What is a Virtual Town Hall?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink just about every aspect of our lives over the past few years. For the most part, the biggest change we’d made is moving many activities and gatherings online. School, work, parties, church, family gatherings, and even doctor's appointments are now taking place over video chat–and town hall meetings are no exception.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink just about every aspect of our lives over the past few years. For the most part, the biggest change we’d made is moving many activities and gatherings online. School, work, parties, church, family gatherings, and even doctor's appointments are now taking place over video chat–and town hall meetings are no exception.

While virtual town hall meetings may be an inconvenience in some ways, they also offer unique opportunities for those running political campaigns. To make the most out of our current, digitally-driven world, it’s important to adapt to these virtual procedures. Below, we’ll cover exactly what a virtual town hall meeting is and what it can mean for you and your campaign. 

What exactly is a town hall?

The first town hall meetings in the United States, which date back to 1633, served as forums for town residents to share their opinions and even play a role in the decision-making process of town rules and affairs. These meetings used a majority-rules voting process–and, yes, they took place in town halls.

However, “town hall” has now become an all-encompassing name for meetings that take place in an array of settings, from offices to churches, to discuss the current state of affairs within a group or institution; these meetings are not at all limited to governmental or political topics. 

Town hall meetings frequently take place within companies to discuss the current state of corporate affairs and promote discussion between employees and bosses. They’re also a popular format for universities to keep students and parents up-to-date on what’s happening on campus. 

Overall, no matter the setting, a town hall meeting encourages feedback from community members. It’s a helpful way to keep everyone engaged and informed. 

That’s why it’s such a good method to drive action and speak about your ideas and your platform during a political campaign. During political town halls, political candidates get a chance to answer questions posed by voters. They can also serve as a great way for activists to speak directly to public officials about concerns and ask valuable questions regarding issues in order to drive action. 

An open dialogue is extremely important within politics, and town hall meetings are a great way to keep that dialogue alive–even if it has to be over the internet. 

Going virtual 

Just as nearly every other gathering in our lives, many town hall meetings have moved online. Now, rather than gathering in an actual town hall or a conference room, community members meet over a video platform like Skype, or Zoom, which has skyrocketed in use since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Conducting a virtual town hall typically consists of hosting a meeting on one of these platforms. Attending can be as easy as clicking a link and turning a webcam and microphone on. Zoom’s “raise hand” feature proves helpful when asking questions, taking polls, and voting on issues. 

It’s true that some of the value of an in-person town hall may be lost in a digital setting–there’s nothing like gathering and sharing a physical space with a community. Additionally, technology can cause many issues for the less savvy or just digitally unlucky; the virtual terrain has proven rocky for many people as we attempt to navigate a world of mute buttons, weak WiFi signals, and meeting codes.

However, virtual town halls also offer a few unique advantages. For one, anyone can join in and share their voice from the comfort of their own home–or wherever they find themself at the moment. That means community members who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to attend meetings for any number of reasons can now easily tune in and have a say in the issues they care about.

The simple fact that someone can participate in the meeting without having to leave their home at all may be incentive enough for higher attendance rates. 

Adapting to a changing world with virtual town halls

For better or for worse, the current state of the world calls for virtual meetings–and, in fact, they may be here to stay even after the pandemic is over, as many people have found them to be even more convenient than in-person gatherings.

That’s why it’s important to continue to adapt and settle into the idea of hosting and attending virtual town halls. Overall, whether virtual or in-person, these meetings are a fantastic way to keep community members engaged, for political candidates to speak about their platform and hear from voters, and for everyone to stay up-to-date and speak about the issues they care about within their communities.

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