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Holding a public meeting

A public meeting can be an effective tactic to launch or promote a campaign, generate media coverage or raise public awareness and involvement.

There are eight key steps for holding a public meeting:

  • Step 1: Set suitable date and time
  • Step 2: Decide on and book a good venue
  • Step 3: Choose the theme, chair and speaker, and brief them
  • Step 4: Publicise the event
  • Step 5: Organise the materials you will need
  • Step 6: Prepare on the night
  • Step 7: Format the meeting
  • Step 8: Agree follow-up actions

Get some help to run the meeting - a small team of three or four, with one person taking responsibility will share the workload and bring new ideas.

Step 1: Set suitable date and time

Plan the meeting well in advance, ideally three months, allowing at least one month for publicity. Check deadlines for local newspapers and other publicity options such as a local group's newsletter.

  • If an evening meeting, aim for Tuesday to Thursday
  • Check for clashes with other local meetings or key dates in the public or sporting calendars
  • Draw up a brief plan of action with dates and time

Step 2: Decide on and book a good venue

The venue should be accessible by public transport, with access for the disabled, easy to find, with parking area, and open late if necessary.

Use local knowledge and check with other groups for recommended venues. Always visit the venue before the event

Step 3: Choose the theme, chair and speaker, and brief them

The title should be short, catchy and understandable to a wide audience.

Brief speakers on the format of the meeting and timing, prepare them for questions and check whether they need audio-visual aids.

  • Remeber to confirm arrangements in writing and phone shortly before to finalise details.

Step 4: Publicise the event

Publicity leaflets should include details of the date, time, place, subject and format. Important words should stand out.

There are a range of options:

  • A5 fliers to post or leave in community venues or on notice boards
  • A poster using same design as the flier either A3 or more popularly A4 for shop windows and the like
  • Advertisements in local newspapers and magazines
  • Mailings or magazines of groups such as parish councils
  • Media release to local media well in advance and immediately before the meeting

Step 5: Organise the materials you will need:

  • Order materials you need at least a month in advance
  • Prepare signs for finding and getting around the venue
  • Take audio-visual equipment including slides and transparencies, (unless the venue can provide these)
  • Organise a public address system if using a large hall.
  • Confirm any catering arrangements
  • Take an attendance list and pens and have plenty of space for writing down addresses
  • Prepare display boards/tables

Step 6: Prepare on the night

Arrive at least an hour before the starting time.

Post signs at key locations. Brief volunteers on their role. Check audio-visual equipment is working

Step 7: Format the meeting

Opening

  • Open the meeting with a welcome and by introducing yourself.
  • Outline the programme for the meeting, including the intended finish time
  • Remind people to sign the attendance list
  • State the aim/purpose of the meeting
  • Introduce the speaker(s) or panel

Main issue

Move to the substantive issue of the meeting.

Questions and answers

Go to questions, comments and discussion. Others may try to hijack your meeting, so have a strong chairperson to stick to the agenda and to deal with troublemakers. Prime your own supporters to ask questions and ensure the chairperson of the meeting knows whom to call on.

Closing

  • Thank the speakers and audience
  • Clarify what the next steps are and how you are going to follow up the meeting
  • Give dates of any future events
  • Remind people to sign the attendance list and appeal for members
  • Pack up - removing notices in and outside the venue - and leave the room tidy

If possible, have a refreshment break before or after the meeting, or both if it is long. This gives the opportunity for informality, networking and signing up support.

Step 8: Agree follow-up actions

Do a follow-up media release on the substance of the meeting immediately. Keep those who attended informed about the campaign.

  • Write to thank speakers
  • Prepare a plan of action for further meetings and action