The author moderating an online panel for San Francisco Sustainable Fashion Week International, which was produced in a team that included C4I co-founders, Mariel Jumpa, and Lizeth Soto Rivas.
Thanks to social media and now the widespread use of Zoom and online platforms to connect during the pandemic, many of you are finding yourselves as unexpected on-camera talents for our personal brands, businesses, and/or organizations! While some are naturally comfortable being on-camera, there’s a great many of who cringe at the thought of having to be the sudden spokesperson. Yep, the pandemic likely added ‘on-camera talent’ to your job descriptions this year. Surprise!
If you’re feeling the pressure to excel at this type of role, know that like any other skill, it takes practice. But a few tips might help you make a few shifts to be more comfortable and confident in being your brand’s ambassador, so I’m sharing a few of mine. Without further ado, let’s get into it:
First Things First: It’s Normal to Feel Nervous and Unnatural
For those who feel nervous about suddenly being the center of attention, don’t worry. It’s normal to feel unnatural in the role. After all, hosting content and moderating panels are acquired skillsets that take time to develop, and some are naturally more extroverted and therefore more comfortable being ‘onstage’.
While I’m fortunate to be part of the club that feels comfortable on-camera, I also want to contextualize my background: I started my career as a performing artist, speaker, and television host, and I also took acting classes in the beginning of this year. That being said, some of the ‘natural’ talent I might have of feeling comfortable on-camera has been in development since 2001! Takeaway here: Be kind and gentle with yourself.
Identify Your Audience and What Value You Want to Bring Them
Who is your audience, and what kind of information will best be of service to them? The type of information you will share and the kind of questions you will ask should be informed by the needs of your audience. There’s a big difference in the focus of the conversation depending on whether you are speaking to students or small business professionals, for example. Define what you want your audience to walk away with after the conversation, and that will be your North Star for shaping the interview.
The author moderating a panel for Remake at Fashion for Good Center in Amsterdam with Safia Minney, Steph Cordes of Cordes Foundation, and Antoinette Klatzky of Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute.
Research, Research, Research
As a journalist, it’s my job to tell you that you have to research and also have credible sources! Research the background of your panelists and try to weave in information from past interviews and specific facts from their work/life into your questions to make it more personal.
Panelists are tired of answering the same questions over and over again, so add a personal touch by using some of their experiences to shape your conversation. That way, you can also diversify your questions so that some are specific to each panelist, and some can be addressed by all.
Pro-tip: Refer to a specific anecdote, quote, or story they’ve shared in the past, and shape your question around that to demonstrate that you were invested in their story. You’ll make a better connection with your interviewee that way, and also provide original, fresh content for your audience.
Warm Up the Virtual Space
When doing interviews online, you can’t feel the energy of the space. But you can warm it up by inviting people to answer open-ended, easy questions in the chat box, and then shouting them out so people feel heard/seen. An example of an easy question is: “Tell us where you’re tuning in from, and what brought you to the panel today!”
Invite people to leave comments or ask questions in the chat box, which you can address later in the conversation (or weave into the conversation if it makes sense). I don’t recommend asking people to turn their audio or video on as it can be very disruptive depending on the quality of their connection.
Mariel Jumpa, co-founder of Creatives4Impact, moderating a panel on “Activating Digital Communities” for the San Francisco Sustainable Fashion Week International event
Call Each Panelist by Name When Asking A Question
When asking a question, address each panelist by name when it’s their turn. That way, it prevents people from talking over each other, which can get very awkward!
Prepare Ahead of Time By Writing A Script!
The key to a successful panel moderation is adequate preparation ahead of time. Most of the magic in an online panel, speaking engagement, or interview happens thanks to the unseen prep that was done before. After doing your research, write out your script along with an introduction, your questions, and a concluding outro. While I don’t recommend reading straight from the script, writing it will lend you a solid foundation so you can feel comfortable and confident about the content, which will lead to a more successful delivery.
If you are invested in getting better at this skill, I recommend taking acting or improv classes OR practicing your speaking skills by leaving voice notes to your friends on a regular basis (through apps like Whatsapp) so you can practice hearing your voice. This has been a proven method for me in getting comfortable speaking for a period of time without needing a pause.
If you still feel uncomfortable doing it yourself, and want a professional to do it for you and/or your company, I’m happy to help as a moderator, panelist, speaker, or storytelling coach. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can begin the conversation! Secondly, if you’d like help producing your online webinar or conference, the team here at Creatives4Impact would be delighted to help you. Email us so we can help you get your online event up and running.
About the author:
Ruby Veridiano is a fashion changemaker and the Storytelling and Education Advisor at Creatives 4 Impact. She is a writer, fashion journalist, and on-camera host whose work focuses on connecting the dots between women's empowerment and socially-conscious fashion, as well as promoting diversity & inclusion in the fashion industry. Her writing has appeared on NBC News, NYLON, Euronews, and more, and has interviewed designers Anna Sui, Vivienne Tam, and Prabal Gurung, among other multicultural designers in the fashion industry.
Ruby has worked on the social responsibility team of the Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) Group in Paris, where she worked on global diversity initiatives and was a TV host for the ABS-CBN Network.
She is also the creator & host of @gritandglamourshow, a podcast and talk show that features honest conversations with women leaders in fashion and beyond on their journey towards success.