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Guest Moderator Series: I moderated #hcsmca & survived

January 24, 2012

The #hcsmca community grows and grows richer through our practice of rotating moderators. First time moderator Alaina Cyr shares her experience.

By Alaina Cyr

picture of guest blogger Alaina CyrOn Wednesday, January 18, I had my first go at moderating the #hcsmca chat (transcript). Even though the community has never been anything but kind, the minutes leading up to the chat had me biting my nails. Sure, I may be a regular participant, and I may have even tweeted and retweeted many of the community members, but leading the group discussion put me front and centre; after all, if the spotlight is on any one person during our weekly chats, it’s on the moderator. I knew I had nothing to worry about – the community is so warm and welcoming – but there’s just no reasoning with nerves!

So in the minutes leading up to the chat, I reviewed the topics, prepared my scripted tweets, and took several deep breaths, waiting for showtime. Seconds after the clock hit 1 pm, I posted the first tweets to kick off my first stint at moderating:

Tweet introducing #hcsmca chatAnd then time nearly stopped as I waited for a response.

After a few seconds – which seemed like hours – the introductions started trickling in.

Then the conversations started to pour in. I quickly found myself surrendering to the refresh button, loading up tweets as fast as I could read them. Though I usually find myself frantically refreshing the feed when I take part in an #hcsmca chat, my motivation for doing so was different this time. As the moderator, I felt responsible for welcoming everyone – regulars, newbies, and lurkers alike – to follow along, and feeding the conversation by asking questions.

For the first time during a tweet-up, I kept on top of all parts of the conversations (as best as I could manage), and didn’t focus only on the pieces I was taking part in. I spent more time really listening to what others were saying and less time throwing in my two cents. Before I knew it, my nervousness had disappeared and we had reached the end of our hour (though I must admit a certain sense of relief when all was said and done).

This chat was the most impactful #hcsmca to me, and not because I was “in charge”. Rather, it was because moderating changed the way I experienced the chat. Though sharing our opinions and experiences creates some value to our tweet-ups, the real value is in engaging others in conversation to learn and grow together. You don’t have to be the moderator to do that.

Thank you to Colleen and the #hcsmca community for giving me the opportunity to moderate a chat. I very much look forward to our next tweet-up!

Over 20 members have hosted an #hcsmca so far. What tip would you offer our future moderators?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012 10:34 pm

    First, I would suggest that future moderators read this post. You captured not only the essence of facilitating but also the incredible experience participation can be when participating from another perspective.

    Second, if I had a large tweet to moderate, have a few tweeps that agree ahead of time to help RT your questions to ensure everyone catches the topic changes. That may take some pressure off of the moderator. For some tweetups this process flows naturally, but perhaps for newer chats this may relieve some nerves.

    You did a great job. I love this chat and am very pleased that you allow me to participate.



  2. January 24, 2012 10:46 pm

    Reblogged this on alaina cyr and commented:
    My post this week is a guest spot on my first stint at moderating the #hcscma chat. Thank you Colleen for letting me share my experience with your readers!


  3. January 25, 2012 4:44 am

    Great post Alaina. Couldn’t have expressed it better myself.

    I agree with your point that moderating gets you to focus on all the different conversations taking place during the tweet-up; that was my experience too.

    As for what tip to give future moderators:

    1) Schedule all the announcements related to promoting the chat up to the the introductions tweet.

    2) Use on your browser to monitor the chat & modify the reload time to 5 seconds instead of 10. This way you don’t have to keep scrolling or refreshing your browser as new Tweets will come in every 5 seconds. Given how intense it can get, if you set the refresh to 10 seconds or more, you will receive a huge number of tweets all at once and it will take you longer to respond.

    3) Use TweetDeck or another software at the same time for RTs. This allows you to RT using both your account and the @hcsmca account too. One of the limitations of is that it wouldn’t allow you to RT long tweets, and that’s where other programs come in handy as well.

    4) To quote Alaina, “the real value is in engaging others in conversation to learn and grow together” and while many members will take on this role as the community grows, it should be the focus of the moderator during the chat. Asking members to elaborate on their tweets would be one to do that. What other methods do you recommend to engage participants more?


  4. January 25, 2012 8:17 am

    Great post, Alaina. I found the hardest part of moderating was having to cut off one great topic, because of time constraints, in order to introduce the second topic. When there’s a large group discussing a popular topic, 20-30 minutes doesn’t seem to do it justice.

    Having said that, #hcsmca is such an active community that topics tend to live on–so everyone can carry on conversations after the official chat.

    Lisa’s comments above about having others RT your questions is helpful, though I find many #hcsmca members do that automatically anyway. And it’s not just about making sure the participants catch the topic change–we all bring our own unique networks of followers, and those RTs can broaden the reach of the chat exponentially.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. You did a fine job moderating, and I hope we’ll see you in that role again.


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