Got Y2K Town Meeting experiences? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

For those who have attended or organized town Y2K meetings, I'd be very interested to hear your comments on what worked and what didn't, what you would have done differently, and what you think really is essentisl to a succesful town/city open-to-the-public Y2K meeting.

This was prompted by Andy's question about the recent San Jose Expo, and also an upcoming town meeting my parents will be attending next weekend.

My experience as an attendee has been that the agenda-- the context created for the entire meeting-- is of the utmost importance.

Also, the "Q & A" should be organized and not just open to questions shooting out from all directions throughout the presentations.

The organizers have to be on the same wavelength. A planning meeting before the town meeting is vital. You can lose the crowd forever, if you don't have your act together. Your experience?

-- Sara Nealy (, April 11, 1999


Sara, you are right about the planning meetings being necessary to organize the town meetings. I am on the planning committee for my local town and I can say that our town meetings would be nothing but free-for-all spook stories and spin control snipets if it weren't for careful planning and organization. I read somewhere that if you have a planning committee, you should try to cycle through everybody in that group to act as chairman or spokesperson for that meeting. Otherwise, a continuous 'leader' could get an ego trip and split up the group through resentment, jealousy, and the formation of factions within the group. During your town meetings, if a Q&A forum is going to be opened up to a panel of speakers or such, I highly recommend having the audience members write down questions that they would like to have asked. The questions can be sorted by someone familiar with Y2K issues and presented to the panel for rational discussion. In summary, I would just like to agree with the points that Sara made.


-- A.P. (, April 11, 1999.

My church held a meeting, with a panel, to discuss y2k issues. They were not prepared for the fact that the audience questions were about preparation. They were also not prepared for the fact that 1 person who is a regular donor asked if the church's own computer network was y2k-compliant yet. The church admin replied that it was not, but they were working on it. Moral of story--be prepared for questions that do not conform to your plan.

-- b (b@b.b), April 11, 1999.

b - You raise an interesting question: how many local meetings are being sponsored by religious leaders/groups, how many by grassroots activists, and how many by the local governing body?

A.P. - Which group was the source for your town meeting organized?

Also, at this stage of public awareness, how much time did you devote to awareness-raising and how much time to preparedness? Did you use support materials to extend the reach of your message? To query the attendees on their "Y2K-awareness"?

-- Sara Nealy (, April 11, 1999.

A.P., I MEANT to ask, who sponsored your town meeting?

-- Sara Nealy (, April 11, 1999.

Hi Sara:

My advice for anyone organizing a y2k meeting is to provide for direct -- but orderly -- audience participation ... especially during the Q & A session. To this end, open microphones in the isles is a good idea; requireing written questions which can easily be selectively edited (read censored) would be a big mistake, especially if none of the really tough questions ever get asked. Just remember, the goal is to truthfully inform people; not create additional suspicion.

-- Yan (, April 11, 1999.

Although I did not attend, our county town meetings were organized earlier in the year by "survivalist" factions. People who attended got a good dose of the political package that accompanies the group. (Don't get me wrong, I am not dissing many of those concerns.) However, it turned off many of the conservative "centrists" who happen to be community leaders. It also inadvertantly drew upon old lines of political disagreement toward acceptance of the issue.

I know that when our local ag-extension home economist presented virtually the same *preparation* material in the newspaper, (without the politics,) it was accepted by a wider group of people in the ag and business sectors and without the panic that accompanied the NWO agenda.

In presenting information to the conservative centrists, with whom I work, I have been careful to select "official" "credible" sources to which they will listen. If you want to reach a certain population, try to find a thread eminating from their usual sources of information.

Oft times it is the messenger that delivers the information that will determine acceptance of the information. I suggest you chose panelists carefully. If a "minority" group (religious, political, etc.) feels passionate about the issue, assign them to help in follow-up community organization or preparing suggested supply lists. For instance, "survivalists" I have known and loved are great resources on food storage and prep. (I sort of wear two hats here. I am not dissing surivalists.)

-- marsh (, April 11, 1999.

(quoting previous post) "My advice for anyone organizing a y2k meeting is to provide for direct -- but orderly -- audience participation ... especially during the Q & A session."

What is the fear exactly, Yan? How come you are so concerned about controlling superstition and panic? Do you not assume that people other than yourself have the cognitive resources to sort through the fog for pertinent information? Or do you assume that all such meeting will devolve into melees? My suggestion, if you are in a fear-filled place, is that you breath a bit, and assume just the opposite of what the media and the government is trying to propagandize----that human beings are pretty logical, slow to panic, and for the most part pretty responsible and creative. Seems from some of your previous posts that you are holding a lot of personal fear about "other" people. Perhaps your own unacknowledged fear warrant a look.

-- Donna Barthuley (, April 11, 1999.

Our town meeting was organized by the council at the request of the state office "in charge" of Y2K information. Most news was positive, though not broad in scope. Negative news was ignored by the newspaper followup.

Our church is in the process of organizing a meeting for our congregation, though we expect little involvement.

Maybe...everyone who is preparing for anything worse than a holiday hangover is crazy? The rest of the world is trundling right along while we buy beans and talk about social disorder...cognitive dissonance is setting in.

