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A Guide to Launching Your Microforum

The iTownHall MicroForum is similar to the iTownHall TeleForum, but is used to reach a smaller demographic. You are able to reach out to 1,000 outbound and 500 inbound participants, you can have up to 30 host lines, 15 screener lines, and 30 positions in the Q&A between 8 am and 12 midnight ET. You are not required to schedule a MicroForum. You are able to launch the call on your own, and there is a dedicated support staff available through the Chat with Support button. 

MicroForum Preparation | Create and Launch a MicroForum | Running a MicroForum

MicroForum Event Preparation

The Players

For a successful Microforum, we suggest you assemble a team for your call that includes a moderator, a host, and screeners.

  • Moderator: The moderator is responsible for welcoming participants, explaining how to ask a question, organizing participants to go live, and announcing poll questions if you plan to include them. The moderator acts as a "gatekeeper" or "MC" for the event.
  • Host(s): The host (or hosts) will do most of the speaking during the call. This is the individual or group that the audience wants to hear.
  • Screeners: The screeners will screen participants who would like to ask a question. We recommend that you have 2 to 3 screeners for your event.

Training

We suggest scheduling training (training@iconstituent.com) to practice using the MicroForum interface prior to the live call. Trainings are available Monday through Friday between 10 am and 4 pm ET. Training should be scheduled 1 to 2 days before your event.

Pre-Recorded Sound Files

There are potentially five sound files that need to be recorded or uploaded before the event:

  • Pre-call reminder - live answer message (optional)*
  • Pre-call reminder - answering machine message (optional)*
  • Live event - live answer message (required only if dialing out to a list)
  • Live event - answering machine message (required only if dialing out to a list)
  • Live event - post call voicemail (required only if you plan to allow participants to leave voicemail messages after the microforum ends)

*Pre-call reminders are announcement calls broadcast to your call list prior to your event. (Typically a day or two beforehand.) Doing an announcement call can help refine your call list and increase participation. Contact your sales representative if you are interested in adding this feature. See "Setting up Your Announcement Call" for instructions on how to set up and launch the announcement call.

Sound file requirements:

  • All recorded messages must include the speaker's name and a contact phone number.
    "Hello, This is Congressman/woman Smith. I will be hosting a live toll free Telephone Town Hall Meeting regarding (issues) next Tuesday the 25th. I will be calling you at this number around 5:00 pm. All you will have to do to be connected to the call is stay on the line. To be removed from our calling list, please press 9 now. For more information, visit my website at (web address) or call my office at 555-867-5309. I look forward to speaking with you."
  • If you are a congressional client, you MUST get prior Franking Approval for all scripts that will be used for outbound messages.
  • If this is a campaign call, you must also announce who paid for the call.
    "This call was paid for by Friends of XX."

Record sound files:

  1. Call our automated recording line at 800-619-5518.
  2. Enter your PIN followed by the # (pound) key. 
  3. Follow the instructions your are provided over the phone.

See our full article on recording sound files.

Review and rename sound files:

If you would like to review your sound files, you can manage them from the iTownHall client manager site. See our full article on reviewing and renaming sound files.

Upload a Call List of up to 1,000

While you will have the option of uploading your list file when you launch your MicroForum, you will still need to prepare the list ahead of time. 

  1. Your list must contain a name column and a phone number column.
  2. Telephone columns can contain parentheses, dashes, and spaces, but any letters or any extra/not enough numbers will render the number unusable.
  3. Save your list in .csv format.
  4. If you'd like to upload your list ahead of time, see our instructions on uploading call lists. You can also preview and rename your list.

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Create and Launch a MicroForum Event

When you're ready to launch your microforum, login to the iTownHall Client Manager system at http://itownhall.iconstituent.com (no "www"), and enter your credentials. Once you are logged in, locate the Teleforum tab on the top navigation bar, and select Launch MicroForum from the dropdown menu. You will see the MicroForum Launch screen.

Step 1: Setup

The Set up page collects all of the necessary information to launch a microforum. Fields marked with a * are required.

