HOW DID THEY DO THAT?
Town Hall Meeting with a technological twist Jim Proce, MBA, PWLF Assistant City Manager City of Rowlett, Texas Member, APWA Leadership and Management Committee
ecently I had the opportunity to engage a community outreach technique that was fun, informative, concise, cost effective, profoundly effective and a bunch of other adjectives that I will spare you from for now. So, everyone in the community was asking, “How’d you do that?”
Telephone Town Hall Meeting (TTHM) is a company that uses similar technology as reverse 911 calls but it is so much more. The first time I did this was when I worked for Palm Bay, Florida (as the Public Works Director). Then-city manager Lee Feldman and I were trying to educate folks on a road funding referendum. When we hit the “go” button it was awesome to actually be talking to thousands of folks all at the same time. How crazy is this I thought? Well, while our referendum ultimately failed (miserably), we had found a costeffective technology where we could engage lots of folks and get feedback in a single hour. Can you imagine getting a town hall meeting done in an hour? I can’t! Typically in our normal outreach process we execute dozens of face-to-face meetings all over town and never get more than two dozen participants at
any one meeting. We seldom get away from folks in less than two or more hours and sometimes these meetings roll on into the wee hours of the night draining every last ounce of energy out of staff.
moderator, a cool guy named Colorado Curt, who is very experienced at this, guides you through the process. By the way, everyone there at TTHM is pretty cool so don’t worry, they got this!
While the calls goes on, you manage the calls through an Internet-based So after many beat-down meetings portal where the TTHM folks and your with never-ending questions about designated “driver” communicate, varying topics and sometimes not even managing the questions. the topics you are there to present, we tried the TTHM here in Rowlett. Hey, it Think about the old classic TV show worked before, why not here in my new “Fraser.” When someone calls in, they playground? talked to Roz, who queued up the calls for Fraser. In this case you can see all And yes, much to my expectations and the callers through the portal with everyone else’s surprise, it worked, and their questions, and you can choose pretty easily too. So how does it work, those questions in a logical order to you ask? make your points to the listeners and Well, we sent the TTHM folks a shape ensure that the message you want file of our city; your GIS folks can do to deliver gets delivered. And unlike this fairly easily. The TTHM folks take Fraser, who sought out the crazies, this file and with their magic powers you can manage them painlessly and (software) they build the call database efficiently. which you ultimately now own for use on the call and even for future calls. On And if that isn’t cool enough… you can poll the listeners too. the designated time and date when the call launches, it hits all of the phones Think about that: a cheap, simple way associated with the addresses in this to gather data fast about your topic, shape file. Pretty cool, huh? your project, your referendum, and your community issues. And if you Before the actual event you record a craft your questions right, you have couple of phone messages (one for great data to support your initiatives. people who are joining the call and Such powerful stuff at your fingertips! one for the folks who don’t answer going to their voicemail). Then the