Facilitator… That’s Me

I’m not sure what the proper term is – emcee, host, moderator? I personally like facilitator, though I can’t give you the exact definition of the word. Whatever it is, I did it today, as I shepherded a roundtable discussion on air quality at Southern Connecticut State University. I think it went very well.

This is a skill I never knew I had until Dave Brody, producer for Inside Space, had me moderate a few “Star Councils”; panel discussions on space&#185. Once, I told a panelist (I think it was Bob Zubrin, founder of The Mars Society), “I’m not calling on you until I actually see smoke coming out of your ears.”

My approach is to be the opposite of anyone I’m questioning. I don’t care what your beliefs are, I’m your antithesis, and I’ll make you justify every position you take. It really forces people to become more passionate and factual as they begin to speak.

It becomes clear from the start that no statement will go unchallenged.

Being contrary is its own reward. So, this is totally fun for me.

When I was first approached to do today’s panel, I was skittish because it looked like the panel members might be all of one mind. A lovefest with no critical thinking would be worthless. I was assured there would be diversity of opinion and I was not disappointed.

Sometimes, I think I’d like to try my hand at doing this at some tech or broadcasting convention, but I have no idea where to go or who to contact to get the ball rolling.

&#185 – I am reminded by Dr. Frank Tavares at Southern Connecticut State University, that it was he who got me to moderate my first roundtable. It had to do with the future of communications. My boss (who I never really got along with) was a participant, as was the GM of the local cable company and a few others. We pulled no punches.

It was Brody who got me to do these in quantity, with world renowned experts, on the road at scholarly meetings, with an audience of opinionated and well informed experts. And, of course, doing the “Star Councils” on-camera made them even more fun.

SCSU’s press release, as printed in the New Haven Register:

NEW HAVEN – WTNH-News Channel 8 weather forecaster Geoff Fox will moderate a panel discussion from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, October 8, at Southern Connecticut State University.

The forum, The Air We Breathe: Connecticut’s Air Pollution Crisis, will take place in Engleman Hall.

Mr. Fox’s appearance will follow a keynote address by Brooke Suter, the Connecticut director for Clean Water Action, one of the oldest citizen action agencies in the state. Ms. Suter has worked on a wide range of environmental and public health issues.

Connecticut’s air quality is considered among the worst in the nation. The Connecticut Public Interest Research Group released a report September 30 that details the seriousness of Connecticut’s air pollution crisis.

The report showed that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, all of Connecticut experiences unhealthy levels of smog during the summer months. In 2002, Connecticut ranked 14th in the nation with 36 smog days.

Following Ms. Suter’s address, the panel discussion, moderated by Mr. Fox, will feature Vincent Breslin of SCSU’s environmental studies department, Gregory Kowalczyk of SCSU’s chemistry department, Tracy Babbidge from the state Department of Environmental Protection and Thomas Godar of the American Lung Association of Connecticut.

The forum is free and open to the public.

Those seeking further information may call Betsy Beacom at 203-392-6589

This story appeared on October 10, 2003 in the New Haven Register

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