When I first began working for TTHM, we were all learning about what it meant to live through a global pandemic. Office meetings, physical gatherings, big events, and local businesses were closing, moving outdoors, being canceled, or otherwise being dramatically changed.
This included government offices and events. Municipal town hall meetings were no longer able to be held in person and city and county leaders were forced to find another way to connect to a large citizen audience to provide important updates and information. TTHM uses virtual town hall meetings to reach a targeted audience of citizens and provides the professional moderation, staffing, and alternate-language interpretation options needed to include broad segments of each city and county.
Part of my job as an operator became keeping callers calm enough to listen to information. Although TTHM has offered municipal teletownhall forums for more than a decade, many callers had never experienced a teletownhall meeting. Some citizens were quite upset that they couldn’t go to the city hall or county seat to be a part of the town hall meeting like they were used to doing. Many of these folks quickly learned that the municipal leaders were also trying to learn how to navigate a new and rapidly changing reality while keeping everyone safe and informed. Still other citizens in the audience would try to derail the conversation to serve a personal agenda, but a big part of being a TTHM operator has always been weeding out participants who were angry and aggressive or who were attempting to bait the leaders on the call and switch to an off-topic rant. Our operators excel at making sure event producers – our moderator and client decision makers – have all the information they need to choose the questions that best serve the most participants and the goals of the forum.
Explaining the teletownhall format was another task for me and my fellow operators: what the forum was about, how callers could participate or find more information, and helping listeners formulate questions to make sure what they wanted to ask would be easily understood and answered live. Allowing folks to engage in controlled Q&A resulted in well-informed and up-to-date citizens who had less to fear. The ability to run digital polls gave municipal leadership a true representation of what their audience valued, learn what the public was most concerned about, and discover whether residents needed more information or offline support.
All in all, the pandemic was the perfect time to begin working as an integral part of an efficient mass-communication production team. My listening skills and experience in high-stress situations, especially when it came to deescalating upset callers using nonviolent communication, helped me find my place quickly and improve our teletownhall events for clients and listeners alike.
As the pandemic slowed down, our municipal clients have continued communicating with citizens in this way because it is so much more efficient and easy to moderate than in-person town hall meetings. I’m happy to be part of a team that cares about getting valuable information out to residents in need, and we gear our event setup and production process to doing exactly that every time. Contact Us for a demo of our production process and to discuss how our team can facilitate city, county and school district outreach.
As a TTHM Operator since 2020, Becca has collected thousands of e-newsletter opt-ins and processed even more live questions for a myriad of telephone town hall events. Producing forums for school districts, political campaigns, medical insurance providers, labor unions, sitting legislators and cities around the country has helped Becca to gain a wealth of knowledge from client speakers and event participants. Becca works from her home office on Florida’s Gulf Coast, but she has produced live forums while working remotely from Colorado, Montana, Iowa and lots of other places in between!