The best-laid plans are those that include more than one contingency for the plan. Forum members take time out of their busy schedules to attend meetings because they anticipate value from them. That attitude may shift if they experience sessions with too little to do.
We can be sure that unexpected events will happen. There is a reason they are described as unexpected. If such an event threatens to derail a Forum you are moderating, you can pull out a contingency plan, or a“topic in your pocket”, if you will. This is an exercise or activity you keep in mind to fill in gaps in activities that happen without warning.
It’s wise to prepare two emergency exercises – one you can plug into a gap that is about 30 minutes long, and one that is about 60 minutes long. Once you identify the topics you want in your back pocket, plan for their use just as if they are on the agenda. Prepare speaking points and keep any handouts with you.
The Forum Retreat Planning Guide on Amazon can provide you with a wealth of exercises. They are organized by category and have instructions for running them. The timing is listed for each exercise, allowing you to pick one that is the best length for your needs.
Keeping a topic in your pocket is one way you can set yourself apart from other moderators. The best ones are well prepared, and that includes moderators who never show up with empty pockets.