How to Run a Town Hall

Setting the Agenda

A preliminary agenda for your meeting will help guide the planning process. It can be helpful to develop a two-part agenda that focuses both on the individual question What’s the Future of the American Dream and also what are the potential futures that people want and futures that people want to avoid.

  • A presentation about the project and the question What’s the Future of the American Dream
  • A discussion from a panel of a few people on their perspectives of the both the idea of the American Dream and its future. This can be taken from the this site or Youtube.
  • Audience input/questions (Having some potential questions could be helpful.)
    • What did you think the current state of the American Dream is?
    • Is it real? Do you beleie in it? Has the American Dream touched you?
    • What’s your idea of the American Dream?
    • What do you think the future of the American Dream might be?
  • Break
  • Panelists provide their perspectives on possible futures
    • Having opinionated people is always good.
  • Audience input/questions (Having some potential questions could be helpful.)
    • What did you think about the panelists ideas? (Remind them that it’s OK to disagree)
    • Do you think their idea of the American Dream invovles you?
    • What would you change?
  • Record video (30-60 sec) and/or written testimonials
  • Audience member or panelist finishes this statement:
    • Hello my name is ___________, I’m from __________ and I think the future of the
    • American Dream is ___________________________.


Identifying Key Participants

Now that you have an agenda you have identified the key participants you will need. Often you can play multiple roles, but it’s also a good idea to get some help. Identifying others who have a strong opinion on the subject typically helps the discussion and brings in more perspectives. We like people with opinions. Finding people who have opposing views and involving them in a robust and civil discussion will bring up interesting ideas, perspectives and compromises. But always remember: The future involves all of us. The future involves people you don’t agree with. The future even involves people you don’t like. But that’s ok. We’re all in this together.

Example Key Participants:

  • Moderator
  • Special Guests
  • Panel Discussion with opposing ideas or view points
  • Helpers

Selecting the Date and Location for Your Town Hall Meeting

Picking the town tall date and location is important. You want to give as many people the opportunity to attend and also not interfere with everyone’s busy schedules. In many cases, holding the town hall meeting on a weekday evening may be preferable as it is less likely to result in scheduling conflicts for everyone.

A number of factors must be considered in selecting your meeting space. How many people do you expect to come? Will everyone from the moderator, participants and audience all be able to be heard? Is there a bathroom? Is there a convient place for refreshmanets (if you provide them). How will the audience get to, enter and exit the space? Thinking through the details and flow of the entire event will help to avoid problems during your town hall.

Engaging in an Effective Social Media Outreach Effort

Engaging the social media to cover and further the discussion of your town hall meeting will require a little work before hand to get out the news about. When you do reach out via Twitter use the hashtag #FutureAmDream

Creating a strong hook or series of questions focused on the question What’s the Future of the American Dream? will help. Questions like:

What’s the future of the American Dream? ________ (name your community) has an opinion. Come to the Town Hall ____ (date) #FutureAmDream

Starting to share some early opinions and getting your social network to begin the conversation online first is a great way to bring them into the event.

It is important to remember the goal of the town hall meeting is to broaden the conversation around the question What’s the Future of the American Dream increased, not necessarily on the town hall itself. With that in mind, an effective social media plan should begin with an effort to get the people engaged in advance of the town hall meeting.

Meeting Day Preparations and Responsibilities

In the days leading up to the meeting, you should contact invited participants, panelists and the moderator to ensure that there are no outstanding issues and that everyone understands their role and responsibilities. Owners or management of the facility where the meeting will be held should also be contacted to reconfirm the arrangements.

On the day of the meeting, it would be advisable for you or a helper to go to the facility several hours before the event to ensure that the room set up and requirements are consistent with the agreed-upon plan. Materials that may be needed for the meeting include copies of the agenda, a sign-in sheet, name tags, and copies of any handouts or hashtags. A registration and literature table(s) should be set up at the entrance of the room. If refreshments are planned, an area of the room or an adjacent room should be set up with sufficient tables.

During the Meeting

  1. Welcome attendees and thank them for showing up to participate.
  2. Introduce the moderator (possible yourself), as well as other participants who will be responding to questions.
  3. Make the agenda available to everyone — either show it on a screen for an “in person” meeting, or for virtual meetings, provide a link.
  4. Explain the main purpose for the gathering.
  5. Be clear about the length of the meeting. (Have a pre-determined end time.)
  6. If you noticed common themes among the questions submitted in advance, open the meeting by responding to those first.
  7. As needed, remind people of the ground rules. Make sure as many people as possible have the opportunity to have their voice heard. Don’t let a “vocal minority” dominate the conversation.
  8. Pay attention to answers and ask probing follow-up questions to continue the conversation. (see the agenda). These questions and views make great prompts for social media.
  9. Give everyone a chance to contribute via social media and also to record their answer to the question: What’s the Future of the American Dream?

After the Town Hall

Believe it or not – The most important time for your town hall is after it has happened. It’s time to make sure that your community’s voice is heard. When we do a town hall we fell that it is our mission to respect the opinions and voices of the people who have given us their time and dreams.

Make sure to document the event, write up notes and post them, collect as many testimonials as possible and possibly write an article, reflection or blog about your experience. Collect pictures and video but also make sure that you participants are comfortable having their pictures taken.

The goal of the town hall to get give everyone a platform. Reflecting those voices, visions and dreams is essential. Thank you!