Defining the problem
Exactly what is the problem or issue to be discussed in a consultation? Can all the participants and the organisers come to a mutual agreement on what is involved? If not, they will be talking at cross-purposes, and no one will be satisfied with the outcome.
Often it is necessary to give the participants some information about an issue, or a proposed policy, before starting a consultation (as in a downloadable discussion document, or a web site). This is a form of one-way communications, like most of those seen on http://www.consultationni.gov.uk/ .
Learning from the public: Identifying issues, collecting stories
What issues concern participants? What problems should the consulting body be looking at? What can we learn from participants experiences? These are questions often asked at some stage during a consultation (often, but not always, at the beginning). There are technologies to help collect these stories and issues, from e-mail addresses for complaints and compliments to story-telling blogs.