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Online COnsultatiOn Guide Book


Text by: Crispin butteriss Phd Matthew Crozier Ray Scanlan Tracey Gobey design by:
Aerin Langworthy

A practice guide for engagementHQTM

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Congratulations & Thank You About This Guide if You Read Nothing Else EngagementHQ bibliography Six Principles For Engaging online The Engagement Continuum behaving Strategically For The Long Haul Cultivating Your Community Panel Ten Steps For Planning An Effective Consultation Selecting The Right Feedback Tools For The Job Creating An information Rich Learning Environment bringing Your Consultation Site To Life Promoting Your Consultation overcoming internet Accessibility issues our independent Moderation Process implementing Your Consultation interpreting Your Consultation 4 8 13 16 17 19 21 26 31 37 45 55 57 61 67 65 67

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.


I had my say online.


Perhaps youre entering the world of online community engagement for the first time or are making the switch to EngagementHQ. Either way, there is a lot to think about to ensure the best possible outcomes from your consultations. online community engagement is about much more than technology. While the choice of technology is critical, that choice should arise as an outcome of thoughtful consideration of your objectives. unfortunately this is not always the case and we too often see organisations leaping into using high profile social networking platforms with little or no consideration for their strategic objectives or management processes. in the end, the technology is simply an enabler. As with all traditional offline community engagement, good engagement outcomes arise from good practice. And good practice arises from sound thinking about methodology, strategy, tactics, protocols and procedures and day-to-day practicalities. The bang the Table team have seen well over 400 online consultations launched in the past four years. There have been great successes and there have been lesser successes. Some have surprised us; all have taught us lessons along the way. With this short practice guide we hope to bring a lot of the lessons we have learnt together into an accessible format. it is not a text book and is certainly not the last word in online community engagement. it is also not a replacement for a deliberative strategic planning process by your team. it is however deliberately practical in nature, rather than theoretical. We have attempted to keep things simple without falling into the trap of simplicity. Remember, if you need any advice at just about any time, someone from bang the Table is always happy to chat. if you need deeper advice and support, we can arrange that too. Thanks for choosing EngagementHQ and bang the Table. All the very best,

None of us is as smart as all of us.

Eric Schmidt


Who is this guide for?
This guide has been created specifically for people using bang the Tables online community engagement application, EngagementHQ. it will be helpful for project managers, communications and community engagement teams, as well as the day-today site managers. Many of the strategies, tactics, techniques and tips may be equally useful if you are thinking about using other online engagement platforms in conjunction with EngagementHQ.

So, while we wouldnt wish to discourage you from reading it from cover to cover, you can also choose dip into it at your convenience when and wherever the fancy takes you.

How to read it
Start anywhere; pause anywhere; stop anywhere. it is entirely at your discretion.

Can i get a print friendly copy?

Yes. Feel free to print any or all of the document for your personal use. And feel free to share it electronically with your friends and colleagues. Click to download a black and white print-friendly PDF version (856 KB) Click to download a colour PDF version (5.7 MB)

Whats in it?
The guide contains a range of resources including principles, tips lists, and options matrices to help you get the best possible value out of EngagementHQ. This document is not a textbook, an essay or a step-by-step planning guide.

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Your Role
design your engagement strategy. Create all of the content for your site. Choose your feedback tools. Choose your information widgets. Manage the content on your site on a day-to-day basis. keep a watchful eye in case anything comes up that you need to know about. Answer enquiries about the project. Analyse and interpret the results of the consultation process. Write up the consultation report for the decision makers. Provide 24/7 technical support for the hosting to ensure 99.9% up time. independently moderate any of the applications requiring postcomment moderation 24/7. Provide an initial telephone training session regarding the applications content management system. Provide telephone and email support to you regarding any technical or strategy questions you might have about the application or the best way to use it. Host the software on our servers.

our Role
Supply your online consultation portal based on our EngagementHQ application using the software as a service delivery model.

on request, we can also facilitate the provision of:

in-house training day-to-day site management Consulting support regarding consultation strategy and implementation

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If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.

Donald H. Rumsfeld


our top ten staff tips for getting the very best out of EngagementHQTM.

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build your online community quickly from day one.

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Promote your consultation extensively to maximise participation.

Ensure your consultation is accessible to people without a computer.

Ensure your content meets accessibility requirements.

drive higher participation rates by choosing engaging topics.

Choose the right feedback tool for the job.

Ask engaging questions.

Create engaging content.

keep your copy short and pithy.

Always thank your community and always provide feedback.


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Consultation Hub
Your EngagementHQ home page.

Can be done before (pre) or after (post) a comment landing on your site. We automatically moderate for bad language. We manually moderate for everything else 24/7.

Project Hub
Your project home page.

Smart Forum
A discussion forum. it may be featured on your Project Hub. Alternatively one or a series of Smart Forums may be linked to from your consultation hub.

Something you might like to think about. Content Rich or Content Free facilitators can liven up the conversations in your forums. This is NoT a service we offer.