 

  1. Microforum Description: Please enter the description for your event. The description can be up to 28 characters. (This is a required field.)
  2. Max Hosts: The maximum number of Hosts for a Microforum event is 30. (This is a non-editable field.)
  3. Max Screeners: The maximum number of Screeners for a Microforum event is 15. (This is a non-editable field.)
  4. Max Inbound Participants: Enter the estimated number of inbound participants for your Microforum (not to exceed 500) as accurately as possible.
  5. Max in Queue: The maximum number of participants that can be in the Question and Answer Queue during the Microforum is 30. (This is a non-editable field.)
  6. Post-Conf Msg Prompt: The post-conference message prompt is one of your pre-recorded sound files. If you select a sound file here, the participants will hear the recording after the conference has ended. After hearing the message, they will hear a tone and will be able to record a message. This sound file should include instructions to let the participants know that they can record a message. If the sound file you need for this event is not in the drop down list, click on the Upload New Files button. (This field is optional.)
  7. Launch an Outbound Broadcast: If you will only have dial-in participants, leave the box unchecked. If you have a call list that you are dialing out to, then check the box. The Setup page will expand with additional options.
  8. Outbound Caller ID: The Outbound Caller ID pre-populates based on your account, as does the restricted option. To change either of these, contact support@iconstituent.com.
  9. Live Answer: The live answer sound file is the sound file that is played when the broadcast system detects that a person answers the phone. (This is a required field.)
  10. Voicemail: The voicemail sound file is the sound file that is played when the broadcast system detects a voicemail rather than a person answering the call. (This is a required field.) If you do not want to play a message for voicemail, check the box below the field.
  11. Phone Number List: Select the correct phone list from the dropdown menu. If you need to upload a new file, click the Upload New Files button.

Upload New Files

The Upload New Files function provides a convenient way to upload list and sound files for your event as you're setting up the event. Click the Upload New Files button to see the file uploader appear.

  1. Add File: Click the Add File button and browse to the file on your computer. Omce selected, click Open to add them to the file uploader. (Acceptable formats are .csv, .txt, .wav, .mp3, and Zip files.)
  2. Upload: Click the Upload button after the file or files have been selected. The file(s) will be uploaded and the file uploader will disappear if the upload is successful. If an error occurs, a popup window will display. The upload can be resumed by hitting the Upload button again. The list of files will remain in the file uploader until all files have been successfully uploaded.
  3. Remove All: Click the Remove All button to clear the files from the file uploader.
  4. Hide File Uploader: Click the Hide File Uploader button when finished. The files will now be available in the appropriate dropdown lists.

Step 2: Launch

Click Start MicroForum to launch the event. The Start MicroForum button will setup the MicroForum interface but will not dial the call list if you have set up an outbound broadcast. If you need to return to the Setup page, click the Go Back button.

Step 3: Summary

The Summary page includes links to access the interface, call numbers, and email icons to send out specific information to staff or participants.

  1. MicroForum Full Control Panel: This is a direct link to the interactive MicroForum interface. Moderators, hosts, and screeners can be provided this link to paste into a browser.
  2. MicoForum Read-Only Panel: This is a direct link to the view-only MicroForum interface. This can also be copied and pasted into a browser. This should be shared with individuals who would like to observe the interface activity without permissions to interact with the interface.
  3. Access Number for Hosts: This number, along with the corresponding ID Code should be shared with the Moderator and all Hosts. To email the MicroForum links and the Host number, click the email icon next to the number.
  4. Access Number for Screeners: This number, along with the corresponding ID Code should be shared with each screener. To email the MicroForum links and the Screener number, click the email icon next to the number.
  5. Access Number for Participants: This number, along with the corresponding ID Code should be shared with the participants who will be calling into the MicroForum. To email the Participant number, click the email icon next to the number.
  6. Email Complete Info: To email all of the links and access numbers, click the email icon.

You can choose to either end the MicroForum or go to the MicroForum's full control panel using the buttons at the bottom of the page.

(Clicking the Go To MicroForum button will take you to the full control panel. Since you will leave the summary page, we recommend emailing yourself the complete info by clicking the email icon next to "Email Complete Info.")

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Running a MicroForum Event

The MicroForum interface and MicroForum dial-in numbers will be activated as soon as you click the Launch button on the Launch page.

Calling into the MicroForum

Dial your pre-assigned MicroForum toll-free number for your role, and enter the MicroForum ID code that corresponds to your role (Host, Screener, or Participant).

Logging into the MicroForum

  1. Access the MicroForum Interface: You can select either of the MicroForum panel links on the summary page or click Go To MicroForum to join the micoforum event.
  2. Enter your chat name: You will be prompted for a chat name. This will be the name that will appear when you chat in the chat section of the interface.
  3. Label your line: In the "Hosts" section in the center of the screen, look for the line that corresponds with the phone number from which you are dialing. Click on the the text link "Dial in Host" or "Dial in Screener" next to your phone number and enter your name. (Screeners and Hosts will be listed in the "Hosts" section. The lines of those who called in as hosts will be orange, indicating that they are live for all to hear when the event begins. The lines of those who called in as screeners will be white. Screeners are not live on the main call. They are muted unless screening a participant. Both hosts and screeners have megaphone icons on their lines. While the automatic setting is for hosts to be live and screeners to be muted, clicking the megaphone allows you to mute or unmute your line as needed.)
  4. Identify your Screener line: If you are a screener, you must identify yourself by clicking the "i"  that appears in your row. The "i" will change to a checkmark symbol and move you into the "Screener View." (You will not be able to screen participants if you do not identify your line.) 

