Organize a Town Hall Meeting
- Reserve a rent-free hall that can seat a minimum of 250 people for the town hall meeting. The location will determine the type of audience you will attract.
- Organize six dedicated people who will be able to attend all planning meetings. Invite a doctor, a few nurses and some lay activists to be part of this planning team.
- Designate a health professional in this working group to screen the testimony.
- Limit the planning committee to 10 or 12 people for efficiency.
- Find an office location to do mailings and make phone calls.
- Hold a working meeting every two weeks to plan, coordinate, delegate responsibility and execute tasks.
- Do not discuss strategy or policy at these meetings.
- Allocate approximately $300 for flyers, business cards, mailings and sound equipment.
- Designate a health professional who can take calls from people who want to testify at the town hall meeting. It is best if this person is also on the planning committee.
- Select someone to be the master of ceremonies. This person will introduce the legislators and those people who are testifying.
AT EIGHT WEEKS
- Choose a topic for discussion for your hearing.
*Print at least 1,000 business cards. These should have the title, location, purpose of the event, and contact person’s phone number. The cards not only serve to advertise the event, but are great for health professionals to distribute at work to patients and colleagues who may want to testify.
- Start collecting stories from nurses, doctors, and health professionals from particularly hard-hit fields like psychiatry.
- Send out invitations to legislators. Invite city, county, state and federal legislators and the state attorney general to your meeting. Note the focus or topic for discussion.
AT SIX WEEKS
- Print flyers and begin posting them in hospitals, particularly in places where doctors and nurses will see them.
- Divide up the names of the legislators amongst your core group.
- Compile lists of names, addresses and phone numbers of all the legislators printed up for each committee member. Call each legislator to be sure that they received the invitations.
AT FOUR WEEKS
- Send a media advisory to all of the television, radio and newspapers in your area. This should include the who, what, when, where and why of your event.
- Continue to collect stories. You should limit testimony to five minutes maximum. Require written testimony from everyone in advance.
- Arrange for sound equipment. Reserve at least one microphone for the legislators, one for the master of ceremonies, and one for those testifying. You should also try to get someone to videotape and audiotape the event.
AT TWO WEEKS
- Send a press release and follow it up with a phone call. This serves two purposes: Getting the message out and free advertising. The press release should include the names of the legislators who have confirmed that they will attend. It is also effective to include little sound bites of the stories they will be hearing.
- Call any legislators to invite them again personally.
AT ONE WEEK
- Call those who have agreed to testify to remind them of the time, place, date, etc. Remind them of the time limit of five minutes for their testimony. If they haven’t already done so, get them to submit their testimony in writing.
- Contact the media outlets again to determine interest and remind them of the event.
NIGHT OF THE EVENT
- Arrive two hours ahead of time to prepare the room and receive attendees.
- Check sound.
- Set-up videocamera and conduct test run
- Enlist three people to sign-in attendees, greet media and welcome speakers.
- Set-up signage welcoming attendees
- Set-up table with educational literature
- Start event on time
- Reserve one hour at the end of meeting for discussion. Allow for questions and comments from the audience at this time.
*Optional: Host reception with lite food and drinks immediately following event to encourage continued informal discussion in lobby or common area
Let people know you are part of an ever-growing powerful grass roots movement. This is only the beginning for the Single-Payer movement in the United States.
Contributed by Dr. Deb Richter, Vermont