A simple pre- or post-moderated tool for accepting community comments on your site. Great for ongoing feedback.

Social Media
All of those media sharing sites like YouTube and Flickr. They are social because the content can be readily shared, because people can generally comment on the content, and because anybody can create their own content.

Your community asks you a question. You respond (while tracking issues). Great for project implementation.

brain Stormer
Your community suggests and rates ideas.

Social Networking
different to social media. This is when people collect and interact with their friends and colleagues. Think Facebook and Linkedin.

Really Simple Syndication. drives new content on your site directly into your email inbox.


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The most important question you will need to ask yourself when designing your engagement strategy is, How much decision making power are we willing and able to hand over to our community of stakeholders? it is absolutely critical that you be honest and upfront both internally and externally about the answer to this question. This is as much a question of organisational culture and risk profile as it is to do with the specific project. Your answer will determine both your engagement strategy and your choice of feedback tools.

know yourself, know your promise

use a mix of online and offline strategies

online engagement has many benefits over offline engagement, however like all methods, it also has weaknesses that are not easily addressed. We recommend, budget and resources permitting, that you always use a mix of online and offline activities. This will ensure you maximise community participation and allow you to cross check the results between methods.

No spin

Spin is designed to leverage a communications opportunity for the benefit of a brand. While perfectly reasonable in the context of organisational marketing, its inappropriate in the context of an engagement process around an issue that has the potential to have a real impact on your community. The community wants accurate information so they can make their own judgements about those impacts and any tradeoffs. Attempting to disguise or spin those impacts will ultimately have a deleterious impact on the organisations brand.

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be considerate of your communitys learning styles and needs

it is traditional for most organisations to release information to the public as large text documents. This is despite the fact that around 50% of Australians had poor or very poor literacy skills in a 2006 survey; 500,000 Australian residents stated that they spoke English poorly or not at all in the last three Censuses, and hard copy textbased documents are completely inaccessible for people with impaired vision. There is also a mix of learning styles and needs within the community, all of which makes it imperative that information is provided in a range of easily digestible forms to maximise the engagement breadth and depth.

build a relationship

be clear about your objective & timeframes

it is sometimes easy in the face of conflict, exhaustion and feeling of a lack of appreciation, to fall prey to the notion that it is we who are giving up our time and energy to the community. This is quite wrong. When we engage our stakeholder community we are asking them to make a commitment to us; to give their valuable time, energy and resources that could otherwise be spent doing one of a hundred other things. it is important to respect this commitment and to pay homage to it. This is best done through demonstrating that you are really listening, by thanking participants, and by keeping everyone in the loop about the outcomes of their participation. This will strengthen relationships and make future conversations easier.

Whether you are working online or offline, it is always important to be clear about what you are trying to achieve. The big difference with the online space is that is absolutely critical to communicate this in as few words as possible. You must state precisely what you are doing in just a few words. You must also tell people when you are going to do it. And you must give them a really good reason to give up their time to let you know what they think of your project. All within a few very short sentences, and if possible, just a few words.

Community engagement is far from static. Your engagement objectives evolve through time and life phases of the project. The Engagement Continuum helps you to choose the best tools for the job.


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Grow your online community

one of the major benefits of your EngagementHQ site is the creation over time of an online community of people who are seriously interested in what you are doing. in our experience, these people are keen to be involved and dont mind the occasional email letting them know about the latest opportunity to have their say. by direct marketing to them you will save time and money on wasteful broadcast marketing channels.

Be consistent and be patient

online community engagement is still a relatively new phenomenon and chances are that it is very new to your community, so you need to be both consistent and patient. it may well take your community a little time to get used to this new way of engaging with you. it may also be that it takes a while for your organisation to get used to it.

A little bravery pays dividends

it is tempting to launch your new consultation portal with a low-key issue as a test for your internal systems. Avoid this strategy if at all possible. our experience has demonstrated that a little bravery up front pays dividends in the long term. Controversial projects will naturally be far more engaging that non-controversial projects. use this to your benefit to drive greater awareness of your new way of consulting. The most engaging projects are relatively simple, concrete, and elicit an emotional response. by launching your new consultation portal with a series of more controversial projects you will build your online community rapidly. This will make it far easier to engage the community about lower key issues later.

build your online community faster by:

Launch your site with a series of slightly controversial projects. You will see far great participation rates, which will drive up registrations and pay dividends in the long run. Run a series of online consultations in parallel or in quick succession after your launch to get your community used to the new way of engaging. Run consultations on a number of very different issues in parallel and cross promote them. You will gain the benefit of people discovering your consultation who may not otherwise have noticed. Run online and offline consultation processes in parallel and promote your online consultation portal at every opportunity during your faceto-face processes.

our best advice: be consistent, be patient, persevere.

Consistently drive traffic through your Consultation Hub by always promoting your primary EngagementHQ web address, rather than promoting each of the individual project addresses. use the Consultation Hub as a navigation space to direct your community to all of your live (and archived) consultations. Create a short news story, add a picture and link the heading directly through to the Project Hub. use the Consultation Hub to tell your community about boTH your online and offline consultations. This will increase traffic through the Consultation Hub, increasing awareness of other consultations as well as general awareness of your online consultation presence. Consider using the Guestbook on your Consultation Hub to gather feedback continuously on any subject from your community.


