I am looking for a web-based service (either an existing third-party service, or a system I can set up on my own server) to facilitate real-time roundtable and/or town hall discussions among a voluntary subset of a larger group of people, with the ability to allow people (who may or may not choose to participate in the discussion itself) to post talking points and thoughts in text form ahead of time, and the ability to allow non-participants to review the discussion afterwards.
Essentially, I help manage a group of ~300-500 people that participate in yearly events as well as organize various other events throughout the year. For these events, this planning is divided into various specific topics and issues. Currently, planning is accomplished by a very small group of people having an internal conversation. My goal is to provide a platform to open topic discussions to all group members and involve a greater number of people in decision making. Each individual planning topic may have a different subset of group members who is interested in participating. The group is amenable to this idea but we are lacking a platform to support it.
The goal will be to provide the opportunity for offline input prior to a discussion (as group members are not expected to always be available for actual discussion, and also this gives an opportunity to solidify talking points), then have an actual live discussion to resolve that particular topic, then allow others to review said discussion afterwards for informational purposes.
Choice of roundtable vs. town hall style is case-by-case.
Realistically, I expect on the order of 5-20 users to participate in a given live discussion depending on the topic, and 10-50 users to participate in offline pre-meeting discussion.
In roughly decreasing order of importance:
- Need not be free for me but must be free for participants. Budget is... complicated (suffice it to say lower cost will be an easier sell; annually, we operate in 6-digits USD but ideally product is 3-4 digits).
- Hassle-free participation (no complex registration requirements). If registration is required, a tie-in to Facebook/Google/etc. logins would be ideal.
- Live face-to-face voice / webcam based discussion.
- Ability to post talking points and thoughts offline prior to discussion, open to any. Moderated, ideally.
- Ability to record and review live discussion.
- Ability for a coordinator to mute others and give an arbitrary user the floor if necessary during live conversation.
- Ability to lock offline discussion read-only after meeting has ended.
- Ability to schedule meeting; perhaps with iCal, etc. export.
- Bonus feature: Mobile interface for offline pre-discussion and live discussion.
- Bonus feature (not required at all): Participate in live meeting audio-only, conference call style, by call-in number, although participants using the video-based system should be able to visualize who is speaking.
Operating system is a non-issue. The service can either be an existing hosted service, or a service that I can set up on my own server using whatever platform is necessary.
Patching together independent solutions (such as a traditional forum with, say, Google Hangouts) has proved unsuccessful in the past for various reasons, a fully integrated system with a single point of access is ideal; low entry barrier for participants is critical.