As people are spending so much time online, digital engagement tools are becoming increasingly popular among community consultations. It's easy to be skeptical about taking these consultations online that have long taken place face-to-face, but it's important to realize that if we don't create a space for stakeholders to give feedback, they will create their own.

We've all seen the facebook pages that residents create which spread misinformation, so why not be proactive and give them a digital engagement platform where they can go to give feedback while you control and moderate the information that is presented.

It's essential to get creative and think about how to best reach residents and stakeholders in your own community, but here are 7 ideas of how you can incorporate digital engagement tools with in-person community consultation events.

1. Bring Ipads or tablets to in-person consultations

No matter where you are interacting with your community, always bring Ipads or tablets to spread awareness about the opportunity to engage online.

2. Use your interactive map and other tools live at community meetings

A great way to use your digital engagement tools at community meetings is to place your map up on a projector so attendees can see it and invite them to give feedback and watch it go live up on the screen.

3. Treat your digital engagement platform as the go-to place for community information

Don't think of digital engagement tools as a one and done consultation. If you use a digital engagement platform as a go-to space for residents to stay informed and give feedback, over time you will essentially gather more and more feedback as your community learns that this is a space that they know and trust that their voice will be heard.

4. Grow a loyal and engaged community

As your community realizes that you want to hear what they have to say, they will begin to trust their local government and become more involved as they realize that their feedback actually goes toward decision making.

5. Record videos of speakers at community meetings and place these on your digital engagement platform

Many people are worried that online engagement takes away the authenticity that is felt during in-person meetings. But why not bring it all together? One great thing about having a community engagement platform is that it is so simple to record the speakers from your face-to-face meetings or the entire meeting itself and post it on your platform for those who weren't able to attend so they can stay up to date on any topics that were discussed at the event.

6. Always promote your online engagement platform at all offline events

The people who are most invested in your development projects are often going to be the ones who show up at community meetings. So how can we leverage these people's passion to spread the word in order to gather more feedback? Promote the online engagement opportunity every single time you interact with the community in person. This can be done with postcards or flyers, word of mouth, or simply showing them the tools on a tablet in person. More than likely, they will be excited to tell everyone they know that there is a way that they can participate with minimal effort, right from their phone or computer.

7. Mirror your online consultation at your in-person consultation

This is one of the best ways to gather consistent feedback between both online and in-person consultations. It's easy to print off your Social Pinpoint survey and blow up a printing of your interactive map so those residents at community meetings get the same engagement experience. All you need to do is upload that data to your online engagement tools and then you will have all of your consultation data in one place.

The most important thing to remember when you are creating an online engagement strategy is that your digital engagement platform will NEVER replace your face to face strategies. However, it can greatly enhance your consultation along with the feedback you receive. It's extremely important to combine both online and in-person engagement efforts to get the most out of your consultations.

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