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It is not white hair that engenders wisdom.


Community Panels are becoming increasingly popular as part of a broader community engagement strategy for public sector organisations. Many of our local government clients have established Panels over the past two or three years. Panels differ from open community engagement processes in two important ways: 1. only members of the panel are permitted to join the consultation process. They are therefore often deliberately an exclusive mechanism for consultation; and A great deal is known about the Panel members so that detailed demographic analysis of attitudes can be made. by design they attempt to apply an a-political solution to public policy, which is political by definition. They have tended to rely on surveys as the preferred feedback tool. Surveys, by design, do not encourage intra-community dialogue and do not expose community members to the ideas, thoughts and feelings of other community members.

EngagementHQ provides a number of mechanisms to both support Community Panels and help overcome these methodological weaknesses: Restrict access to surveys to Panel members. Restrict access to comment within Smart Forums to Panel members. Restrict access to private Smart Forum discussions to Panel members. Restrict access to the brain Stormer to Panel members.


Community Panels have a couple of important methodological shortcomings: by design they exclude mass participation. by design they exclude people who do not want to provide a lot of personal information.


Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.



Forum Type Who has access
Closed forums are only accessible to members of your Community Panel or select group of identified stakeholders.

How they work

EngagementHQTM allows login details to be bulk loaded into the system so Council can issue panel members with user names and passwords. This means panellists can be anonymous to one another within the forum but known to Council which allows you to review panellist comments in light of their demographic profiles.

When to use them

When you want to test policy or pressure test an issue before releasing it to the broader public, or As an ongoing communication medium for project Reference Groups.

Why use them

When you absolutely need to know that you are reaching a broad cross section of the community. For example when you are interested in service satisfaction or services planning and need to be sure that you are hearing from more than the usual suspects.



Targeted forums are closed to all but a select niche demographic from your Community Panel.

by including the age range, gender and geographic location of panel members you can tailor access to a specific demographic such as youth, older people, mid-thirties women, teenage boys etc.

For detailed services planning or policy that affects a very targeted demographic.

To ensure that your policy is targeted towards the affected sector of the community and not ambushed by other groups.


Transparent forums are visible to the world but only accessible to your Community Panel.

Your Community Panel members can login and take part in the discussion. The rest of the community can watch the discussion but cannot take part. Transparent forums could also be used for a small subset of the panel or a selected stakeholder group.

When it is important that the consultation process is transparent but it is also important that you have a clear understanding of exactly who is participating.

by limiting access rights to Community Panel members you can provide a strong inducement for others to sign up to join your panel, boosting recruitment. This option also provides transparency to your panel or reference group discussion processes.


Transitional forums allow your Community Panel members to have their say first before you open the discussion to the rest of your community.

Transitional forums can be used at different stages in the consultation process to gather views from a smaller and well understood sample of your community before opening the debate to the wider community.

When the conversation needs to involve the whole community because of broad public interest but the complex nature of the issues requires a very well informed debate with community discussion leaders.

Many complex issues require a stronger commitment from participants to deeper exploration of the issues. Transitional forums provide an opportunity for community members to dialogue with and educate their peers.


Shared forums are accessible by both your Community Panel members and the broader public.

Shared forums are open to the community but use the new enhancements to the EngagementHQTM reporting functions to tag comments from panel members so that these comments can be easily identified in a separate report.

When you need to have a completely open conversation with activated members of the community at the same time as collecting data from a known representative sample.

Shared forums allow you to test whether broader community, or views of a temporary community of interest, mirror your panel member sample.


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begin by identifying the objectives of the project. What will change as a result of the project? What are the positive and negative impacts of those changes?

Map your project

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The next step is to identify what success looks like for your project. This will vary from project to project and is occasionally counter intuitive. For example, it is not always a sign of success to receive lots of lots of comments on your project. define your measurables: site visitors, comments, ideas, downloads, etc.

4 5

define success

identify your stakeholders

Now identify the people affected by changes. They might be individuals or collectives, whole streets or whole places, demographic cohorts, community groups, industry associations, local clubs or the myriad of other possibilities. Write them all down and think about the scale of the impact on each as well as their potential to influence the outcomes of the project.

Measure success

Next, you need to put some targets against those measurables. it is easy to get overexcited about the numbers of people who will be interested in your project. This is the moment to check that enthusiasm with a dose of realism. How big is your audience in reality? it is unlikely to be the entire population of the country, the state, or the town or suburb. it is far more likely that your project will appeal to a very particular target population.

