The gradual institutionalization of defence diplomacy is becoming an increasingly prominent and potentially important feature of security dialogue in the Asian region. This stands in marked contrast to Asia's recent history, where across the region multilateral defence or military interactions have traditionally been regarded with suspicion. This article examines the emergence of Asia's most prominent exercise in defence diplomacy: the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD). Within a relatively short space of time, this forum has developed into one of the most important opportunities for regional defence ministers and senior military officers to meet and exchange views on security issues. Yet despite its growing standing, the SLD has received virtually no scholarly attention. The article begins by reviewing the origins and development of the SLD, before outlining its operating modalities. It seeks to account for the apparent appeal of the SLD, measured in terms of its capacity to consistently attract high-level representation and favourable reviews. The article explores how the SLD might develop in the future and outlines some of the challenges it faces, including the rise of potentially competing mechanisms for defence diplomacy in East Asia. The article closes by outlining a number of areas for further research.