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Town Hall Meetings

In a town hall meeting, individuals from a specific geographic area are invited to participate in a public discussion about issues in their community. All attendees are generally offered an opportunity to speak in town hall meetings. Town hall meetings can be used to identify a list of potential research topics and ideas. Voting to prioritize topics may occur at the end of the meeting.

far fa-dollar-sign fa-sm Budget (e.g. personnel, space, equipment) Low Medium High far fa-user-clock Time per interaction I expect to engage stakeholders for... An hour or less Half a day A full day far fa-calendar-check Number of interactions I expect to interact with stakeholders... 1-2 times Appx. 5 times 10+ times Engagement Purposes far fa-scrubber Identify and explore new perspectives or understanding far fa-scrubber Identify which topics are most important to stakeholders far fa-scrubber Develop research questions relevant to stakeholders far fa-scrubber Select outcomes and measures that matter to stakeholders far fa-scrubber Expand and diversify stakeholder outreach far fa-scrubber Investigate best ways to successfully implement a study, based on stakeholder insights far fa-scrubber Describe findings in a way stakeholders can understand and use far fa-scrubber Disseminate findings to relevant audiences far fa-scrubber Design strategies for translating research into practice far fa-clock Time Frame

2-3 months to prepare; 1-2 hours to conduct

fal fa-tasks-alt Workload LIGHT MEDIUM HEAVY
Appropriate Applications More useful for: far fa-scrubber Gathering public input far fa-scrubber Eliciting opinions and views from citizens far fa-scrubber Imparting information far fa-scrubber Brainstorming ideas far fa-scrubber Identifying action items far fa-scrubber Receiving feedback from a variety of stakeholders all at once Less useful for: far fa-scrubber Gathering information to be used at the individual level far fa-scrubber Asking for sensitive information far fa-scrubber Quick and easy engagement far fa-scrubber Eliciting unfiltered opinions/information Key Characteristics Resources Needed fas fa-money-bill-waveMoney far fa-scrubber Participant incentives might be considered as a way to boost participation fas fa-paperclipMaterials and Resources far fa-scrubber Resources for printing and mailing questionnaires (paper, printer ink, envelopes, stamps, etc.) far fa-scrubber Online platform if distributing online fas fa-usersPersonnel far fa-scrubber Individuals with experience in designing surveys would be an asset How To Planning: Form a planning committee.
  • All planning partners and supporters should be publicly recognized as sponsors of the event.
  • Recruit as early as possible
Research the Unique Characteristics of Your Community.
  • Understand your community's unique issues, challenges and opportunities for change.
  • Review local data from a variety of sources and develop a community profile based on solid research.
Recording ideas: Participants engage in a round-robin feedback session where participants summarize their answers using a few words that capture their idea. If a participant's idea has already been shared by another participant, they are to share the next idea on their index card. However, if their idea has an important twist or perspective, they are asked to share this. The round-robin continues until all ideas have been shared. The moderator or a note taker records all ideas in a list on a flip chart. (~10 minutes) Identify objectives.
  • The content, format and objectives will depend on the particular concerns and needs that you have identified.
Determine the format of your town hall.
  • The format will depend on what you are trying to achieve.
    • One of the most common formats is a briefing by a panel of three or four people and a moderator. The panel discussion typically lasts from 35-50 minutes and the question and answer period usually lasts about 30 minutes. The public and policymakers are the primary audience for this type of town hall.
    • Another format is a policy panel. At a policy panel, the public presents their opinions. The panel members are community leaders who receive testimony from residents. Speakers give their accounts and urge the panelists to adopt certain measures or recommendations. For this format, the policy panel can convene after the meeting and issue its findings or recommendations based on what they have learned from the public.
Determine meeting logistics: Select the place and date.
  • It is important to select a place that is easy for residents and local media to get to.
  • When selecting a date, check out community calendars to avoid competing community events
  • When selecting a time, think about your target audience.
Identify and invite panelists.
  • Trusted, well-respected speakers are key to your meeting, as are individuals from your community who can provide an interesting vantage point on the issue being addressed.