Agree on your consultation objectives

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The next step is to identify your consultation objective for each stakeholder (individual or group) through the various phases of the projects life. Start by dividing the project up into relevant phases on a horizontal axis and listing each of the stakeholders on a vertical axis. Next identify your various forms of engagement for example, information, day-to-day feedback, brainstorming, question and answer, discussion and dialogue, or collaboration. Finally, allocate a form of engagement to each of your stakeholders for each project phase.

only once you have understood who your stakeholders are, what your consultation objectives are, and what your measures of success look like are you in a position to choose your feedback tools. if you want to encourage dialogue, use a Smart Forum; if you want to collect quantitative data use a Survey; if you want to collect ideas use the brain Stormer; and if you want to manage issues use Q&A.

Choose the right tools for the job


Plan your promotion

Another myth of the internet is the idea that when you put something online people will mysteriously discover it. Experience has proven that this simply is not true. Good quality promotion of your consultation site will make the single largest difference between a successful online consultation process and a failed one. Youll find a list of 19 promotional ideas on page 57.

Thinking about implementation

Prepare engaging content

You will need to identify a person with responsibility for day-to-day management of your project on your EngagementHQ portal. This may be the project manager for smaller projects or it may be a communications or community engagement professional for larger projects. Think about how you will interact with the community in the online space. Nominate response times, responsibilities and procedures and protocols ahead of time to reduce stress if the project suddenly picks up pace.

Prepare high quality rich content. it is not good enough anymore to prepare a three hundred-page report and expect your community to wade through the chaff in search of the wheat. it is your role to identify the important content and to present it in a way that makes sense to your stakeholders. Think about videos, slideshows, image galleries, and breaking your documents into bite-sized chunks.


What happens when its all over?


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Phew! its all over; you can relax now. or can you? its not over until youve extracted all of the great quantitative and qualitative data from your consultation, turned it into a feedback report, worked out how you are going to respond to the data, and let the community know. This is the critical and often missing link in the community engagement process. When it is done well, it helps to build lasting relationships. When done poorly, it contributes to consultation fatigue and cynicism.


To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.

Joseph Chilton Pearce



EngagementHQ incorporates seven feedback tools, (nine if you include the basic email feedback form and the Quick Polls). The tools can be used in isolation, in series, in parallel or in any combination throughout the phases of a project. it depends entirely on the nature of your project. The most important thing is to match the tool to the engagement objective.



Feedback Tool

What it is
Smart Forums are a stakeholder community dialogue space. Smart Forums provide an open space for your stakeholders to talk about the more visceral aspects of your project. They provide an opportunity to express emotions as much as they do to talk about issues and share ideas and solutions.

When to use it
use Smart Forums when you want to encourage open discussion, debate or dialogue about an issue. For example, when you have some ideas/ plans in mind but want your stakeholders to critically analyse them.

When not to use it

if there is no scope for your stakeholder community to influence the outcomes of your project, dont use a Smart Forum. by creating an open discussion space, Smart Forums send a clear, if implicit, message that the project is open to change, however minor.


The Guestbook is a deliberately stripped back tool with very few moving parts.

GuEST book

it is essentially an online version of the traditional hotel guestbook.

use the Guestbook when you dont want to encourage a discussion but you do want to provide a space for stakeholders to leave their thoughts. The pre-moderation option also allows you tighter control over what goes live on your site. The Guestbook has been to good advantage as a simple Suggestions box by a number of our clients.

if you need to collect quantitative data of any sort or if you want to encourage the interplay of ideas between your stakeholders.

Q&A is an issues identification and management tool. it is a little like a living, breathing FAQ space but it grows and changes as your project changes, and it has much better analytics so you can keep track of whats hot and whats not.


Q&A is a particularly good option for projects during the implementation phase when a dialogue would be inappropriate and potentially unconstructive but good quality information can nip potential issues in the bud before they flower. We particularly recommend Q&A for infrastructure, development and mining projects during the construction and operational phases. brain Stormer is perfect if you are at the very beginning of a policy development process and want to generate lots of potential solutions. it is also useful as a more sophisticated suggestion box where the community has the ability to influence the prioritisation.

The Q&A tool puts you in the middle of the conversation. if you want your stakeholder community to take ownership of the conversation then it is not for you. it is sometimes useful strategically to step back from the discussion and simply observe. Rather than necessarily feeling the need to defend a particular position or decision, you may find that sections of your community become advocates in your absence. The upside of the brain Stormer is also its downside. You are likely to get a lot of ideas, but unfortunately a lot of them wont be implementable without a great deal of deeper analysis. once you have identified a short-list of options and are a little further down the track in the policy development process you will need to consider ideas in more depth. At this point the brain Stormer is not the right tool and you might want to consider a Smart Forum instead.

brain Stormer is an idea generation and prioritisation tool. it is the tool for you if you are looking to collect a bunch of fresh new ideas.


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Feedback Tool

What it is
Smart Forums are a stakeholder community dialogue space. Smart Forums provide an open space for your stakeholders to talk about the more visceral aspects of your project. They provide an opportunity to express emotions as much as they do to talk about issues and share ideas and solutions.

When to use it
Surveys are a particularly good option for putting quantitative data around qualitative discussions. it is increasingly common to run a survey in conjunction with a Smart Forum. The Smart Forums being used to gather qualitative data, the Surveys to gather quantitative.

