Role of Moderator in Presidential Debate

What is the role of a facilitator? A facilitator has been defined as a person who frees you up from the process so that you can focus on the content of the discussion. Many believe that if you are over 50% involved in the content of a discussion, it’s helpful to have an outside facilitator that can guide the discussion. As a meeting facilitator, it’s important to understand the appropriate role or function. What is the appropriate role? That’s a trick question. The appropriate facilitator role is whatever is needed.

The word facile means “to make it easier”.

Two important factors include process and content. A person who is low on process and low on content might be a neutral observer. A person who is high on process, but low on content would be a facilitator/moderator. A person who is high on process and high on content would be a consultant/coach.

During last Tuesdays debate, I admit that I was multi-tasking. I was observing twitter responses during the debate. I was listening and conversing with Dan Harley via telephone and broadcasting through our blog talk radio show Technology Tuesday. I was listening to Dan Harley with my left ear. I was listening to Obama and Romney with my right ear. I was posting responses in Facebook, Twitter, and in our blog talk radio chat room. It was information overload. I’ve heard that we get more information in one day than a 16th century peasant receives in an entire lifetime. I must have beat these peasants during one presidential debate.

Then while watching the debate, Candy Crowley intervenes. What? and she seems to agree with Obama? Obama even asks her to repeat it…..and she does! Was that Candy’s role? I tend to think not. I view the role of the moderator to be an impartial facilitator. Candy Crowley’s role is to ensure fairness, keep time, enforce the rules of the debate, and ask the tough questions. When the moderator begins to interject his/her opinion…..well that’s not his/her role! Watch for yourself and tell me if you agree or not.

It seems pretty clear that this intervention deviates from the appropriate role of Presidential debate moderator.

Here is a diagram of what I believe are the appropriate roles of the Presidential candidates, moderator, and town hall attendees.

Role of Moderator in Presidential Debate

What are your thoughts? Was it appropriate for Candy Crowley to intervene the way she did?

About Dale Perryman

Conduct workshops and seminars on leadership, management, and employee development. Founder of Center for Organizational Learning. Co-founder and creator of MyMeetingPro, a suite of apps for iPhone and iPad that create simply effective meetings. Specialties include leading change, meeting facilitation, developing R&D leadership, merger integration, and social media marketing. Enjoy playing poker and stock investing in spare time.
  • Whether it was appropriate or not doesn’t really matter. She did as good a job as the other moderator in the previous debate. The whole thing seems pointless at this point. You admitted yourself, you were doing a thousand other things. I have to ask, did you hear anything of importance from the candidates, or is that why you chose to focus on the moderator? LOL

    • Martha,

      Thanks for reading the post and posting your comments.

      After the live session, I went back and watched the debate and the analysis. I found some interesting analysis in Prezi.

      Examining the past is only useful in that it gives us suggestions for the future. I think of the past as a rear view mirror. It shows where you’ve been and perhaps notifies us of dangers behind us. If we become obsessed with the past, then it distracts us from the future.

      The agreements made ahead of time suggest that the role of moderator was limited. Candy chose to exercise her own initiative outside of the scope of work that she was given. Careful negotiation takes place with both parties to agree on the rules of engagement.

      The real learning for me as a facilitator is understanding of the client’s expectations and meeting or exceeding those expectations.