The Power of Positive Rudeness

What’s missing from Nancy Fulda’s “Moderating Panels: How To Be Rude in the Nicest Possible Way”?

Oddly enough, it’s the word rude. Fulda offers 10 tips for keeping a handle on panels at conventions, yet she never actually gets to the point of saying “You might have to be rude for the good of the panel if none of these other methods work.”

And that turns out to be a wise choice because “rudeness” isn’t a technique, only a perception that may result from the assertive use of these tips that insure panelists share time and stay on topic. As Fulda writes —

Your first duty as a moderator is to the audience, not to the other panelists. If someone is droning on in an inappropriate or inordinately lengthy manner, it is your job to Fix It. This, I think, is what scares people most about moderating.

Here are the titles of her 10 tips, all supported with explanations for when and how they apply.

  • Tip #1: Know the panelist’s name.
  • Tip #2: Be persistent.
  • Tip #3: Be considerate.
  • Tip #4: Come with a list of leading questions and emergency topic-switches.
  • Tip #5: Timing.
  • Tip #6: Wait for the breath.
  • Tip #7: Don’t be afraid to keep talking.
  • Tip #8: Voice modulation.
  • Tip #9: Eye contact.
  • Tip #10: Try to acknowledge the speaker’s comments whenever possible.

This is recommended reading for anyone involved with convention programming.

5 thoughts on “The Power of Positive Rudeness

  1. “Tip #4: Come with a list of leading questions and emergency topic-switches.”

    You know, there was a time when a moderator would do this and actually send them to the panelists ahead of time so they could think about them. However, it seems to be a thing of the past. I did it for a panel on Olaf Stapledon at Denvention 3, and Bob Silverberg was quite astonished by it.

  2. Not surprisingly, Robert Whitaker Sirignano has the details wrong. As everyone who was there knew, Andy had been going on far too long and we all were eager for him to finish. Harlan wrote a note which he wanted passed up to Andy saying, essentially, get off the podium. It was read aloud by I forget who, much to Harlan’s chagrin. He, in fact, tried to stop the reader before he could actually say it. Harlan was, in fact, trying to get what every member of the audience wanted to happen but was trying to Not Be Rude. Others turned it into a rudeness. But I suppose it makes a better story to claim Harlan was being publicly rude.

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