When not to use it

Surveys are necessarily a closed experience for the participants. They do not allow any form of dialogue or learning between your various stakeholders. They are therefore not transparent and do provide the strategic benefits that are created by transparent dialogue about complex and contentious issues.



Quick Polls are single question multiple-choice surveys. They are, as the name suggests, a quick and easy way to gather simple data from your site visitors.

Quick Polls are a nice way to gather information that you do not gather through the registration process. You can change Quick Poll questions as often as you like to keep things fresh. They are often used to ask market research questions, such as: How did you find out about this site?

Quick Polls should only ever be used for answering questions that you are prepared to both hear and act on the answer. Never ask Yes/No questions that put your organisations into a binding position.


The Submission Form is one example of the type of forms that can be created using the Forms tool. it quite simply allows your community to supply their contact details and to either type their submission directly into the form or to upload an attachment.

Submission Forms are particularly useful for statutory feedback processes.

Submission Forms require the stakeholders to provide personal contact details. They are therefore inappropriate for less formal consultation processes or inquiries where anonymity would be appropriate.


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The policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all.

Jawaharlal Nehru



EngagementHQTM incorporates lots of different widgets to help make your consultation site a rich learning environment for your participants. A few general tips...

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Always leave the related projects widget switched on. it helps build awareness of ALL of your consultations.

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Add colour and life to your site with a simple image or a more sophisticated streaming image gallery.

dont use all of the widgets at the same time if you can avoid it. it will only clutter the page.

Always put the most important content at the top of the page.

if youre using the Quick Poll, it is most effective at the top of the page.

Rename the widgets to match you project theme and to make them more engaging.

use the FAQ widget sparingly. it tends not to be visited a great deal.

use the Advanced Widgets to stream dynamic content.

Switch off the widget borders for imported content like YouTube videos.

if you have Facebook and Twitter accounts, put these links at the very top of your widget column.


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What it does
The Newsfeed is a simple blogging tool.

ideas for getting the best out of it

include a nice brightly coloured picture with every single news item. if you dont have a relevant picture, use an icon. decide at the outset whether the newsfeed is going to be used to create a simple project list or as a genuine project news area. Always link the news item title through to the relevant project page or other content. keep the text as pithy as possible and try to avoid using the read more function. Add supporting descriptions two or three sentences does the trick to your news item headings.


it can be used as a project blog or to create a simple list with links through to live (and archived) projects.


The FAQ widget provides a space for you to load up a series of questions and answers.

use this space to describe the project rationale, objectives, goals, team and timelines. Add information about the consultation and decision making process here rather than information about the impacts of the project.


The Library can be used to upload any kind of nonexecutable file. So MS word documents, PdF, MS Excel etc are all fine. There is no limit on the number of documents, but there is a limit of 15 MG on the size of each individual document.

break your documents into bite-sized chunks to make them easier to download and easier to search. upload your documents in multiple formats including accessible formats so that people using screen readers can easy access the information. use the folders function to create dedicated library spaces for different stakeholder groups of different types of information. For example, all media releases can go in one folder, all facts sheets in another. upload short audio files to improve information accessibility. upload low-resolution versions of larger image files, such as maps, that are not easily viewed on screen from the image Gallery.

The image Gallery is used to store any picture files.

use the image Galley to store: Location pictures Concept diagrams Project team photographs Small aerial photographs Architectural sketches Community produced art


it is better to use the document Library to store very large image files such a blueprints and plans. The video Gallery is used to locally store video material or stream your videos from third party sites like YouTube. it is a good idea to check your internal social media access rules before you decide whether local hosting or YouTube is for you.

use the video Gallery to store: vox pop interviews with community members. Technical specialist interviews with staff, contractors or independent academics, etc. Project leadership invitations to participate. Location walk-throughs. design fly-throughs, such as architectural renderings or motorway routes. Recordings of public meetings.



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What it does
The video viewer lets you choose one video from your gallery to feature on your Project or Consultation Hub.

ideas for getting the best out of it

use the video viewer to highlight the most important video you want your stakeholders to watch.

vidEo viEWER


The key dates widget is a simple list of important project dates.

use the key dates widget to identify: Submission closing dates Any public meetings dates Any public events you will be attending Shorter timelines for discussions about specific topics


The key Links widget lets you provide a simple list of links to important content on or off your site.

use the key Links widget to point to: Super important content on your EngagementHQ site. Each of your discussion topics.


The External Links widget is exactly the same as the key links widget!

use the External Links widget to point to: Partner websites and third party content. Super important content on your corporate website.


The Project Team widget lets you identify the people who are working on your project. They will appear in your Smart Forum with their position title.

use the Project Team widget to: identify everybody who is likely to comment in your Smart Forums. identify everybody who is going to be out and about representing your organisation and talking about the project. key members of the team responsible for community and stakeholder liaison.


The Related Projects widget automatically creates a list of all of the projects on your site. You can choose to exclude archived projects.

use the Related Projects widget to create a list of quick links to your live projects. its a great way to encourage people to explore your entire site and join in consultations they may not have been aware of.


