Re: Action Events Program in a Box

Hold a Panel to Spark Discussion on a Hot-Button Topic


Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, Catholics for Choice Domestic Program Director Sara Hutchinson, AAUW top policy adviser Lisa Maatz, and Washington Post writer Ann Gerhart speak at our Re: Action — Birth Control event.

Is there a current issue firing up your community? Then it’s time to host an AAUW Re: Action Program in a Box! Use this Program in a Box to gather a panel of local experts to engage your community in worthwhile discussion about a hot topic that impacts women. You’ll show your community what your branch stands for and reach potential new members. Because this event centers on a current conversation, it must be planned within days, not months or weeks — and we’re here to help you make it happen.

Get Started

The key to a successful Re: Action is timeliness. The AAUW national office held its first Re: Action event around the phenomenon known as SlutWalks after only four business days of preparation! Your event must be planned and held within days of an issue “trending” on news media, social media, or in your community, so pay close attention to what women’s issues are being covered in local or national news reports and in your Facebook or Twitter news feed. If you think AAUW could help jumpstart conversation about this issue, get planning!


Once you choose a topic, you only have a few days to prepare for the Re: Action event. You’ll need to assemble volunteers to handle the following tasks:

  • Invite panelists and a moderator.Three panelists is the best number, so invite five since you’ll inevitably have some schedule conflicts. Ask people who have expertise on the issue. Depending on the topic, this could include school officials, university students, doctors, lawyers, professors, reporters, teachers, civic leaders, and activists. Experts can also be individuals who have experienced the issue firsthand, such as a survivor of domestic violence or an individual who fought against the wage gap in their place of employment. Secure a moderator (such as a branch member) who is familiar with different aspects of the issue and can help guide and facilitate the discussion.
  • Confirm venue logistics.Do this within hours of the decision to hold a Re: Action so that your marketing materials can include the event location. Unless you are holding a Re: Action around retirees’ issues or stay at home parents, most of your potential attendees will be working people who would most likely be available in the early evening. Make sure you are hosting your event in a neutral and accessible place.
  • Ramp up your publicity.Use social media, flyers and posters, and your local media to spread the word. Reach out to other community groups to ask them to share the event details with their network, and ask your panelists to spread the word through their own networks. You might want to direct people to register through Eventbrite so that you can track attendees and record their e-mail addresses. Read our guide for more ideas on spreading the word about your event.
  • Gather materials. Create a sign-in sheet to record attendees’ contact information. Find out if panelists have related materials that they would like to display. Distribute AAUW information that describes what we are doing about the issue and how people can join our efforts.


Your event should last from 60 to 90 minutes. We recommend the following “show flow.”

  1. Welcome your guests and give a brief explanation of who you are and what AAUW does. Then introduce the topic you are addressing and reference the timeliness of the situation and its impact on your community. (2–3 minutes)
  2. Welcome your panelists to the stage and introduce them by their preferred name, the organization they represent, and any qualifications they have on the topic. (1 minute max per panelist)
  3. Have a question prepared for each of your panelists based on their area of expertise. This assures that each panelist will get to express their view without interruption. (3–5 minutes per panelist)
  4. Once each panelist has answered their initial question, you can ask a few more to the panel in general while inviting other panelists to contribute as appropriate given their background. (15–20 minutes)
  5. Often you will be addressing a contentious topic. The purpose of the panel is to address different aspects of the issue, so there will likely be some tension. Be aware and prepared.
  6. Leave 10–15 minutes at the end for panelists to answer questions from the audience. Make sure you have members planted in the audience with questions ready in case people are reluctant to step forward initially.

Indicate who will take the last question, and, once that question is answered, close the program by thanking your panel and attendees and inviting everyone to join AAUW to ensure that these important conversations around women’s issues continue to take place.

Follow Up

  • Add the e-mail addresses of those who RSVP’dfor your Re: Action event to your own branch Listserv. Send an e-mail thanking them for attending and say that you hope to see them next time. Indicate how AAUW will keep them informed.
  • Send a handwritten thank-you note to your panelists, even if you gave them a thank-you/speaker gift on the day of the event.
  • If you had someone tape your event, post the footage on your YouTube account, Facebook page, or website, and send the AAUW national office the link so that we can share as well!

For questions or information about this Program in a Box, contact

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