We often get asked: “What is the best way to invite people to an online discussion…”, in many cases it will depend on the kind of group you are running, but here is one process that works pretty much all the time.
When you invite participants to take part in an online discussion board it pays to keep it simple! From the outset assume they don’t know anything about the platform or process you are using. This certainly doesn’t mean sending them a very… very… very… long email detailing every aspect of the research methodology. First of all, they wont ‘give two hoots’, and secondly they will never read it! A long-winded explanation only serves to create negative expectation, which ultimately effects the discussion boards participation rate.
To help get you get an online discussion up and running follow this three step process: (I am assuming here you have already screened participants through some kind of recruitment process – this is a topic for another day.):
- I strongly suggest you make contact with participants prior to sending out the actual invitation to the discussion boards. This can be done by email or by good old fashioned telephone. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen discussion boards started where participants have no idea why they are getting an invitation to log into a discussion about XYZ. It only leads to confusion, frustration and in some cases spam complaints against your organisation.
- Send participants the invitation email from the discussion board tool. This should include the board details, start time, how long the discussion will last, how they should contact you if they have any issues, the username and password, and a link to your organisation’s website – this will help reinforce your credibility.
- Include a board introduction for participants when they first login. When participants first log in they will not know where to look, so make sure your introduction page contains a quick welcome message, introduce yourself, make them fell at ease, and reinforce any of the discussion ground rules.
Below I have provided an example for each of the above. Please feel free to build on these when running your online discussion.
Step 1 the pre-invitation warm-up
Please note: This can be done by phone or email. If you are doing this by phone I suggest you also send them an email to ensure the participant’s recall your instructions.
[Add a short intro about your project and remind them who you are and how you came about selecting them for this project]
You will shortly receive an invitation to participate in an online discussion board. A discussion board invitation email will be sent to your nominated email address. This email will contain important information including:
- The start time of the discussion board.
- A website link which will take you to the boards login screen.
- The user name and password you will need to log into the board.
Please keep this information in a safe place! To access the discussion on the scheduled date and time you will need to use the information provided in this invitation email.
7 quick tips to get the most out of the discussion.
Participating in a discussion board is like commenting on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
- Login with your username and password.
- Once logged in, please read any instructions before select a discussion topic.
- You can change your password by selecting the change my password link on the top right corner of your account.
- On selecting a topic you will be taken to the commenting area called the ‘workspace’.
- You can read the current discussion topic, other participants’ comments.
- You will be able to post a comment by either entering text in the comment box at the bottom of the screen, or selecting the blue button under the discussion topic. To reply to a comment select the “Reply” button.
- This board is anonymous, which means you will be assigned a ‘Guest’ name instead of your real name – you can change this name once you are logged by clicking on the Guest alias (please note: use point 6. only if the discussion board’ has been set to us an ‘Alias’).
Step 2 The board invitation.
Dear [first name]
You have been invited to participate in a discussion about [Enter the board topic and a brief description here]
Your discussion group will start: [start date and time]
Your login details are:
- Username: [username ]
- Password: [password ]
You can login at: [board login web address]
If you have any issues accessing the discussion board please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
[Any additional information you need to include here]
Step 3 The board introduction:
You have successfully joined the discussion [Enter the board topic here]. Your moderator for this discussion board will be [Moderators name].
This discussion is about [describe the basic purpose or subject matter of the discussion here]
This discussion will take place over [xx] days and each day a new topic will be posted to the board which you are required to comment on.
Please read each discussion topic carefully and feel free to comment as often as you like. You will see other participants’ comments in the board (please note: this only applies to a public board! Conversations are private if the board or topic is set to private) and you are encouraged to follow the conversation.
From time to time you will see moderator comments and replies to participant comments, please pay attention to any moderator instructions.
Please be courteous and considerate of other participants. If you have any questions you can email the moderator at: email@example.com
If you follow these basic instructions it will set you on the track to a successful and insightful discussion.
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By: Steven Mallows
Co-Founder and CEO