How to Prepare for a Town Hall Meeting

Make the Most of Your Chance to Talk to an Elected Official

Directly Above Shot Of People Sitting In Auditorium
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Town hall meetings give Americans the chance to debate issues, ask questions, and speak directly with elected officials. But town hall meetings have changed quite a bit in the past decade. Some members of Congress now pre-screen constituents before town hall meetings. Other politicians refuse to hold town hall meetings at all or only hold meetings online.

Whether you are attending a traditional meeting or an online town hall, here are some tips to help you take part in a town hall meeting with an elected official.

Find a Town Hall Meeting

Because town hall meetings are usually held when elected officials return to their home districts, many of them happen during the congressional recess each August. Elected officials announce town hall events on their websites, in newsletters, or through social media.

Websites such as Town Hall Project and LegiStorm allow you to search for town hall meetings in your area. Town Hall Project also explains how to encourage your representatives to hold a town hall meeting if one isn't already scheduled.

Advocacy groups also send alerts to their members about upcoming town hall meetings. One g roup even provides advice about how to hold a constituents’ town hall, if an elected representative won’t schedule an event.

Write Your Questions in Advance

If you want to ask your representative a question at a town hall meeting, it's best to write your questions in advance. Visit the elected official's website to learn more about their background and voting record.

Then, think of questions about the representative's position on an issue or how a policy affects you.

Be sure to write specific, concise questions, since other people will also want time to speak.  According to experts, you should skip questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no.” Also, avoid questions that an official can answer by repeating their campaign talking points.

For help writing questions, visit websites from grassroots lobbying groups. These groups often list sample questions to ask at town hall meetings or provide research that might inform your questions.

Tell Your Friends About the Event

Before the event, tell your friends about the town hall meeting. Use social media to promote the event and encourage other people in your area to attend. If you plan to attend with a group, coordinate your questions beforehand to make the most of your time.

Research the Rules

Research the rules for the event on the representative's website or in the local news.  A few members of Congress have asked people to register or get tickets before town hall meetings. Other officials have asked people to bring documentation, like utility bills, to prove they live in the representative’s district. Some officials have banned signs or noisemakers. Make sure to understand the rules of the event and arrive early.

Be Civil, but Be Heard

After a few recent events that have ended in heated arguments, some elected officials became reluctant to hold town hall meetings. To ensure that your representative will hold more meetings in the future,  experts suggest that you stay calm and civil.

Be polite, don’t interrupt people, and be aware of how much time you have used to make your point.

If you choose to ask a question, try to speak from personal experience about how a policy affects you. As the Town Hall Project says, “The most powerful thing you can do, as a constituent, is ask an earnest, pressing question on an issue close to you.”

Prepare to Listen

Remember that the purpose of a town hall meeting is to be part of a conversation with your elected official, not just to ask your questions. According to recent studies, people are likely to become more trusting and supportive of their representative after attending a town hall meeting. Prepare to listen to the official’s responses and to other people’s questions.

Keep the Conversation Going

When the town hall meeting is over, follow up with the staff and other participants.

Keep the conversation going by requesting an appointment with your representative. And talk with fellow constituents about other ways to make your voice heard in the community.