Maximizing Your Impact: Town Halls
How to Organize an In-person or Virtual Town Hall Meeting with Election Candidates
What Is A Town Hall Meeting?
A town hall meeting is an opportunity for health research and health innovation advocates to meet Candidates in their research institution/organization/company’s ridings and advance health research and health innovation advocacy efforts, raise awareness among Candidates about the social and economic benefits of Canadian health research and health innovation and lay the groundwork for future relationships with Candidates who will become elected officials.
How to Prepare?
- Start early and schedule the event in the last two weeks of the election campaign
- Determine the goal of the town hall
- Decide on a desired range of dates for the meeting
- Identify Candidates in your riding, potential partners, sponsors and key contacts
- Create a small planning committee drawn from like-minded organizations that will:
- Contact all Candidates and campaign teams
- Develop a key theme for the event
- Develop a communications plan including community outreach, media and social media, designate media contacts and spokespeople
- Liaise with the Candidate’s campaign teams to decide upon date, time, length of event, event scenario, Q&As
- Develop a budget
- Check your community’s public health guidelines and mandates regarding in-person events and public gatherings to help you decide if an in-person venue or virtual platform is right for your Town Hall event)* If you decide to hold your Town Hall in person, you’ll need to secure a venue and organize logistics (room set-up, AV, etc.)
* If you decide to hold your Town Hall virtually, you’ll need to identify an appropriate virtual platform; there are plenty of options out there, so be prepared to dedicate some time to research and test different platforms. Once you’ve selected a virtual platform, you’ll need to organize the logistics and technical details (online registration, instructions to connect, troubleshooting, etc.)
- Identify a Moderator for the Candidate Panel who ensures the event stays on time and ends as scheduled, as well as manages the discussion and audience Q&As
- Approve all event materials, including press releases and messaging
- Be in frequent contact with campaign staff and update them as the event unfolds
At the Event
- Ensure key questions are asked to Candidates about priorities for the health research and health innovation sector
- Assign non-partisan questions to the Chair and/or committee members in the live or virtual audience
- Provide relevant hand-outs in-person or via email to Candidates once the Town Hall is over with key messages, patient stories and contact information of Town Hall organizers
- Send thank-you letters to Candidates and include a contact person for Candidate follow up
- Prepare a Letter to the Editor of the local newspaper on the event
- Develop a summary of the report of the town hall that includes next steps and share it with stakeholders and policymakers
For Your Consideration
A town hall meeting is an opportunity for members of the health research and health innovation community to participate in the electoral process and to have some policy influence on future Members of Parliament.
It is also important to consider the challenges of hosting a town hall. Namely, that it can be difficult to schedule all Candidates, and spontaneity at a large public in-person or virtual event can lead to unanticipated results.
Sample Agenda for Town Hall
- Welcome and Introductions
- Overview of Issue: Moderator provides overview of state of health research enterprise/health and biosciences sector and presents challenges
- Perspectives on the Challenges: Moderator and Candidates provide insight/perspective on challenges
- Audience Input/Interaction: Moderator solicits questions on challenges
- Perspectives on Proposals to Address Challenges: Moderator and Candidates provide their insights and policy ideas and commitments if elected
- Audience Input/Interaction: Moderator solicits questions on proposals
- Open Discussion with Panel on Next Steps: Moderator interacts with panel to try to solicit different/common steps Candidates will take, if elected, to address challenges for health research and health innovation communities
- Summary: Moderator summarizes Candidates views and their commitments if elected and adjourns the meeting.