Outbound Broadcast

If you are dialing out to a list, you will be able to manage your outbound broadcast in the upper left. When you first enter the MicroForum interface, you will see that your broadcast is paused. Click the Resume Broadcast button to start dialing out to your call list.

Once you resume the broadcast, you will see the option to pause the broadcast. After the broadcast is complete, you will have the option to resubmit the failed calls to try those numbers again. All the participants who have joined the event will be in the "Participants Queue" at the bottom of the screen.

General Information Box

The General Information box provides status and attendee information. You will also see a few controls here. 

  1. Music Hold: When the MicroForum begins, music hold is automatically turned on so any participants cannot here the hosts and screeners as they are setting up. When you are ready to go live, turn music hold off
  2. End MicroForum: Clicking the End MicroForum button will end the event. If a post-conference call was added, then the participants left on the call will hear that message and be able to leave their own messages. Don't click this button until you are actually ready to end the event.
  3. Chat with Support: If you need assistance during your event, click the Chat with Support button. 

Chat

Before entering the MicroForum interface, you were prompted to enter a chat name in order to utilize the chat tool. Hosts will be talking to a live audience and screeners are muted during the event except when screening participants, so the chat box will be the hosts' and screeners' means of communicating with each other during the event. Everyone who is logged into the interface will be able to use and view the chat.

Q&A Queue

When participants enter the MicroForum, they appear at the bottom of the screen in the Participants queue. They will be in music hold until music hold is turned off, and then they will be listening to the hosts. To ask a question, the participants must dial *3  on their phones. Dialing *3 will move them up to the Q&A queue where they will be screened and then possibly go live with their question. (The moderator should provide instructions to the participants periodically during the MicroForum so they know to dial *3 if they want to ask a question.)

Views

In the upper right corner, there are 3 tabs for you to choose the view that works best for your role. Everyone starts in the "Full View," and screeners are moved into the "Screener View" automatically when they identify their lines. You can move back and forth between views as needed by using the tabs across the top right.

  • Full View: See the full picture. This view allows you to keep an eye on everything that is currently happening with the MicroForum.
  • Screener View: This view is optimized for screening. You only see participants in the Q&A Queue, and you have the option of showing unscreened participants only.
  • Host View: This view is optimized for the hosts. You only see participants in the Q&A Queue, and you have the option of showing screened participants only.

Screening Participants

When a participant enters the Q&A Queue, the screener will click the SCREEN button that appears on the participant's line to screen the participant. Both the screener's and the participant's line will be highlighted in green, indicating that they are on a separate conference line. We have sample screener scripts to help you move quickly through the queue.

  1. Complete the necessary information: The screening form will appear. The most important fields are at the very top - Name, Question, Notes, and ranking stars. (Name, Question, and Notes are all free type fields. Click on the starts to rank the question. Higher ranked questions will move to the top of the Host View.)
  2. Save and Return to Queue: This button will save any information you typed and return the participant to the Q&A Queue. (If you turned "Show unscreened only" on, then you will no longer see the participant in the Screener View. They will display in the Host View.)
  3. Cancel and Return to Queue: If you don't get a response from a participant, you can select this option to return them to the Q&A Queue so you can move on to the next participant.
  4. Save and Remove from Queue: If the participant requests not to go live or if you determine based on your conversation that the caller should not go live, then select this option. Any information you added will be saved, the participant will be removed from the Q&A Queue. They will still be on the call as a listening participant.

You are now able to screen the next participant.

Making Participants Live

If you are a host or moderator, you may want to move into the Host View. Select the option to "Show Screened Only" so that you only see participants who have been screened in the Q&A Queue. You will see a Live and a Remove button in every participant's row. Clicking Live will make the participant live on the call. Clicking Remove will remove the participant from the Q&A Queue. They will still be on the call as a listening participant.

When you click the Live button, introduce the participant so that he or she knows to ask the question. You will see a couple additional options appear under "Live Information" at the top of the screen.

You have the option to mute the caller if you would like to have a back and forth conversation; however, we recommend that you click the Done button as soon as the participant has finished asking the question to avoid possible interruptions and letting any one participant monopolize the event. (You will see a counter for how long the participant has been live on the top right of the Live Information box.) After you click Done, the host can give his or her reply. The participant is still on the call as a listening participant and will be able to hear the answer.

Ending the MicroForum

When you are ready to end the event, return to the Full View and click the End MicroForum button that appears in the General Information box.

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