Identify a moderator or facilitator.
  • Should be a well-respected community figure
  • Consider a moderator who is adept at collaboration and is not a polarizing figure.
Staff your event.
  • Give all panelists the background information on the event.
  • Identify individuals who will serve as media spokespeople and provide comments to the press.
Prepare materials to distribute on site.
  • Prepare packets to distribute to attendees when they arrive. You can include speaker bios, agendas, evaluation forms and informational materials such as fact sheets about your organization and your co-sponsors/planning partners.
Promotion: Get the media there.
  • Write a news release to send to the media before you contact them.
  • Let them know why the event will make a good story, and why it is important for the community to know about your efforts.
Other ways to promote your event.
  • Enlist the support of other organizations that you work with.
  • If your audience is the general public, then add your town hall meeting to the event calendar in your local newspaper.
  • Post flyers, posters or banners in visible, popular places.
Create press kits.
  • Should include the media advisory and/or news release, a fact sheet with local statistics about your issue, brief biographies of speakers, as well as copies of any reports or case studies.
Holding the meeting: Setting up the meeting.
  • Room set up
    • Check on tables, chairs, podiums, equipment (including microphones/sound systems) or visual displays.
  • Sign-in registration table
    • Collect names and contact information for everybody who comes and hand out materials.
  • Sign-in sheets
    • Have separate sign-in sheets, one for the general audience and one for members of the media. This information will be invaluable as you conduct your follow-up activities and plan future meetings.
  • Handouts
    • Agendas and other information, as well as press kits for reporters. If you plan on discussing specific documents, have copies available.
Conducting the meeting.
  • Begin with a welcome and introduction by the head or spokesperson of the host organization or planning committee. Should explain the purpose of the meeting, welcome guests and introduce the moderator. (~5 min)
  • The moderator should then begin the panel discussion with a brief introduction of the issues that will be discussed, a review of the format and introductions of each panelist. It usually works best to have all of the panelists speak and then each should have three minutes to answer a question from the moderator. (~50 min)
  • The moderator should begin the question and answer period, taking questions from the audience and fielding them to the appropriate panelist. (~30 min)
  • The moderator or host organization should wrap up the meeting by thanking everyone for coming. Provide contact information for those who want to follow up after the meeting.
Coordinate media interviews
  • Leave enough time after your briefing for media interviews. Generally, you should set aside 30 minutes after the question and answer period ends to coordinate the interviews between members of the media and your spokespeople.
Post Meeting: Conduct a debrief
  • No more than two weeks after your town hall meeting, reconvene the key individuals who were involved in planning the event to discuss how it went. Discuss whether you achieved your objectives and how you want to put the information and ideas that emerged into practice in the community. It is also a good idea to obtain feedback from the panelists.
Develop an action plan.
  • No more than two weeks after your town hall meeting, reconvene the key individuals who were involved in planning the event to discuss how it went. Discuss whether you achieved your objectives and how you want to put the information and ideas that emerged into practice in the community. It is also a good idea to obtain feedback from the panelists.
Adapted from https://guideinc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Organizing-a-Town-Hall-Meeting.pdf
Notes Town hall meetings are ideal when you anticipate 50-200 participants. Variations Virtual town hall meetings can be held using platforms like Zoom. However, an online meeting may not be accessible to everyone in the community. Considerations (Potential Pitfalls) Can be complex to organize. Not everyone likes to speak up in front of other people. To overcome this issue you might consider providing an email address to ensure everyone has the opportunity to provide feedback. Examples https://health.gov/communication/literacy/TownHall/mo.htm References / Other Resources https://guideinc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Organizing-a-Town-Hall-Meeting.pdf https://texasequitytoolkit.org/Resource_files/step1.docx https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5346234/

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