John Donvan of Intelligence Squared U.S.: How does a debate moderator work?

The Art of Interruption

The Art of Interruption

What do you do all day?
Aug. 2 2015 2:04 AM

The “How Does a Debate Moderator Work?” Edition

John Donvan of Intelligence Squared U.S. says a good debate starts with asking the right question.

John Donvan
John Donvan.

Illustration by Slate. Photo courtesy of Intelligence Squared U.S.

Listen to this episode of Working with guest John Donvan:


John Donvan has made a career out of staying calm—and staying on topic. A veteran ABC News correspondent, he’s now the moderator of Intelligence Squared U.S., a series of Oxford-style debates on the most controversial issues of the day. In this week’s episode, Donvan tells Aisha Harris why a successful debate starts with a good question and why a moderator must learn the art of interruption.

In a Slate Plus extra, Donvan schools Harris on why she shouldn’t try to game Intelligence Squared’s scoring system. If you’re not a member, enjoy bonus segments and interview transcripts from Working, plus other great podcast exclusives. Start your two-week free trial at

Available as a podcast and app, Intelligence Squared’s next debate is titled “Containment Is Not Enough. ISIS Must Be Defeated” and takes place on Aug. 9. The show’s fall season begins Sept. 16.

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Aisha Harris is a Slate culture writer and host of the Slate podcast Represent.