How to Ask a Great Question at a Town Hall Meeting

Some advice to put into practice from Generation Opportunity’s “Training Guide: How to Be Effective at a Town Hall Meeting”:

Pick the Issue of Greatest Concern to You. After you have done your research, narrow down the question you want to ask to a single question – and then have a follow-up question prepared. Oftentimes, town hall meetings can be frustrating to attendees and officials because a single question can really mask four or five questions and the official, pressed for time, may only answer one. This leads many citizens to feel as though the official is not responsive, when in fact they were just trying to decipher, not dodge, multiple questions and potential answers. You have a direct role in the quality of your answer you receive – don’t miss the opportunity to keep the question focused and relevant.

Write Out Your Question and Practice. This may sound simple – but it is important. Writing out your question and practicing it will help you prepare for the meeting, especially if the meeting is well attended and you are listening intently. Through practice, you will be set to respectfully pose your question, regardless of the size of the event or the media coverage.

Introduce Yourself – Then Ask the Question: When it is your turn to pose the question, remember to properly address the official instead of using a first-name or any other name. The use of title reflects your level of respect for the institution and the office they represent or hold, regardless of whether you disagree with their point of view or record. Start your question by clearly stating your name and where you are from and why you are attending the event. This information will provide important context for the official and allow them to address you directly by name in return.

Crowd Reaction: Some issues discussed at town hall meetings can result in a highly charged environment, to the point that even asking a question may invite positive or negative comments about you or your question. Unfortunately, not everyone may approach a conversation with an elected or appointed official with same level of civility or decorum as you do. The best thing to do is to ignore comments and carefully focus on your question, regardless of the crowd reaction or the reaction of those around you. The official will more than likely be trying just as hard to listen and be responsive to you, so stay on focus and ignore side comments.