The Archived Project widget automatically creates a list of your closed projects.

use the Archived Projects widget to create a list of quick links to all of your old projects. its a great way to demonstrate transparency and long run commitment to online engagement.


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use the Advanced Widgets to add dynamic elements to your site.
The advanced widgets allow you to embed and stream rich content from third party sites using the embed code.

Advanced Widget

What it does
Stream content directly from any video hosting site: YouTube, vimeo etc.

ideas for getting the best out of it

use video streaming to drag content from your own YouTube channel or anybody elses channel for that matter.



Stream content from any slideshow hosting service: Slideshare, Slideshow etc.

use slideshow streaming to: Give everyone easy access to your PowerPoint presentations. Present a series of options in pictorial form, such as different design finishes.


Stream content directly from any hosting mapping tool: Google Maps, ovi, bing Maps, Nearfind, etc.

use streaming maps to: identify your project area. identify specific elements of your project.


Stream content directly from image hosting services such as Flickr, Picassa, SmugMug etc.

user streaming images to: Show off your project photos Show off your communitys photos Liven up your site with contextual images Create a scrolling photo book of community members


Stream the latest content from your Twitter or Facebook accounts.

user social media content streaming to: Pull in your latest Tweets or Fb updates Pull in all comments using your keywords Pull in all comments using your project hashtag Pull in any comments from accounts you follow


oNLiNE CoNSuLTATioN GuidE book


Know how to listen, and


you will profit even from those who talk badly.


design Tips
Simple Fonts
keep fonts simple by avoiding underlining, italics and bold, weird colours, or any combination. They distract rather than reinforce.

Content Tips
Call to Action
Make the page title a short, descriptive call to action, rather than simply a project name.

Behavioural Tips
Regular updates
if you are using the newsfeed tool, be sure to regularly update it with project news. You can use it address hot issues, to highlight elements of the project, to report back on events, or simply to provide an update of progress.

Clear & Pithy Copy

keep introduction text to three paragraphs and include why you are consulting and what you will do with their feedback. big blocks of text will put off users and move more interesting information and opportunities to participate down the page.

Lots of Pictures
include a picture with every post in the newsfeed.

Email updates
use the bulk email facility to call participants back into the consultation.

Avoid Read More

Avoid the need to use the read more function in the newsfeed by keeping the project descriptions short and to the point.

Fresh Content Project dates

Provide key dates for project milestones so users can see when they can engage you face to face and when the consultation closes. update the content regularly new documents, videos, and images are all of interest.

HTML Links
use HTML links in intro to improve navigation to surveys and forums. This makes navigation much easier and will ensure users find the content you want them to see.

New Quick Polls

Consider changing the Quick Poll weekly to keep the page fresh.

its not exciting but it will inevitably be one of the most visited areas of your site, so make sure your library is well stocked and ordered.

Monitor the discussions closely and respond to specific questions. You can also point participants to information on or off the site.

Fewer Logos
use logos sparingly once on each page is enough. A page with the same logo can look out of balance but, more importantly, this is a place for people to communicate with you, not for heavy-handed promotion of a brand.

Rich Media
use rich media in order to bring life to the page, such as pictures, video or slideshows. This makes for a more engaging space and will draw users in to learning about your project before having their say.

Specialist Facilitation
Consider inviting internal or external specialists to join in the discussions to provoke deeper thinking about complex issues.

People Pictures
use pictures of people wherever possible they are more engaging than pictures of other things.

Read This
Highlight one document from your library.

independent Facilitation
Another option is to invite a content free facilitator to ask participants following up questions to elicit more complete answers.

visible Tabs bar

You should be able to see the tabs bar without scrolling.

Short Tab Names

keep the tab names short so you can fit more tabs on the screen and so people will recognize these as clickable tabs.

if you have the time, consider throwing yourself into the consultation process. Join the discussion. Ask questions. Pose alternatives.


Letting people know about the opportunity to get involved in your project is critical to the success of any community engagement process. online community engagement is no different from traditional methods in this respect. Here are 20 ideas to get you started.

Place a prominent link to your bang the Table page on your corporate website. Link boxes can be obtained from

Hand out leaflets with the uRL prominently displayed at public events, in the mall, at railway stations, and places where people meet in your community (clubs, pubs, libraries, corner shops).

Email community
direct email local community organisations as above.

Ask local libraries, cyber cafes and other places where people access the web to display signage and/or instructions for joining the consultation.

Easy uRL
Pick an easy to remember uRL and promote it, e.g. www.bangthetable. com/newcastlebuses

integrate you web consultation with your face-to-face processes e.g. give your community reference group privileged access to the forum by making them part of the project team. Ask them to tell their friends and family.

Media Release
distribute a traditional media release with a snappy headline to your local media outlets, e.g. Council wants you to bang the Table about.....

Talk to local schools who, for some issues, may be interested in assisting pupils to participate.

opinion Piece
Write an opinion piece for the local newspaper chances are that they are desperate for content.

