Town halls, whether in-person or online, are the perfect opportunity to get some face time with your elected officials. Here’s how to make the most of your time.
Staff who work for your elected officials will be at these town halls, and if you show up 20 or so minutes before the event starts, you might have a chance to meet them. Introduce yourself, thank them for the opportunity to connect, and ask for a business card. You’ll need that later.
Whether you’re advocating for better transportation, new training for police officers, a longer fishing season or anything else, there’s strength in numbers. Your whole group doesn’t even need to speak – it’s enough if they pack the room to show support. Your group might consider spreading out so applause for your question or comment fills up the room.
Whether you’re solo or part of a group, plan your remarks ahead of time. Do you have a personal experience to share? Statistics you think would hammer your point home? A question about a particular bill? Jot down a few bullet points to help you hit all your marks. Not a big public speaker? There’s no shame in writing out your question or comment word for word and bringing a script with you to the mic.
Listen, we know. This can be hard. You may be really angry and your anger might be totally fair. But there’s a difference between being passionate and being a jerk. Yelling, name-calling, and personal attacks are more likely to get you shut down than heard, and you’re here to be heard. In the past decade or so, a lot of elected officials have stopped doing town halls altogether, or will only do them with very tight rules. While that’s not a great trend, don’t give your representatives an excuse to stop talking to constituents. Be polite!
Being polite doesn’t mean being a pushover. Did your elected official dodge your question? Try following up with “I appreciate your thoughts on that. So I understand, what will you do to get distracted drivers off the roads?” Or “It’s certainly a complicated issue but what I’m asking is whether you support H.R. 1234, which will make sure our country has the resources to deal with another pandemic.”
If that doesn’t work, drop in one last line before you sit down: “I don’t believe I got an answer to my question so I look forward to following up with your office.”
Try Something New
Town halls can feel like places where everyone yells and no one listens. That’s why Civic Genius has been working to create better ways to discuss the issues. These events are your chance to learn about the issues, understand them from multiple points of view, and decide how you want to get involved. Find out more and join the mailing list to hear about upcoming events.