Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Public Debate on Climate Change July 9th - Tips For Moderating Emotive Public Debates


Pictured with Professor Ian Plimer and Gary Warden.

Moderating a public debate on an issue as emotive and divisive as climate change can be fraught with danger.

Many managers or executives may be called upon to moderate or take questions from stakeholders about a controversial topic.

So moderator skills are important.

Here is a checklist for moderators that may be involved in a public debate.

1. The Topic Must Be Newsworthy

If you want to engage with stakeholders, choose a topic that is interesting enough to motivate stakeholders to come to a public meeting.

Obviously climate change is of interest to a range of people and is frequently in the media.

2. The Topic Must Be Controversial

The greater the diversity of opinion the more likely it will cause disagreement.

Again, climate change is a very controversial issue, especially the concept of human induced climate change and the link between CO2 levels and global warming.

3. The Topic Must Be Balanced
Stakeholders need to make up their own minds, so both sides of the argument need to be put.

4. The Topic Must Be Relevant

People need to relate to the topic in their everyday lives.

5. The Topic Must Be Broad

Avoid topics that are too technical or narrow in their field. The topic must be easily understood.

6. The Debate Must Be Dramatic

When setting up the debate - create drama.

In the climate change debate, this was created by tossing a coin at the beginning to see who would go first.

7. The Debate Must Have A Strict Format


All successful debates have rigid formats that must be adhered to.

In the climate change debate, speakers were only allowed 20 minutes and PowerPoint was banned because they needed to use their powers of argument to win over the audience not technical, scientific slides.

I must add that I see too many scientists over relying on PowerPoint to get their message across.

8. The Debate Must Be Controlled

The moderator is the guardian of the debate format and must set and see that the rules are followed.

When asking for questions, it is always important to get audience members to state their name and where they are from. It is also important they ask questions and not grandstand or make long winded statements.

A good tip is for the moderator to repeat or summarise the question.

9. Speakers Must Be Introduced

This helps set the scene and context

10. The Debate Must Be Closed

Closing a debate is often the hardest. A good technique is after audience participation, to go back to each speaker for a closing comment.

Hiring a professional moderator takes the risk out of running an event. If you are seeking a professional moderator, please visit our website.

Enjoy watching the video on the opening of the climate change debate.



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