ForumVol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Doing Being the Moderator: Use of “Respondent Selection” During Webinar Q&As

Allie Hope King

Teachers College, Columbia University

Abstract

During an online webinar, a question and answer (Q&A) segment is a valuable time during which audience members can petition an institution’s hosting representatives to clarify, expand upon, or otherwise assist with questions or issues that remain after a presentation has been made. As would be the case in any information-dissemination event, it is presumably important to all parties involved that these questions are handled in a satisfactory manner. In a typical webinar, one representative acts as the moderator, whose role it is to facilitate the interaction during the Q&A. In some ways, the responsibilities of this individual are tied to the technological set-up of the event. The webinars in the present study are audio-only (i.e., video conferencing is not used), and audience members are limited to using a “chat” feature in order to pose questions (i.e., a call-in feature is not used). Within this particular dynamic, the moderator takes on a complex third-party role. On the one hand, she must act as the “voice” of the audience members, reading their written questions aloud for all to hear and serving as an interactional bridge between the other two parties; on the other hand, the moderator is also responsible for ensuring that the interaction runs smoothly and efficiently, and that all questions are addressed in a timely manner.

In the hope of shedding light on the interactional role of moderators within this arguably complex dynamic, this study uses conversation analysis (CA) to examine how moderators manage question-answer sequences in audio-only webinars. Drawn from a larger study on moderator practices, this paper will report on respondent selection, which is one of several practices that moderators were found to do during Q&A interactions.