April 12, 2024

The value of townhalls


By  Patrice M. Kelly, JD, Senior Policy Executive Advisor

Many of you have heard me say, “My favorite hour each week is the NDASA Town Hall meeting time!”  I genuinely mean that. Where else can you find relevant and clear advice in an engaging format open to questions about what you really want to hear?  I especially appreciate that NDASA offers the expert forum of Town Hall to association members and nonmembers alike. Many people have told me that they started listening as nonmembers and then realized the Town Halls are so essential to their businesses that they joined NDASA because of what they have learned at these meetings.

Town Hall began in 2020 to offer a way to share vitally important and quickly-changing information about safely conducting collections for drug and alcohol testing during the pandemic. But I would argue that Town Hall is perhaps even more important now than it was in 2020. With recent advances in drug testing, the evolution of ways to cheat a test, and the new challenges to being able to conduct testing at the state level, issues of concern to our industry have never been more pronounced than they are in 2024.

I am a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell, a New York Times best-selling author whose work is highly valued in the business and social science worlds (including psychology and political science). In his book, The Tipping Point, Gladwell describes three kinds of people: the Connectors, the Salesmen; and the Mavens – all of whom we hear from during our weekly Town Hall meetings. 

Our Town Hall Connectors are sociable and gregarious. They are skilled in knowing who to connect with to get the correct information and how to get the word out to the audiences who need to know and who can take appropriate action. A Connector may be the one asking the question or the one who knows where to get the answer. 

Our Town Hall Salesmen are the people who pitch the idea or message and persuade people to join them.  Often on Town Hall, someone will ask who provides a service or who can help to get them to a goal. The Salesmen eagerly fill the chat box with links and helpful resources. Quite often, the Salesmen are promoting their own business, which is fine because they are doing so in direct response to someone who has a business problem the Salesmen believe they can solve.

Our Town Hall Mavens are those individuals who are endlessly curious and adept at gathering and retaining information about Part 40 and the Department of Transportation agency regulations, non-DOT testing, addiction and recovery issues, laboratory issues, etc. These might be my favorite of all the Town Hall participants. Like me, they enjoy gathering information for their own benefit, intellectual development, and so they can assist others. The Mavens are often the ones who ask the really tough, thought-provoking questions and who revel in the joy of finding exact answers and hearing expert opinions. Yes, these are my fellow “experts” who find a special bond with their fellow experts and, together, we cry “nerd tears” as others join our ranks!

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