Q: I read recently that a journalist had been chosen to moderate a meeting of stakeholders who were trying to determine the way forward on an issue of national concern. It seemed to me that such a meeting required a professional facilitator. What’s the difference between a moderator and a facilitator?
A: A moderator is someone sufficiently knowledgeable about the subject matter of a meeting that he can competently introduce speakers, ask intelligent questions about their presentations that provoke discussion and regulate contributions and questions from participants. You may have seen a moderator at work at the last panel discussion you attended.
A facilitator on the other hand is a process manager. He structures a meeting around the achievement of certain identified goals. He assists in setting the agenda, chooses techniques to encourage participation, ensures that each participant makes a contribution and records the participants’ contributions while ensuring that each goal of the meeting is met. (Hopefully), you would have seen a facilitator (or someone with facilitation training) at work at your last staff meeting.