How to Run a Town Hall
It is important to remember that there is no single “right” way to run a town hall. We will run through some best practices and frequently asked questions, but in the end this is YOUR event and YOU know your community best!
- Remind and confirm attendees the night before. Call, text, email, and/or message on social media (the more methods the better) the list of attendees for your event. Make sure to post reminders on social media as well.
- Determine your needs and identify roles. Sign-in Captain. Moderator. Social Media Coordinator. Make sure everyone knows what they are responsible for on game day! (note: Moderator should be someone assertive that can maintain order and keep the event moving.)
- Print sign-in sheets so you can follow up attendees and maintain an accurate crowd count. At the very least, include fields for name, email, and phone number. Fill in the top row completely with your information so others follow suit.
- Make sure the host of the event has a “run of show” and has rehearsed it.
8:00 - 8:10p Event Starts- Moderator welcomes and thanks the audience, makes any announcements, sets the ground rules. Explain the format.
8:10 - 8:15p Introduce Guests - Moderator introduces candidates and/or notes those who were invited and if they sent representatives and/or a message.
8:15 - 9:15p Questions - Ask attendees with questions to raise their hand or line up in an aisle. Remind everyone to remain respectful. Set a time limit per question and let each candidate respond.
9:15 - 9:30p Wrap-up - Thank everyone for attending. Remind everyone to keep these conversations going after the event concludes. Talk through vote planning and options available and remind everyone to cast their ballot!
- Arrive at the venue early. Make sure any A/V equipment is working and the room is set-up. Try to place the sign-in table at the entry point, so people have to sign-in before entering.
- Plan for social media/live steam. Do you have any local hashtags? Encourage attendees to tag @townhallproject and any other organizations you’re working with on Facebook and Twitter so they can amplify! Take plenty of pictures. Do you have someone that can live stream the event on Periscope or Facebook Live? Send us the link so we can share!
- Are you expecting press? Do you need to set up an area for cameras? Do you need to connect a reporter with a student to interview?
After the Event Checklist
- If applicable, clean the venue and thank the host. Return any borrowed equipment.
- Record any notable stories that came up during the event. Ask the questioner if they are comfortable sharing their story. Send us a (if at all possible) a video, contact info, and the story, and we can help share and amplify.
- Send us any interesting photos and videos available. Can you send pictures of the audience, the candidates, and the attendees asking questions? Tweet and tag us on Twitter @townhallproject, Instagram @town_hall_project, or email to: email@example.com
- Follow up and thank everyone for attending.
- Track local press for coverage (and send clip links to us at Info@townhallproject.com)
- Give yourself a hand, practice self-care, and prep for the homestretch to Election Day!
Frequently Asked Questions
Any advice for running an event for the first time?
Be confident! Putting this together is no small feat and you are doing it because you care about these issues and your community. Don’t be afraid to cut candidates/officials off if they run too long. Don’t feel bad about asking audience members to mind their tone and remain respectful.
What happens if we run out of space? What happens if we run out of time?
Is there standing room or an overflow area you can utilize? If not, ask for contact information and offer to follow up about future opportunities. Do people still have questions that they aren’t going to get a chance to ask? Can the guests offer to follow up later? Can you plan a follow up event in the near future?
How do I deal with protesters/disruptors?
Always remain calm and respectful. Remind everyone that this is a dialogue and, even if they disagree, they can engage constructively and respectfully. Let everyone know they can have a turn to ask a question.
What kind of questions should we ask?
This is totally up to you and the attendees! We know some of the most impactful moments come from personal stories. Share why this issue is important to you and why you care so deeply.