Hand out flyers at your public meetings, open-house days, kiosks, etc.

List your consultation on active local Facebook pages and other social networking sites.

Get on the local radio and talk the issue up... remember to mention the uRL.

be active on the forum

interact with visitors to the forum they are more likely to come back and much more likely to tell their friends that you are listening.

use online engagement tools repeatedly to build a community of people you can contact every time you launch a new project.

if you are in a regional area and the issue is big enough, get on regional Tv and talk up the project.

Local groups
Search the internet for local groups with a web presence and paste a link from your project into their forum.

Rates Notice
For councils, put a note in with your next rates notice.

Email staff
direct email your entire staff to let them know about the project make the uRL prominent and ask them to pass on the email to their friends and family.

Promote uRL
Make the uRL prominent on all of your project collateral newsletters, public signage, letterhead.


Mistakes are portals of discovery.

James Joyce

At bang the Table we are firmly of the view that no community engagement technology provides such ready access to the engagement process for the vast majority of the population as the internet. Nevertheless, equality of internet access remains an issue for some population cohorts, particularly older people, poorer people, and new migrants from less affluent backgrounds.

integrate your strategies

it is rarely a good idea to use online community engagement in isolation from other techniques, so integrate your online processes into your broader engagement strategy. Your online tools can compliment, broaden and deepen the experience gained from traditional methods, improving their effectiveness and reach.

Project internet caf

Purchase a bank of internet-only laptops (theyre not terribly expensive in the context of a major project, and can be used over and over again) and create your own project internet cafe as part of a drop-in centre.

for taking the time to be involved. You would also be leaving your stakeholder with new skills and capacity to engage in future.

build stakeholder capacity

Treat your consultation as an opportunity to make a profound difference to a few peoples lives by treating it as a capacity building and skills development exercise. Train your stakeholders in civics, computer and internet use, and English literacy. use your project as a learning environment.

Community centres
Work with local community and youth centres to promote access perhaps at specific designated times or events.

use your libraries

Train up your librarians to help the community use your web site (if you are a council or have a strategic alliance with one), and make sure the project site is the default home page on the computer.

Hire an internet caf for a day

Hire a local internet cafe for a day make an event of it, publicize free net access but make it conditional on contributing to your consultation.

use small files

if you are concerned about broadband access, then dont use video and be sure to load up documents in nice small chunks. break up large documents into chapters, and divide maps into manageable A3 sheets.

internet kiosks
install internet kiosks in public places restrict net access to your project and perhaps a couple of other local service providers (Council, Government agencies, NGos), but make sure your project is always the default home page.

integrate into school curriculums

Talk to the local schools about integrating your project into their computing or perhaps civics course.

buy key stakeholders a laptop

Web access laptops are getting cheaper all the time if you want to do ongoing targeted stakeholder engagement with a smallish group of people without computer and internet access, it might be worth your while purchasing one for them. The gift of the laptop could be the thank you

Computers at public events

Make sure you have computers with internet access at any of your public events open houses, public meetings, kiosks etc.



The wisest mind has something yet to learn.

George Santayana

Moderation is a tricky business that requires skill and experience. At its heart is the need to balance genuine opportunity for the individual to speak out with the necessity to ensure the conversation stays safe and on track. bang the Table has introduced an industry-best practice moderation system that combines the best of pre and post-comment moderation to help ensure that the discussions we host stay safe and on track while still giving the community a genuine opportunity to freely debate the issues that matter to them.

Phase 1
Automated Pre-Comment Moderation 1 Automated Language Filter
The software will pick up comments that include any of our blacklisted words. A message will appear on screen as follows: Our system has picked up that there is some potentially bad language in your comment. We will need to review the comment before it goes live on the site. The following note will appear as a placeholder within the forum until the comment has either been accepted or rejected by the moderator: This comment is currently under review.

Phase 2
Manual Post-Comment Moderation 3 First Pass Review & Triage
one of our team of experienced moderators based in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland or England will read each comment within two hours of it being entered into the site. The comments are triaged by the moderators as follows: Comments that clearly breach the language, defamation, hectoring, spam and other moderation rules are removed immediately; Comments that are clearly within the moderation rules are accepted; Comments requiring further assessment are elevated for review by a senior moderator; if the senior moderation team is unsure how to treat a comment the client is contacted for advice regarding both context and organisational policy. This process occasionally leads to the refinement of the moderation rules.

Phase 3
Community review 5 Community reporting
All of our sites include the report this button against each comment. The community of participants has the option to report a comment if, for any reason, they dont believe it should be on the site. The moderator then takes another look at the comment to see if they have missed anything. This feature can be useful for picking up on local context and user identification issues that we may otherwise miss.

Co-Moderation Model
bang the Table has developed a dedicated moderation portal, PeacekeeperHQ, to ensure all of our sites are moderated effectively and efficiently. on occasions clients may wish to have access to PeacekeeperHQ in order to co-moderate along side the bang the Table moderation team. This can be arranged on request for an additional service fee. The moderation portal allows clients to: Review all comments for any period Review accepted comments Review deleted comments Review black listed comments Review filtered comments Reverse moderator decisions in consultation with the bang the Table team.

