My work for Telephone Town Hall Meeting (TTHM) began at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when so many other operations stopped and industries came to a halt. Luckily for myself and all the folks already utilizing Telephone Town Hall Meeting virtual forums, TTHM had been in business for over a decade when this new challenge came to pass. I was quickly and efficiently onboarded as an operator. My skills in customer service, writing, administrative support, and ability to easily work from home made this role a perfect fit for me.
During the community shutdowns, our municipal and health care clients needed to distribute critical information in a timely fashion with no ability to meet in person. The public was able to easily tune in to a Teletownhall about what requirements were being introduced or changed in their town, so they knew whether or not they could go out and what requirements were in place for public spaces. Our health care forums with Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries reviewed how to safely navigate the pandemic while minimizing personal and communal risk of infection.
As vaccines were developed, health care Teletownhalls were used to direct seniors and those in elevated risk groups to both find and sign up for COVID vaccinations. The information gleaned from these calls was truly invaluable, and much of it was researched by the TTHM event production team since even our municipal and health care clients were scrambling to find accurate and updated information for this unprecedented time.
TTHM worked with our health care insurance provider clients to reach hundreds of thousands of Medicare members with resources and knowledge for navigating the pandemic. Information was disseminated to members on a state-by-state basis, as each state managed both pandemic restrictions and vaccine rollouts independently. As a TTHM event operator, I was sometimes giving out accurate information before local government entities, clearing up conflicts between information distributed by state and local health care agencies and information distributed by cities, counties and members of the public. We worked with our health care clients to consistently source accurate information from state and local health care agencies for our live forums with members.
Doctors joined many of our forums to help deliver accurate information about the virus, discuss what we could do to protect ourselves, and suggest when a vaccine might become available. I learned a lot about what the doctors and scientists knew just by listening to some of these conversations in between talking to the folks on the call as an operator.
As a TTHM Operator collecting data, I was able to gather and verify contact information from folks who had joined the call and requested to be added to email or phone lists. As a question screener, I listened to and gathered audience question or comments and discerned whether or not they would be a good fit to speak live on the forum. When callers were taken during the live forum, it was exciting for me to hear them use their voice and ask the question they had told me in an attempt to get an answer. On rare occasions, a caller would surprise me by asking something different, and I learned to listen for signs that someone might be trying to pull one over on me and ask an off topic question or disrupt the conversation.
Most of the time, I felt a connection to each person I spoke with and they felt heard and understood. Callers that seemed likely to be disruptive got rated lower in the question queue and notes added to their question summaries to ensure that the client and event moderator had all the information needed to make decisions while taking live questions. During health care forums, the moderator reads all questions to prevent oversharing of Personal Health Information, but other clients have participants ask their questions live so TTHM Question Screeners always have to be very vigilant and observant.
Directing participants back to the forum after this information gathering phase was sometimes simpler when the option of a patchthrough to member support was available for them so that they could immediately get an answer to their question. Most of our health care clients offer a transfer to member support teams around the middle or end of forums after providing updates and answering fundamental questions. By reaching out directly to Medicare and Medicaid recipients, the TTHM team was able to deliver critical information and answer pressing questions at a dangerous and confusing time for those in risk groups.
When everyone in the world could relate to feeling isolated, TTHM facilitated meaningful connections with real people to permeate the isolation and hold space for productive conversations. We still do that work with Medicare recipients, members of the public, labor union members, utility coop members and legislative constituencies to this day.
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!