Throwing All the Noodles to See What Sticks

Posted on October 3, 2019

Today’s Buzz is by Jessica VanderKolk — @ me on Twitter and LinkedIn!
Photo is from our actual town hall.

What I’m watching: Just finished Diagnosis on Netflix. Fascinating, heartbreaking, and I want more episodes!

What I’m listening to: Grinning Streak and Fake Nudes albums from Barenaked Ladies

What I’m reading: Calypso by David Sedaris

I run, and I know better than to wear new shoes or eat a new food on race day — you’re just asking for trouble if you venture into the unknown, when you’re already about to put your body through its paces.

However, we at the City of Battle Creek are fresh from our first town hall experience with our current City Commission, and we tried just about every new thing you might think of that goes into such an event. Many were technology-related. We live dangerously!


As a side note, this isn’t what I was going to write about today, but Battle Creek is abuzz with Buzz-worthy items, and this is the most recent. Our City Commission’s goals include more engagement with our neighbors, in part, by holding town hall meetings on issues important to the community.

Issue one? Economic development. This just happened Monday evening, so we are are still debriefing and analyzing, but here are some of the things we tried, and how they went.

Facebook Live … plus!
We have used Facebook Live occasionally, for press conferences, events, and a live Q&A. I have used my phone, and purchased an external microphone to improve the poor audio.

The town hall was a big deal — or we hoped it would be — and we wanted to aim for higher quality. Thanks to a connection in our IT Department, we hired a man who live streams his local church services with Boxcast, an external streaming device I had not heard of, but would now consider purchasing (or something similar).

Concept proved!

It worked great, with excellent video, and the Boxcast connected directly to the room’s audio system (not one comment about low audio). I sat at my laptop and monitored comments, taking viewers’ questions live. It was a bit frenzied, but it worked.

Simultaneous interpretation
I talked in a previous Buzz about our language access work. For the town hall, one of our commissioners suggested a form of live interpretation that involved headsets.

We had not tried this before, our local interpreters had not interpreted with the technology before, and we could not find the equipment locally. A great start! However, our Spanish interpreters were excited to try it, and we were able to rent the equipment from a company that quickly shipped it to us.

Unfortunately, no one attended who primarily speaks Spanish. We were still able to test the equipment and concept, as our commissioner and her husband are part of the Latino community, and he agreed to wear a headset.

Concept proved!

Our headset tester said he understood the interpreters, and the interpreters enjoyed the experience. Feedback we’re working through — 1) Our panel spoke a bit fast, so it was hard for the interpreters to keep up at times and; 2) The interpreters sat at the back of the same room, and the talking was a distraction to some folks, especially because we didn’t think to announce at the beginning that the live interpretation would take place.

For this equipment, we must analyze whether it will be more budget friendly to make a purchase, or rent when we need it.

Audience participation
We used several methods to request audience/viewer participation and feedback.

One was Mentimeter, a live polling service we started using earlier this year, after researching a few. If you’re not using one of these, you create slides with a survey question on each. When you project it to the audience, they download the app or visit the website, and enter the code on your slides, assigned by Mentimeter. From their devices, each person can answer your questions live.

Mentimeter sample

Here’s one of the questions we asked. These gave us some great information about where we can focus education on various economic development issues (tools to start a business; ongoing projects folks want to hear more about). Plus, it’s a fun, anonymous way to participate.

Before the town hall, in our promotional materials, we asked people to submit their questions ahead of time, on social media or by email. We received two this way.

At the town hall, we had a microphone for anyone comfortable to speak their questions live, and offered index cards for anyone who preferred to write down a question. As I mentioned, we also encouraged questions on the Facebook Live stream.

Mix of concepts proved!

We received questions from all of these … more than we could answer! We said throughout the event that we would take every question and create a Q&A document to share on our website and social media. I imagine placing a portion of it in our paper newsletter, too. We’re working on that Q&A now.

Ron questions

Overall, with preparation of many hours, and with the skills of many staff members and commissioners, we consider the town hall a success! Neighbors asked great questions, and we had good attendance (35-40 in person, 48 peak on the live stream, with the video reaching several thousand). We imagine holding our next one in the spring. Topic to be announced!

Close window