As of this writing, I've helped put together 2 Townhall events with the Los Angeles chapter. I arrived home last night just before 1AM, feeling wiped out, but also with a sense of accomplishment. Tonight surprised me. Our plan was to give more time to the Q&A and shorten the time of the presentations and speaking. I turned my cellphone off and forgot about the time. The audience dove in with their questions. Some great ones tonight too. After what I thought was "a little while" I leaned over and asked Jordet what time it was. And he kind of lip-sync'd the words to me making hand guestures of 10-or something. We were supposed to complete at 9 o'clock. I guess the fact that it was that late wasn't registering so I asked him like 5 times because I wasn't getting it "what time is it?!?"
Anyway, we all got our wish, the audience had an extra hour for Q&A.
To rewind the evening a little, putting this all together took a team of people. From scouting the location, working out a deal, finding people to help with the technical (lights, sound, webcast), someone taking pictures. Plus keeping track of who's showing up (are they on the RSVP?, did they just show up?), etc.. A whole bunch of items. The hardest I'd say has been the webcast. A note for anyone wanting to do that: DSL will only barely get you by with the lowest quality stream possible since the bandwith is fairly low. If your'e in a place with a slow connection (400Kbps or less), you're going to have limitations, and possible dropouts. Cable modem or better will set you up nicely, and a DV camera will do just fine.
I often think of what the experience is like for someone new, who doesn't really have any idea what the Movement is about, and they walk into a Townhall as their first experience. My hope is that they found value in the evening (and I think most did), and for some I could really see that frame of reference changing in their facial expressions. People were engaged in the subject matter, some taking notes, and most listening intently to what we were all saying.
I do encourage other chapters to explore the possibility of having this kind of event. It takes getting to understand the wide array of subject matter from economics, philosophies, technology, the different sciences, logical fallacy, sociology plus others. Because it will all come up when there's a group asking questions, especially from different backgrounds. That's the benefit of having a few people on the panel. But this all takes time, and there are also a great number of alternatives within reach of most chapters: dvd's, local events, fliers, postcards at a shop, etc. are also all effective. Along with being part of the larger, global events (ie. Zday).
It always amazes me what a group of volunteers can accomplish when the spark of collaboration has ignited.