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How Voice RoundTables Work
Examples: Daily and Weekly Voice RoundTables
Advantages Over Conference Calls and Group Email
Life-Saving Potential: Medical Support Groups
Project Evolution in Health Care
Free Instructions for Creating Voice RoundTables
Examples: Daily and Weekly Voice RoundTables
Below is a description of how a daily Voice RoundTable would be set up and conducted. Further down is a quick outline of how a weekly RoundTable would be conducted.
All Voice RoundTables are structured in the same basic way. Thus, after you understand how daily and weekly RoundTables are set up, you'll understand how to set up and schedule VRTs that convene every two weeks, once a month, quarterly—or on whatever cycle you desire.
[Note: It is possible for your group to use two or three voice mailboxes simultaneously—in a coordinated manner—to conduct a more sophisticated kind of Voice RoundTable than that described below. The Short Guide to Voice RoundTables tells you how to conduct these “multiple-box” Voice RoundTables. But the basic, single-box version described below is the fastest way to get up and running. And because of its simplicity, you may actually, in the long run, prefer it to all others.]
A daily Voice RoundTable
If the members of your group decided they wanted to connect with each other everyday, you would proceed as follows:
First, you would call a voicemail company listed in your local yellow pages and rent, over the telephone, a stand-alone voice mailbox—one with a few easily obtained special features. This should only take a few minutes.
Second, you would call the number of the voice mailbox and set it up as instructed, creating your own password and greeting. The system’s voice prompts would guide you through this easy process.
The greeting you would record, however, would not be the kind you would usually record for a voice mailbox or for a telephone answering machine. That kind of greeting, of course, would say something like, "Hi, this is Joe. I'm sorry I can't take your call right now. Please leave a message at the tone." Instead, your greeting would say something like, "Hi, this is Mary. Welcome, everyone, to the Voice RoundTable for our group. Please share your thoughts and observations at the tone."
Setting up the voice mailbox in this way should also take only a few minutes.
Third, you would call, email, or otherwise contact all the members of your group, and give each of them: 1) the phone number of the voice mailbox, 2) its passcode, and 3) a few simple technical instructions about how to enter the passcode in order to access the mailbox for listening to messages. You would also ask each of them to do two things every day:
You and only you—as facilitator—would have one further duty. Early every morning, you would need to call the mailbox, enter the passcode, and erase all the messages in the box. This would empty the mailbox out completely, making it ready for the new round of messages that would come in that day.
When your group members call the voice mailbox every evening for the “listening session,” each of them will hear, one by one, the messages from all the others in the group. This is exactly what they would hear if they were sitting together in a circle in a meeting room and listening to each other share, one after another, their thoughts and observations.
In a nutshell, then, your group members would use this procedure everyday: they would call the mailbox during the day to leave a message, and call again during the evening to hear all messages.
A weekly Voice RoundTable
Like many groups, yours may prefer to meet not everyday, but once a week. If so, you can easily schedule and conduct a weekly Voice RoundTable.
To do this, you would basically proceed as you did with the daily Voice RoundTable (please see the above description). The only difference is that you would ask the members of your group to involve themselves in a weekly cycle of interaction instead of a daily cycle.
For example, you could ask them to call the voice mailbox to leave a message on Monday or Tuesday of each week (anytime, around the clock). You could ask them to call the box again on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, in order to enter the passcode and listen to all the messages left earlier in the week by all the group's members. On Sunday, in your role as facilitator, you would make a quick call to the box to delete all the messages, in order to get it ready for the new round of interaction the following week.
Adding fancy features
As I’ve mentioned, the above descriptions are of basic Voice RoundTables. There are a number of ways for you to create more complex interactions, especially if you use two or three voice mailboxes to create multi-box Voice RoundTables. These special procedures are described in the Short Guide to Voice RoundTables.
Complete details about conducting daily VRTs are given in the Quick-Start Instructions, available on this web site for downloading in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (which is easily handled by most computers).