2 Pre-moderation

of Potential SPAM

our software will also recognise if an excessive number of comments have been entered within a short time period. The participant account will be temporarily blocked and their comments will be automatically diverted to the moderators for review prior to going live.

if a comment is removed, two things happen: it is replaced on the site by a note from the moderation team notifying the rest of the online community that a comment has indeed been removed and reason for such; and An email is automatically sent to the participant notifying them that the comment has been removed and the reasons for the removal. The participant is given the opportunity to challenge the decision.

4 Second Pass Review

All deleted comments are reviewed by one of our team of senior moderators on a daily basis.

Access rights can be granted at the whole-of-site or individual project level for clients running multiple projects in parallel.



Finally the rubber hits the road! Promoting
A quick reminder; if you dont let your audience know about the consultation they wont participate. So get promoting!

if you have the skill set on hand join the forums and ask participants follow up questions to dig deeper into the motivations behind their thoughts, feelings and ideas.

once youre up and running there may not be a lot to do in terms of dayto-day management of your site. its worth taking a taking a look with fresh eyes to tidy up stray fonts, par down excess text, simplify document names etc.

Add new content to your site as regularly as possible. if there is no new collateral or major project announcements, think about changing the Quick Poll question to keep things lively.

if youre using any of the live feedback tools forums, guestbook, Q and A you need to be watching your site regularly to see what people are saying. Think about setting up an RSS feed to send new community content directly to your email inbox.

Check the quantitative reports regularly to see whether you are achieving your goals. use this information to review and if necessary revise your promotions plan.

Start tagging the forum comments with keywords from day one. This will save you time in the long run and help you keep a watching eye on the key issues participants are talking about.

keep an eye out for issues that need to be elevated to the project team, project manager or to other parts of the organisation.

Join the discussion forum to address minor issues people might have raised. Perhaps they can be pointed in the direction of useful resources, provided with a straightforward answer to a question, or given a phone number to contact for a chat.

use the bulk email feature to let your participants know about project updates, changes to the consultation period, new content on your site and most importantly that your consultation is closing soon!


oNLiNE CoNSuLTATioN GuidE book


its best to start the process of analysing your consultation outcomes well before the project wraps up. This will allow you to adjust your strategy along the way and will save you time in the longer run. EngagementHQ include two major analytical tools, Comment Tagging and Quantitative reports.

Comment Tagging
Comment tagging is a handy way to cluster lots of qualitative data into manageable piles. For example, if you get 1000 comments in your Smart Forum, comment tagging allows you to create groups of like comments by keyword.

Quantitative Analysis
The quantitative reports are broken up into a number of tables to provide ready access to lots of participant data from across your site. interpreting the reports is something of a black art, but there are some rules of thumb we have picked up along the way that may be of use.

Prefer a short list ten is about right of key words or tags bEFoRE you start to tag the comments. This will prevent the tagging process from getting out of hand. it is easy to fall into the trap of using very specific key words rather than broader headings. This is not particularly helpful in the first instance. Multiple lists
You can also create several lists of tags to deal with comments in a variety of ways. For example, you can have issue tags, place tags, people tags, and sentiment tags. This will help to give you a sense not only of what people are most interested in, but which localities they are focused on and how they are feeling about the proposal.

dont panic
The most important thing to note is that low numbers do not necessarily mean that a consultation process has failed, just as high numbers do not necessarily mean a consultation has succeeded. it entirely depends on your objectives, measures and targets.

unique visitors
The first metric to look at is generally the number of unique visitors to your site. Youll find this in the very first table. This is your basic site traffic number and is an indication of both how hot the issue is and how well you have promoted it. if this is exceeding your expectations, then all good. if it is below your expectations, then you may need to do more to promote it.

Start early
Start tagging your comments from day one of the project going live. it will save you lots of time in the long run and will help you to become very familiar with the data.

The second metric we generally look at is the proportion of visitors who have registered on the site. The average over 400 plus projects is 8-12%. We would generally advise that if your registration rate is lower than around 5% then the broader community is not particularly engaged about the issue. if your conversation rate is over around 15% then we would generally say that your community are very engaged and you have a hot issue on your hands.

Check miscellaneous
once you have done one run-through of the tagging process, check to see how many comments have found their way into the miscellaneous pile or are untagged. if the pile is too big see if you can identify any unifying themes to create one or two new tags.

Another useful metric we pay close attention to is the proportion of visitors who are downloading documents or watching videos. This gives you a very good idea of the general level of community interest in the project. if this number is very high at the same time as the number of site registrations is very low, there is a very good chance that your community, while interested in the project, are actually reasonably happy with the proposal.

Sub themes
if any of your piles are still too large to make sense of, you might want to consider identifying sub-themes. For example, if your main theme was transport, subthemes could be public, private, and commercial. The keyword search may be helpful here.



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