Five Ways to Level Up Your Virtual Event Moderation

Depending on how it’s used, the chat feature at a virtual event can improve engagement—or simply distract attendees. Use these tips to help create chat spaces that will elevate the experience of your attendees.

Since the pandemic began, organizations have tried to hold virtual events that match the level of engagement and participation you would see at in-person gatherings. Solutions have included using the right event platform, welcoming first-time attendees, offering breakout sessions, and recruiting interesting guest speakers.

But there’s another element that can be just as important: good chat moderation. An engaging chat space can be the difference between a ho-hum virtual or hybrid event and a memorable one. That doesn’t always happen on its own—but a skilled chat moderator can help.

“Chat is the second most powerful tool on virtual—the first being talking on video,” said John Chen, author of Engaging Virtual Meetings. “If you get somebody who’s disengaged to reengage with your association, that’s super valuable. That to me is the value of a well-moderated chat.”

Consider these tips from Chen to enhance your virtual event’s chat.

Assign a Dedicated Event Ambassador

When holding events, don’t just hand off moderation duties to the person who’s hosting the gathering. Instead, assign an event ambassador whose main job it is to facilitate positive attendee experiences by monitoring the chat, encouraging discussion, and troubleshooting.

“Somebody who can moderate the chat well may or may not be the person who can vocally emcee the place well, so split the roles up,” Chen said. “Ambassadors are skilled trainers and facilitators themselves, and they’re just lending their skills to help attendees.”

Encourage Consistent Participation

Have things gone quiet in the chat? Add prompts and thought starters into the chat periodically to spark interaction. Drop in questions, use polls, and invite attendees to throw questions at speakers.

“​​There’s so many tools to do that here on virtual,” Chen said. “And it gives you a feeling of how many people there are, because that’s the hard part with virtual. In a live audience you look around the crowd and you’re like, ‘Holy cow this thing’s packed.’”

Create a Safe Space for Conversation

Professionals thrive when they feel they have room to voice their thoughts. In fact, research from Google’s Project Aristotle found that the most important dynamic of a successful team is members feeling psychologically safe. This occurs in environments where no one else will embarrass or punish others for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.

Injecting the same atmosphere into your event chat will break down any barriers of intimidation and invite all to participate. Chat moderators can establish this trust by opening with an announcement that the chat is open and attendees can say what they want, so long as it doesn’t break the rules. As soon as you see one person attacking another in the comments, delete or address the inappropriate comment and talk privately with that user.

You could even use term filters for certain offensive words to nip problems in the bud preemptively. Another preemptive move: Explain the rules upfront before opening the chat at the beginning of the session.

“You set the culture of the meeting. And if your culture is to allow bullies to say bad things, you have the power to fix it,” Chen said.

Use Private Chat to Handle Disruptions

The main chat should be used to add comments and questions that are relevant to the event and lead to group-wide discussion. It shouldn’t be used as a place to hash out technical difficulties or have one-on-one debates. So if you notice an attendee is having trouble getting their camera to work or can’t hear the presentation, use private chat to reach out to that particular person directly. And use it to speak with attendees who are breaking rules and remind them of the event’s guidelines.

If you’ve found yourself in the situation where Zoom bombers have completely derailed the entire chat, you can pause comments to restore order.

Three Strikes, You’re Out

While warnings in private chats might be enough to mitigate most inappropriate behavior, don’t be afraid to remove repeat offenders who continue to provoke arguments, insult others, use hateful speech, or post spam and malicious links. After all, good chat moderation means ensuring the conversation remains valuable.


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Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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