Speed dialogue basically involves participants in a participatory process having 3-10 minutes to 'interview' or question a witness or panellist. This might be done in pairs, but usually takes place as part of small group deliberation.
Problems and Purpose
The ultimate aim of speed dialogue is to enable participants to ask the questions they want to ask, in a focused but relatively informal manner.
Speed dialogue is best used towards the mid-point of a deliberative process like a citizens' jury or assembly. It is a useful and fun technique for participants to extract the information they want from expert witnesses or panellists. It is best used at the mid-point because participants will likely have begun to identify some key issues they want to find out about, but as yet they have not begun to compile their recommendations or decision yet.
Origins and Development
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How it Works
Speed dialogue can take different forms. During the UK Pilot Citizens' Assemblies, participants had 3-10 minutes to 'interview' or question a witness or panellist. Witnesses spent the same amount of time with each small group and rotate round, like speed-dating. Speed dialogue can also just involve participants deliberating in small groups with the assistance of a facilitator. This might be used as part of either idea generation or decision-making phases .
Speed dialogue may be just one technique of many in a practitioner's toolkit. In a citizens' jury for example, it will likely be one of several methods used throughout the process. However, whole events can be organised around the concept - much like speed-dating. Speed-dialogue events are often about networking or used as a way of bringing different groups of people together.
Speed dialogue can also be used simply as an icebreaker for groups of most sizes. In its simplest form it just involves turning to your neighbour and introducing yourselves.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The benefits of speed dialogue during deliberation are that it gives more opportunity for more voices to participate. Not everyone is comfortable asking a question in front of a panel or audience. Speed dialogue offers a more intimate atmosphere.
Because talking time is limited, participants may be able to refine their questioning skills to use the time effectively - there is no time to explore tangents in 3 minutes! Speed dialogue can encourage greater focus from participants.
Speed dialogue encourages greater participation than the typical Q&A format. Often during a deliberative process, participants get information overload and fatigue. Speed dialogue re-injects some energy into the room and can really bring the issue to life for some participants.
Speed dialogue gives participants a sense of ownership in a deliberative forum. They no longer have to wait for the chair or facilitator to pick their question. Small groups can pursue issues that maybe others in the room aren't interested in. Speed dialogue is empowering.
Finally, with experts being interrogated, running from table to table whilst citizens lean into a tight huddle and hone their next question, facilitators ringing bells to signal time, speed dialogue brings energy and a sense of fun to proceedings.
 Malcolm, J. (2008) Multi-Stakeholder Governance and the Internet Governance Forum. Perth: Terminus Press.