While debate may not be a contact sport, a referee of sorts is necessary to avoid any foul play and that is where the moderator comes in. Any organized debate, from a political discussion to an event at a school, needs to have a moderator. Much like a referee would do in a big game, the moderator acts as a neutral party who maintains the focus of the debate. A quality debate moderator will employ strong time management and organizational skills, communicate effectively and have some working knowledge of the topic up for debate. Duties for a debate moderator include, but are not limited to, introducing the debate participants, ending petty arguments, redirecting discussion and keeping track of time.

Introduce Debaters

At the start of a debate, the moderator must introduce all participants by name. He must have background information about each debater, including educational accomplishments, awards, and the organization the debater represents. Once the introductions are finished, the debate moderator must lay down the rules, such as time limitations for responses, and then give the floor to the first debater.

End Petty Arguments

The nature of a debate is to present arguments, but sometimes the discussion gets out of hand. For instance, if the debaters start to call each other names or throw insults, the moderator must step in and admonish each offender. This helps keep the debate from going off-topic and devolving into a fruitless war of words. The moderator must be impartial when moderating the discussion and handling petty arguments between debaters.

Redirect Discussion

Debaters commonly go off on a tangent when discussing his point. If he manages to integrate a slightly off-topic point with his main point that's fine, but if he stays off-topic that's a problem and could degrade the quality of the debate. If the debate moderator feels that the discussion is going too far off of the topic, she can interject and redirect the discussion by either asking the person to return to his original point or moving on to the other party's response.


Time is of the essence during a debate. One key duty of a debate moderator is to know how much time each participant is allotted and carefully watch the clock. If a debater goes over her time limit, the moderator must interrupt and give the floor to the other side. If debaters continuously overstep their allotted time, the moderator must firmly ask each debater to respect time limitations.

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