An AmericaSpeaks Virtual Summit provides the most engaging, scalable, authentic, deliberative experience to a distributed group of online participants that is possible with today’s technology. It creates an environment where people can learn, change their minds, and find common ground – without having to be physically in the same place. It is a powerful input tool that can be used to gather input from very large groups of people spread throughout the country.
- Live video. Live video broadcasts can be watched on television and/or by webcast. They connect multiple meeting sites or a central presentation with individual users throughout the world.
- Virtual Tables. Offer a phone number and specific moments in the online program where viewers are invited to call in to small group, facilitated phone discussions to explore the issues presented by video.
- House Parties. Give participants the tools to organize face-to-face conversations in living rooms and community centers in their local communities. We provide volunteer hosts with training and materials to make the dialogue as rich as possible.
- Live Chat. Participants joining from home have a lot to say. We give them the tools to chat, Tweet, and post Facebook updates related to the presentation as they watch the webcast – to engage in a online conversation while spreading word about the event.
- Voting. Quantify your participants’ views by letting them vote online or by text message to prioritize among several competing options. Polling results are calculated in real time so you can report back on participants views and respond in real-time in the live video.
These components can be combined into a single package or offered individually, depending upon your situation, goals, and budget. They can enable citizens sitting in front of their computers at home to participate in a 21st Century Town Meeting, or they can provide a standalone engagement mechanism.
The Participants’ User Experience
We think very carefully about how participants in a Virtual Summit experience the event. They would register in advance for a 1-3 hour event, and receive reminders and then an alert to join in the event when it launches. Through a webcast, they would learn about the issues and receive instructions to dial in to a conference line. They join a facilitator and small group in a 15-30 minute discussion at a virtual table. Consensus ideas that emerge through conversation are submitted online to a theme team that identifies nation-wide themes from across all of the virtual tables. At the end of the discussion period, participants watch a report back of the nation-wide themes on the webcast and use online voting tools to express their preferences among the discussion themes. This process may be repeated several times across a set of related issues.