So, now you started a discussion. Your readers have begun engaging with your topic. But, how do you ensure your readers continue the dialogue? How can you make your discussion sticky?
My earlier post discussed ways to create and launch your online dialogue. In this post I share thoughts on sustaining interest among your readers.
Look up these tips to extend the impact of your online discussion.
Moderate the discussion: Once the discussion has begun look out for comments that steer away from the conversation. Help the group to keep the discussion tightly centered. Think of your role as the catalyst and team meeting facilitator. You want readers to get the most of the conversation and therefore keeping the discussion within the framework defined allows for a more meaningful dialogue.
Use storytelling: Divide the discussion into segments and include stories that connect them. Share personal experiences that readers can identify with. If you are using names of people be sure to have got permission to share. ‘Crowdsource’ other stories and those may trigger thoughts for future posts that you write.
Have leaders reframe the dialogue: If the discussion is taking place inside your organization invite leaders to comment on the relevance and importance of the conversation. Give leaders a ‘heads-up’ on the need for their intervention. Choose leaders who have reasonable internal ‘clout’.
Summarize the discussion: Some readers may have joined the conversation late. It is useful to review the discussion in a nutshell. Summarize the salient points within the thread. You can create a new dialogue box if needed.
Recognize people who contribute: This is very crucial in sustaining the dialogue and encouraging others to pitch in. Highlight readers whose insights have shaped the dialogue. If you plan to use their recommendations mention it on the discussion thread.
Share tips and research: You can enhance the discussion by adding key research perspectives for the benefit of readers. Shape tips readers can use after the discussion and include it in your summary.
Probe for insights: Sometimes as a moderator you may need to seek clarifications on the comments that readers post. Ask for sources of their information if you plan to highlight key points that others can benefit. Invite readers to add more color to their insights.
Acknowledge and thank participants: Appreciate the effort made by participants and the time spent in adding value to the group. Invite them for future discussions and also seek topics of interest.
Be open to feedback: When you ask for feedback, don’t expect to only hear what you expected. For example, I commented on a person’s discussion and the individual later told me that she wanted me to say something that appealed to her viewpoint rather than sharing a contrarian thought!
Bring the discussion to a logical end: Your readers’ time is precious and you want them to use it judiciously. Call it a wrap when you are done so that readers know when it is time to focus on the next topic.
Have other suggestions? Post them here.