How-To: Community Leadership Town Hall

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How to Host a Community Leadership Town Hall

I was recently asked if I would be hosting a Community Leadership Town Hall in Tulsa again this year.  I will not be attending so I thought I would share what is needed and how to host a Community Leadership Town Hall in case there are others that would be interested in doing so.

Things you need:

  • Category Signs: Membership, Leadership, Speakers, Sponsors, Meetings, Other
  • 4x4 or 3x3 Sticky Notes, enough for everyone to write topics, questions, etc.
  • Pens, I usually have a bundle of about 20 pens
  • Color Coding Labels, i.e. dots used for voting

Room Setup

Stick up the Category signs around the room.  Be sure to allow enough room for people to walk around and look over each others shoulders.   These areas get pretty crowded during the Topic\Question and Voting sections.

Get 4 chairs that you can setup in the center of the room.  This is the fish bowl and is where the main discussions will happened once the topics are organized.  This is also a good way to keep the discussion close to microphones if you plan on recording it.


Time: 5 Minutes

In this section of the event you want to welcome everyone and let them know how the night will go.  You can also ask if any of them are familiar with Open Space Technology events.  This is a variation of that formula.  This event is going to be only as good as what the attendees put into it, stress that and let them know they have a critical part to play in making it a success. 


Time: 10 Minutes

Let them know that you will give them 10 minutes to write down questions or topics they would like to discuss. They don’t have to lead the discussion, just have the need or knowledge to share. Tell them they will need to write down the Topic\Question\Idea on a sticky note and then stick it on the wall under the Category that if best fits into.  The things you want on the sticky notes; The topic/question and who wrote it.  This helps later when you ask them to go over it in more detail and to take a set in the fish bowl to start the discussion.


Time: 10 Minutest

During the voting each person should read over the sticky notes posted and if they feel strongly about a topic they can vote on it by putting one of their dots on it.  Once time is up have everyone return to their sets.


Time: 5 Minutes

Now you need to look over each category and find like items.  Those that are similar or have a common theme and group them together.  Once you finish that make a tally of which sticky notes have the most votes, counting similar themes as a single item.  Organize the sticky notes in order from largest number of votes to smallest.  This is now your agenda for the rest of the event.  You want to do this quickly since everyone else is sitting around waiting, help can make this go faster.

The Fish Bowl

The fish bowl is where the real discussion happens.  This is also a great way to control the amount of time spent on each topic making sure that everyone topics get a chance to be covered.  Remember the 4 chairs?  Ask the person that wrote the sticky to take a seat.  Explain the fish bowl, only those seated in a chair can comment and one chair must remain empty at all times.  Simple rules but it can make for some confusion.  This is much like Survivor, if someone new shows up (sits in the empty chair) someone must vote themselves off the island (leave their chair).  A great way to wind the discussion down and keep it on time is to pull the empty chair away every 5 minutes.  Remember one chair must remain empty, since the empty chair is gone, someone has to get up.  Continue this until there is one person and one chair left.  When they finish, they have to get up the discussion is over.

Reset the chairs and start the next topic.


This a great open format for experts and those interested in a topic to share information. The events I have hosted in Houston, Dallas, and Tulsa have not only been informative they have been a lot of fun.  You can also get a sponsor to cover food if you want to offer a meal to you attendees.  This is an attendee lead event and the more input you get from them the better the event is.  You job for hosting a Community Leadership Town Hall is well to host.  You are just there to get everyone else talking, and they will just give them the floor and see what happens.

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