Four key issues to consider for effective online dialogue

Facilitating effective online dialogue is a refined skill that requires careful consideration of process, issue framing, participant behaviour and a deep understanding of dialogue principles.

In this article we look at 4 key issues to consider before hosting an online dialogue.

4 key issues to consider for online dialogue

1. Framing and Contextualising

This first issue to consider before hosting an online dialogue is how you intend to frame and present your online conversations or issues.

Ensuring you have clearly articulated the role of participants and effectively framed their involvement in a positive light, is an essential first-step in setting a positive tone and expectations for involvement.

When framing an online dialogue activity, it’s a good idea to explicitly state the rules and expectations for involvement and to present the issues as opportunities rather than problems.

This will ensure you construct reasonable boundaries around your online dialogue and it will help to position the participant at the centre of the issue rather than on its periphery.

2. Process Management

Rarely do we see participants in online dialogue activities inducted into a facilitated process in the same way they would if invited to a face-to-face stakeholder meeting or workshop.

Following a similar process for online engagement is a great way to reinforce expectations for involvement and outline the rules for participation.

Effective process management should include; clearly explaining the consultation process, the participant expectations and workload, the etiquette and dialogue principles as well as moderation guidlines.

A simple way to do this online is to incorporate a short video introduction inducting people to your online dialogue space.

This will greatly assist in executing an effective online process.

3. Facilitation

Dialogue facilitation is perhaps the most important and yet neglected issue when considering online dialogue activity.

Too often, online facilitation is either completely neglected or left to a less-experienced junior employee without the necessary nuanced skills to effectively manage complex conversations.

Facilitating online dialogue should instead be handled by an experienced facilitator who has the skills to properly manage, influence and provoke online interactions.

Being an effective facilitator in an online dialogue means utilising different facilitation techniques such as welcoming and greeting new participants, explaining and seeking clarifications, substantiating facts, resolving conflicts and contextualising participant contributions.

Facilitation is the key component to getting more from online dialogue activities as it can completely change the way a traditional online discussion takes place.

4. Understanding Behavioural Modes

Finally, understanding the behavioural modes present in your online dialogue activities will greatly assist your ability to manage online process and better facilitate your discussions.

There are three main behavioural modes to look our for in your online activities including monologue, debate and true dialogue.

Monologue is what happens when participants visit a forum once, leave their comment and never return.

If you observe this your framing might be incorrect or you need to consider what facilitation techniques to deploy to help reinvigorate the discussion.

A debate occurs when participants read and react to each others posts but are competing to win the debate by presenting their best argument.

This type of behaviour also requires better facilitation and can often be a result of a poorly outlined process.

The third behavioural mode is dialogue.

A dialogue is what happens when participants start to read and respond to each others comments, ask questions and build on their own ideas and understandings of the issues at hand.

Achieving a true online dialogue will most likely occur as a result of effective framing and contextualising, process management and facilitation.

Considering these four key issues and effectively implementing them into your online consultation processes will greatly assist you in getting more from your online engagement activities.

Bang the Table provides training in online dialogue facilitation. If you are interested to learn more about hosting an online dialogue please contact

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