How to Conduct a Town Hall in a Virtual Environment

An evolution is taking place in the world of local government. Town hall meetings, which once took place only in large, crowded conference rooms, are now accessible from tablets, desktops, and mobile phones.

Virtual town hall meetings, whether via live stream or video conferencing, allow local governmental organizations to meet their constituents where they are. There are numerous advantages to this type of gathering.  

They encourage participation from constituents who might not otherwise join in, which will provide a more representative cross-section of opinions and viewpoints. They also allow your organization to record meetings so citizens who are unable to attend can view the content at a later date.

Virtual town halls are not difficult to plan or conduct. They just require some foresight and the help of an audiovisual company that can identify the tools you need and set you up for success. Here are some considerations as you shift your town hall gatherings to a cyber environment. 

Your Setup

Before you plan your agenda or send invitations, make sure you have the proper tools. To get started, choose your video conferencing software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams or a free live streaming platform such as Facebook Live. Like a live conference, a virtual event is planned, but invitees receive a link instead of going to a specific web address to watch

Select a platform that accommodates desktop and mobile devices to ensure all constituents have a convenient way to log on and includes features that allow participants to interact with moderators, team leaders, and even other viewers.

To prepare, check that you have a reliable wifi connection, which is crucial when it comes to dependable video quality and failsafe audio. Virtual town hall meetings don’t necessarily require expensive hardware. It is possible to use a basic webcam, but for excellent footage quality, you may want to invest in a higher-end device. The best cameras also allow you to add an external microphone for improved audio. If your speaker or moderator plans to move around the room, you may want to consider a pan-tilt-zoom or tracking camera. 

A hardware encoder is another tool to consider, especially if you need to provide very reliably, first-rate live streaming. Hardware encoders capture, compress, and convert audio-visual data into a format suitable for streaming. Due to the higher encoding speed, they shorten the delay time between when your camera captures an event and when the event is displayed to viewers. 

Partner with an audiovisual installation company that will complete a thorough evaluation of your organization’s needs and design the best solution for your team members. Skilled technicians should also be able to hold on-site training to teach your team how to conduct virtual town hall events so that they are ready to roll on the day of the first meeting. 

Planning your meeting 

Once your organization is set up to conduct a virtual town hall, you can move on to the actual event planning. After sending invites, send pre-meeting updates to keep attendees engaged and enthusiastic. You can also invite constituents to send questions ahead of time that officials can answer during the live event. 

Identify a moderator or a leader and craft an agenda to keep the meeting moving smoothly and avoid awkward pauses or hiccups. When creating a schedule, seek ways to add interactive features. Real-time polls can gather opinions or test your audience’s knowledge. Many video conferencing software platforms offer different ways to poll your attendees, such as multiple choice or write-in answers. A chat box or raised hand feature allows participants to ask questions during the meeting. 

Just before your event, hold a rehearsal with speakers and “test” virtual participants so you’ll be confident that your agenda will run smoothly and that there will be minimal audio and video glitches. 

Audiovisual installation experts

Haverford Systems Incorporated has 30 years of experience providing audiovisual solutions for Philadelphia-area customers, including local government facilities. Schedule a meeting with us to find out how we can help design and install the tools you need to conduct effective, captivating town hall meetings for your constituents.