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10 Things To Consider When Facilitating An Online Discussion

10 Things To Consider When Facilitating An Online Discussion

Dr Crispin Butteriss

Dr Crispin Butteriss

Crispin is a founding director of Bang the Table and the Chief Practice Officer.

Deciding when, how, how often, or indeed if, you should get involved in your online forum is an important strategic decision. Forum facilitation and management can be time-consuming and resource intensive; it needs to be considered carefully. To make these choices easier, we made a list of the top 10 things to consider when facilitating an online discussion.

  1. Forum management is as hands-on or hands-off as you wish to make it. Think through your organisation’s willingness to apply resources to the task and be consistent.
  2. There are a number of different models of forum facilitation or management. These range from “no interaction” through to “deep immersion”.
  3. The “no interaction” model is preferred by most government organisations. However, if you have the time, budget and resources, a dedicated facilitator could get more involved in the discussion by posting corrections, answering questions or asking follow-up questions to participants.
  4. Think about whether you are personally representing yourself in the online forum or acting as an anonymous representative of your organisation, for example, a Project Coordinator.
  5. Nominate who is responsible for responding to comments ahead of time.
  6. Don’t get sucked into a debate with an individual on the forum. There’s little to be gained from arguing with a community member. Trolls may also try to goad a response. Don’t fall for it!
  7. Don’t feel that you have to answer all or even any questions that are posed on the forum. These can be dealt with later and en masse in a consultation report.
  8. It’s okay not to get involved in the discussion at all. However, from the outset, make it clear that the forum is a space for community-generated conversation and that your organisation is listening.
  9. If you have the resources, employ an external facilitator to dig into the underlying rationale behind visitors’ comments and positions.
  10. Regularly update the resources on your site in response to the questions and issues that are being raised in the forum.

For more articles about online engagement see our prior posts:

Top 10 Ways How Anonymity Improves Online Engagement

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Website Accessible For All 

Part of the 100 Ideas To Help Engage Your Community Online guidebook.

25 August 2015
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