At Robocent, we offer many different mobile-phone related services that can help campaigns and businesses thrive in a digital age. But, can it replace face-to-face interaction?
In this blog, we argue that it can actually be an even better way to get more people involved in the lawmaking and election processes. With Robocent’s TeleTownHalls, the future of town halls and public forums is in your hands.
What’s a Town Hall?
Town halls are a way for local and national politicians to meet with their constituents, either to hear from them on topics of interest or to discuss specific upcoming legislation or regulation. During periods of active political debate, town halls can be a locus for protest and more active debate.
In layman’s terms, town halls are events put on by legislators to hear out the concerns of their constituents. It’s like an open public forum; people have the chance to take part in discourse surrounding a particular issue, or one that they bring to the table.
Town halls can be held by politicians, political candidates, businesses, governing bodies, and any other entity that seeks to hear from its audience.
They usually occur in person, in some sort of municipal building; they’ll require ID and documentation or who is in attendance.
What’s Wrong with Town Halls the Way They Are Now?
Well, it depends on who you ask
What Lawmakers Think of In-Person Town Halls
For some politicians, a traditional town hall seems like one big confrontation. For more controversial lawmakers and politicians, they’re liable to get an irate earful instead of an active conversation.
Many people are also liable to attend town halls merely to cause a ruckus instead of truly participate, moving many lawmakers to enforce strict Town Hall entry requirements and etiquette.
Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa): “Please note that entry will be reserved to constituents of Iowa's 1st District. To verify residency, please RSVP here and bring a photo ID to the town hall. RSVP and photo ID will be required for entry. Information provided during registration must match address on photo ID. … No backpacks, signs, banners, or artificial noisemakers will be allowed into the event.”
Sure people can get some things off of their chest, but the confrontational nature of a town hall leaves some politicians at a crossroads to town hall or not to town hall.
What Constituents Think of In-Person Town Halls
Citizens themselves are even questioning attendance to town halls to begin with.
“I had a long day at work.”
“My son needs a ride to baseball practice.”
“I live far from the venue.”
“I don’t feel like going.”
Those are only four of infinite reasons for both politicians and citizens alike to not hold or attend public town halls.
For one, it’s all based on volunteers. Town halls run on people who take the time out of their day to appear at the venue, ready to listen and/or speak.
Among work, family, extracurriculars and a truly exhaustive political system in the US, it’s not easy to make the effort to be politically engaged. On top of taking the extra time to educate themselves on the issues, they have to drive or commute in some fashion to attend a town forum, which can sometimes be bland.
We at Robocent raise you this: in 2019, is there some way to incorporate technology into the town hall model to make it more convenient and accessible for concerned and politically active citizens?
That’s where TeleTown Halls can come in.
What is a TeleTownHall?
A TeleTown Hall is a new way of conducting town halls that removes all of the fuss and increases the function. Citizens can simply dial into a TeleTownHall to participate in the forum via phone call.
Pairing your telephone-powered town hall with other assets like Facebook Live, or conduct live polls to gauge where constituents are at on issues in real time.
As a public servant, you try your best to make political engagement easy and accessible for the everyday citizen. TeleTownHalls are simply the logical next step.
TeleTownHalls allow for constituents to be active participants in their local or national government without having to leave their homes. It’s taking advantage of the technology at our fingertips and turning it into a tool to create politically active citizens.
Who Do TeleTownHalls Benefit?
Well, everyone, really.
For citizens, it gives more of them a fighting chance to be heard. Since TeleTownHalls are more personal, there’s a better chance that citizens will be able to speak with their lawmakers or chosen candidate.
Even if their lawmaker doesn’t get the chance to answer their questions, a citizen can be immediately directed to voicemail; their representative will have citizens leftover concerns on the top of a checklist.
It’s also a way for constituents to hold their lawmakers accountable; through the nature of digital gatherings, TeleTownHalls have the ability to become more publicized than a regular town hall. People have digital and instantly publishable proof of interaction with their lawmakers or candidates.
In NJ, a reclusive legislator’s constituents have been holding him accountable through “live-tweeting the calls, recording them, and posting the resulting audio files online.” Local news outlets have taken to transcribing this data and citing it when referring to the particular legislator, which could incite action or change.
Not to mention that calling in to a TeleTownHall is completely free for the constituent. While the technology to conduct these telephone town halls is newer and innovative, it will come to no cost to the civilian calling in to participate.
For public figures open to holding a TeleTownHall, the possibilities are endless. Whether they’re on the road or right in town, representatives can use TeleTownHalls to connect to constituents no matter where or when. Campaign tours shouldn’t hinder a politician form connecting with their base, nor should bad weather or any other arbitrary reason.
In a TeleTownHall, representatives have the opportunity to recreate a sort of digital-aged fireside chat. In addition to enabling a connection through phone call, a representative can also go live on Facebook to make the connection that much more personal. That way, it’ll feel like it’s an in-person meeting, but no one has to leave the comfort of their own home.
Plus, in going live on Facebook for your TeleTownHall, you could attract more constituents to dial in or tune in online. You’ll be able to answer Facebook comments or polls in real time, which will incorporate your online audience even more.
Conducting polls for a TeleTownHall is an option even if you’re not using Facebook. Using Robocent’s live polls during a TeleTownHall, you’ll have even more capabilities than you would in person.
An in-person town hall wouldn’t logistically allow for a completely accurate and quick poll in the same way that a telephone-operated one would. You’re able to feed back the results of the poll to the constituents themselves with full accuracy, and respond to the poll results as they come in.
There Will Be People to Assist Both Parties of the TeleTownHall
For representatives and constituents alike, tackling something like a telephone town hall might be a bit foreign. Luckily, services like Robocent prompt you at the beginning of your phone call and guide you to where you need to go in the TeleTownHall. Whether you’re the audience or the speaker, you’ll get a full walk-through of every function possible in the town hall, and which buttons to press to prompt those functions.
Not only that, but Robocent will stay with you to ensure that everything runs smoothly, no matter how long your TeleTownHall is. They’ll be able to troubleshoot any issues as they arise and get your town hall up and running in mere minutes.
Managing your town hall can seem intimidating at first, but Robocent offers a user-friendly online portal that you’ll be able to navigate intuitively. With a clean interface and many options to customize your settings and specify everything to your liking, TeleTownHalls will be a breeze. Not to mention, Robocent staff will be there to guide you every step of the way, before you begin the town hall.
Town forums began in the colonial era of the US; back before it was even a sovereign nation. Together, the founding citizens of the United States built a nation upon the town forum structure. Town forums are a vital part of democracy; as society and technology changes, the way that we address town halls should with it.
As our days grow longer with commitments and people try to fit things that truly matter into their schedules, it’s the public servant’s job to think outside of the box to incorporate the public into democracy. This can be encouraging people to vote, or educating people on the issues that matter.
Going into the future, public servants can now introduce the newly innovated ways of political engagement to their constituents. Luckily, Robocent has your back with this one. With a comprehensive and user-friendly system, the future of public engagement through town halls has never looked so bright.