the available 2 points, and the success of this meeting will drop by 50%!

By the way: this validation does not relate to budget. For instance: setting a clear goal has the biggest impact on the overall score, but may on occasion be done in two minutes.

In Conclusion

By looking at meetings and event in a mathematical way, the value of clear goals, meeting design and moderation becomes apparent.

Knowing this, there is no argument left to treat these elements slovenly.

about the author

Jan-Jaap In der Maur
Jan-Jaap In der Maur provides meetings with professional moderators-facilitators and coaches the non-professionals, to help make meetings more effective, fun and worthwhile.
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