Managing a Discussion Forum

Last time, we talked about the Flipped Classroom and how much more successful your advisory board will be if your members come to the table with knowledge. Part of gaining that knowledge will come from the materials you give them, but another part will be the dialogue they have with each other prior to the meeting.

The Impetus InSite platform® is a portal we built for these discussion forums to happen, as well as a central repository for all the reading and viewing material you choose to disseminate.

But more than that, it’s a place for you to manage that discussion. And you’ll want to do that for a few reasons. Firstly, you don’t want the conversation to veer too far off track because then you’ll have to waste valuable time in the meeting bringing it back. Secondly, maintaining a presence on the forum is smart because your members should know you’re as invested as you are.

Here Are a Few Tips for Effective Forum Management:

Maintain a Presence

With the Impetus InSite platform®, you don’t have to remember to log in each day to see what’s happening. When one of your advisors posts something – anything, you will receive a copy via email, with a link to view their comment online. It takes only a moment to add a quick acknowledgment, comment or question back, and it can make all the difference. Show appreciation for their participation – and perhaps learn a little more – by posting a follow-up question, or asking for further clarification. This keeps a two way dialogue alive and can keep the conversation moving in the direction you want.

Never Delete, Only Respond

You may come across a post you don’t like. Perhaps it’s one of your members and their position is not what you’d like it to be. But the good news is they’re being honest, and this is valuable information to you. As brilliantly stated by Sun Tzu “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

You can rephrase their concern and post it back to the group and deal with the issue you hand. You can message them directly for more clarification. Or, in extreme cases, you can remove the poster from the board or working group. But deleting is censorship, and that’s the absolute last thing you want.

Read Every Word

This doesn’t just go for the posts. If one of your members add a piece of content, be sure to read through it carefully ⎯ and not just because you might learn something new yourself. And be sure to comment on it. If you liked it, tell them. If you didn’t, tell them that too, but tell them why.

Inject a Bit of Fun Once in Awhile

Even if the subject matter of your advisory board or working group is dead serious (literally or figuratively), there’s always room for a smile. Maybe it’s an occasional meme? Maybe it’s a funny story from a similar board or group? The point is this: a little surprise like that goes a long way in giving your members a reason to keep logging back in. And the more active they are, the more they’ll learn and the more prepared they’ll be to add value over the lifecycle of your board or group.

Do you have other tips for discussion forum management? We’d love to read about them. Post them in the comment section below.