Last week I had a conversation about the Chocolate Makers Forum program with Caroline Lubbers, one of Chocoa’s main organizers. Some of that discussion was about the wording of the program description and some of it was what the goals of a session might be. We also talked about the speaker list and how the Forum would be moderated.
It took some persuasion (not a whole lot, really, but some) to convince the organizers to let me moderate the entire program.
I don’t know how other people approach their duties as a moderator, but I definitely believe that my roles as a moderator are more than just introducing the speakers and making sure that things move along and stay on time.
My reasons for wanting to moderate the entire program include providing continuity and connection. By being an active participant in each session I can, by interjecting observations and questions, provide a through-line for the entire program. This is especially valuable, at least in my experience, when attendees miss a session for one reason or another, because I can help bridge gaps.
In past programs where I have not been the moderator I routinely ask to go last. When that is allowed, almost I never prepare remarks in advance, or if I do, I only fill up half the time. What I do is listen to what has been said and then seek to summarize what I think are the key points as brought up by the other speakers.
As the moderator of the Chocolate Makers’ Forum at Cocoa next week on thing I want to do is get people to think about diversity in a slightly different way by suggesting that all kinds of monocultures, not just agricultural monocultures, are bad ideas.
Examples of possible monocultures in chocolate include monocultures of ideas, production pathways, and even types of chocolate.
One of the strengths of Chocoa is that it encourages diversity of ideas and does so, in part, by involving actors from every facet of cocoa and chocolate, from farmers to small makers to industrial giants, from banks to brokers to scientists and researchers and sustainability experts to logistics companies and the companies that provide equipment to makers of all sizes. And it does so in the atmosphere of openness and collaboration that has been one of the hallmarks of the extended cocoa and chocolate family (sometimes I find it difficult to use ‘chocolate industry’ in this context, because it’s so much more).
I am looking forward to Chocoa next week and seeing many of you there.
Photo credit: The heading image (taken by me) is of one of the main halls of the Beurs van Berlage where Chocoa is held – one of the two prettiest locations for a chocolate conference in the world. The other one is in Amsterdam as well, the Royal Tropical Institute. Up until the 1970s cocoa was traded in the Beurs (which translates to exchange).