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CDC 72 artist and flu vaccine

By Claire Doole, Claire Doole Communications

One of the golden rules of moderating is that the moderator does not have a view. Your role is to remain neutral and stimulate discussion so that the audience is engaged, learns something new and ideally changes behaviour or takes action afterwards.

However, once my job was over, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) asked me to reflect on my experience of moderating two panel discussions at their event marking World Immunization Week.

The theme of the symposium was flu vaccines part of the solution for a healthier and more productive society. It is a challenging theme – perhaps not as immediately gripping as the panel discussion the day after on shortages and supply. As I know from my background as a BBC correspondent and PR professional, it is easier to sell problems than solutions.

So, how do you bring the subject alive?
It is a combination of the right people on the panel and the moderator’s skill at structuring a discussion so conversation flows easily from point to point and panellist to panellist.

When I worked at the BBC, the job was to get experts who were articulate but who had differing views. This is what makes a lively panel discussion.

On our two panels we had some very articulate and engaging experts but they were all advocates for the flu vaccine as a smart dose of prevention.

Would it have been more powerful to include a sceptical voice? Would this have attracted a bigger audience? It is a strategy, not without risks, but in my experience it always makes the experts defend their points with even greater impact.

Otherwise, the alternative is for the moderator to play devil’s advocate and of course for the audience to ask the challenging questions.

Structure, structure, structure
Whoever you have on the panel, the moderator’s job is to work out what they want to say and then structure a logical line of argument.

In the first panel, I decided to start with the messengers, the WHO, IFPMA and the International Federation on Ageing, so that they could set the scene in terms of recommendations, the science and the challenges for the at risk groups and older person.

CDC looking at cartoon
Graphic facilitator Sarah Clark. Photo – Marsel Van Oosten

Then I moved on to the deliverers – clearly signposting to the audience that we were now going to hear from the International Council of Nurses and the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) about the challenges and opportunities.

This led to a discussion on the need to advocate for a greater role for nurses and pharmacists as vaccinators and for more data to make an even more convincing scientific and economic case to governments and donors about the value of the flu vaccine.

On the second panel the structure was simple. I interviewed the Secretary General of the World Medical Association on why the flu vaccine should be everybody’s business in the workplace and on the need for health workers to lead by example and have the shot themselves. I then brought in the two organisers of the event IFPMA and FIP for their perspective.

CDC close up cartoon
Graphics by Sarah Clark.

Communication, communication, communication
Interestingly, one of the key messages that came out of the two panels and the audience Q and A was the need to change the narrative – the importance of not focussing simply on the facts or in some cases lack of data – but the need to convince hearts as well as minds.

I could not stop myself from saying that the Greeks had it right – 2,500 years ago. If you want to persuade someone you need not only logos (facts) and ethos (credibility) but also pathos (stirring the emotions of the audience).

As the discussion turned to the dangers of social media and alternative facts in propagating the myths around the flu vaccine, I found myself biting my lip. I desperately wanted to say that in my view more responsible journalism was part of the solution. But I managed to stop myself, aware that I was in danger of falling into the trap of becoming a moderator with a view!

Have a look at the video highlights of the seminar:

Author's bio

clairedooleportrait 200Claire is a former BBC correspondent and international spokeswoman who is passionate about helping people communicate with confidence. Since 2006, she has successfully trained hundreds of professionals in the art of presenting and public speaking, talking to the media, managing communications in a crisis, and writing for the web. In addition, she has coached C-level executives and public figures to give powerful TEDx and TED style talks in Europe and the Middle East. A Swiss and UK national, Claire trains and coaches in French and English.

Claire is also a highly experienced moderator having facilitated panel discussions with government ministers, NGO activists, humanitarians and human rights specialists at major events.

www.doolecommunications.com

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