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How Voice RoundTables Work

A Voice RoundTable is a way of creating a structured group dialogue among a limited number of individuals.  The dialogue is:

  Telephone-accessed, and
  Non-live (that is, “non-real-time,” or message-based)

Thus, a Voice RoundTable more or less duplicates the communication that takes place in a telephone conference call, but on a non-real-time basis.

Because a Voice RoundTable is not a live interaction, it's far easier to set up than a conference call.  You don't have to find a time when everyone in your group can be on the phone at the same time.

Simple technology

Voice RoundTables use very simple technology in a very simple way.   Their power derives not from complicated technologies or procedures, but from the dynamic human interaction they make possible―and from how well they fit into fast-paced modern lives.

Three key elements make Voice RoundTables work:

  The stand-alone voice mailbox
  The "voice bulletin-board" approach to using it, and
  The organized rounds of interaction that structure the dialogue

1.  The stand-alone voice mailbox

A stand-alone voice mailbox is the kind used everyday by certain sales professionals, by people answering dating-service ads, and by many others.  It’s called “stand-alone” because it is not associated with any actual, physical telephone, the way most voice mailboxes are.  Thus, when you dial the number of a stand-alone mailbox, no live human being ever answers a telephone at the other end, because there isn’t any telephone at the other end.  There’s only a voice mailbox, and it always answers.

To conduct the most basic kind of Voice RoundTable, you and your group members don't need several stand-alone voice mailboxes.  You only need one, which will serve you all.

2.  The "voice bulletin-board" approach

The stand-alone voice mailbox turns out to be a group-communications tool of great flexibility and power.  Because it is not associated with anyone's live telephone line, you can use it as a "voice bulletin board" for your group.

One of the most popular ways of creating a group dialogue on the Internet is, of course, with “message boards” or “discussion boards.” And these are just electronic bulletin boards—places where users post and read messages.  It is true that some of these message boards have reputations for trivial conversations, partly because the discussions they host are usually public, not private.  But bear in mind that many Internet message boards host serious and highly constructive discussions, especially private message boards.  Their ability to create effective interactions has been repeatedly proven in academia, the business world, and other serious environments.

The voice mailbox you rent can function as a private voice message board for your group.  But you will use this voice message board in a special way.

3. The structured rounds of interaction

Most Internet message boards operate in a somewhat haphazard or free-form manner, with participants posting and retrieving messages whenever they desire.  In a Voice RoundTable, however, communication takes place in organized rounds.  You are going to ask the members of your group to post and retrieve messages according to an easy-to-remember, preset schedule. 

For example, to conduct a daily Voice RoundTable, you might ask your group members to call the group’s voice mailbox anytime during the day, to record a message.  In this message, participants would share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas on the topic under discussion.

You would also ask each participant to call the mailbox again anytime during the evening, in order to enter the password and listen to all the messages in the box—the messages from all other group members, which had been called in and recorded at varying times during the day.

Finally, you, as facilitator, would call the system each morning, enter the passcode, and erase all messages in the box, in order to empty it completely and prepare it for that day’s new round of messages.

Everyday, this entire cycle would be repeated.

This very simple process can create a robust dialogue.  Day by day, the interaction builds.  Questions posed by a group member one day can be answered by others the next.  Follow-up questions the day after that can be answered on subsequent days.  Ideas circulate on a regular basis, and the group connection is continually refreshed. 

The schedule you set, of course, will vary depending on whether you want to conduct your Voice RoundTable on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis―or on some other schedule.  But in any event, each round of interaction will consist of two parts:  first, what might be called a “recording session,” in which participants call the mailbox to record a message; and second, what might be called a “listening session,” in which participants call the mailbox to listen to all messages.

Click here for a step-by-step walk-through of exactly how a Voice RoundTable is set up and conducted:  Examples:  Daily and Weekly Voice RoundTables.