-- shy ann (shy@really.shy), April 11, 1999.

> A.P., I MEANT to ask, who sponsored your town meeting?

Hi Sara. Nobody sponsors our planning or town meetings which we hold once a month for each. The people on our planning committee each take on certain responsibilities to set up, maintain and tear down the town meetings. We have been holding our planning committee meetings at the homes and offices of group members. So far, we have been able to hold our town meetings at public places like the community center, city council building, local school auditoriums and the like and so far, no one has charged us to use the facilities.

Yan: The very first Y2K meeting that I went to used the written question format for the Q&A session and I was immediately ticked and mumbling something about censorship and spin control. I wrote down 7 questions that I thought really dug into the meat of Y2K: questions that asked the panel members to 'define critical systems' and 'tell us the difference between Y2K compliance and Y2K ready'; asked the local phone company how they expected to fix their critical systems when they had put their payroll system in their intermediate systems list; asked the local hospital how long their generators could run in the event of a long term power outage and the possibility of no fuel delivery in the near future, things like that. To my surprise, the moderator addressed all of my questions. Maybe I got lucky, but the moderator wasn't part of the panel of speakers and had no special interest in taking it easy on them. The open mike forum we've had at other meetings promoted a sense of freedom to ask without the question being squashed or edited, but it's amazing how many people repeatedly asked how Y2K would affect their VCR. A waste of good Q&A time IMO just because people don't pay attention to what's already been asked. I guess that what I'm trying to say is that, although I'm a great lover of freedom of speech and an opponent of censorship, there's just not enough time to dink around with every question that everyone has. The time frame for the forums are limited and the year just keeps rolling along.

-- A.P. (, April 12, 1999.

As the Compliance Officer/Y2K Project Coordinator, I have been the speaker at four orgainized "seminars" and numerous professional and civic group meetings. In each instance, I do my best to give a realistic synopsis of what may happen with regard to Y2K (power failures, business closures, water supply interruption, etc) as well as tell honestly the preparations made by my banks. I make suggestions for preparation based on information posted on this and other forums. Finally, but maybe most importantly, I allow at least thirty minutes for impromptu questions (or as long as it takes). These are questions from the audience, some of which have been questions organized on this forum prior to my knowledge of its existence. In any case, they are questions that have not been prearranged. I do my best to answer honestly - and admint what we do not know. I think it is extremely important to allow the audience to ask any and all questions because you get a feel of what is really important to your community. Just offering a little of what has worked well for me. (PS - I used a PowerPoint presentation in my seminars. People often respond to visuals better than a lot of talk!)

-- Diana (, April 12, 1999.

I have been involved in a couple of town hall style meetings here in my neck of the woods. Two were sponsered by the county emergency planning council and one by myself for my neighbors.

The county ones presented factual info., a little light on the possible duration side but at least it was talked about. Standard speech about food, water, heat, etc. Check out your own PC, get copies of financial records if you feel the need to and so forth. Very well attended and I felt the sponsers were honest and admitted when they didn't know something.

The one I put on was more interesting to say the least!! I had only wanted to pass out info., answer what questions I could and direct people to other sources of info. if they so chose. It lasted 4 hours!! Turns out many folks were just looking for an "excuse" to get together and compare notes. We had farmers, computer folks, a fireman and some retired folks among the participants. Made for a lively discussion to say the least.

Turns out many folks have been quietly preparing for the last 6 to 8 months. Sometimes their reasons were "something just doesn't feel right" so we started doing something to those who had done their Y2K research and wanted to cover their bases. All in all I'd call these folks a good cross-section of America. No cammo/gun-nuts were among the group. However there were 4 of us who were 'Nam vets(CIB), 2 HAM radio operators and 1 EMT. The joke at the end of the night was that all we lacked to run a patrol was an officer :) Seriously though it was a very insightfull discussion. People are aware, they are somewhat nervous about what may or may not happen and they are quietly learning which of their neighbors are also aware.

The items that would have helped all of us were: 1) Some hard copies of the slides I presented about how remediation works(I'm a computer geek by trade) 2) Lists of suppliers that people had used and found to be reliable, 3)Agencies, both local and state, to ask about their plans and progress, 4)Types of questions to ask of your bank, credit union. I'm sure there were more but that's just the ones that stick out in my mind.

We, the neighborhood group, are going to schedule meetings about every other month up until Oct. If everything points to a minor bump in the road scenario so much the better. Our area has flooding so the preparations will not be wasted. If it goes the other way we at least all know each other now. Besides I found somebody else who likes to go fly fishing as much as I do(if our wives and girlfriends let us loose!! :) All in all I'd say the meetings were successfull in all instances.

-- owner (, April 13, 1999.

One technique I've seen used at conferences really helps control the Q&A Session.

Ask that questions be written. Have 3x5 cards available. Use a second person (moderator) to collect, summarize and ask the speaker questions. This allows you to focus on real questions instead of yeilding the floor to people that want to make statements. You can also see from the number of times a question is asked how important the subject is to the audience. It also helps people that are too shy to raise their hand in front of all the other people.

Hope this is helpful...

-- Jim Smith (, April 13, 1999.

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