Public Meeting

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Engagement range

Inform/Consult

Difficulty level

Medium

Cost

Low (up to $1000) to Medium ($1000 to $10,000)

When you might use

  • To showcase product, plan, policy

  • To communicate an issue

Number of people to organise

One to three

Audience numbers

Large (over 30)

Timeframe

Short (up to six weeks) to Medium (six weeks to six months)

Issues/resources

Venue; Catering; Staffing; Moderator/facilitator; Overhead/data projectors and screen; Props for working in groups (pens, paper, pins, etc.); Children’s requirements

Innovation level

Low

 

Description

A meeting is a coming together of people for a specific purpose. The meeting can involve a large number of people, or a smaller (under 10) number of people who focus on a specific problem or purpose. Meetings generally have a facilitator who encourages two-way communication, and a recorder who records suggestions and issues that are revealed at the meeting. Public meetings provide a good focal point for media interest in an event, and photos can provide a visual indicator or levels of interest and the range of people who attended. Public meetings are often the springboard for a movement or for the establishment of a common-interest group which will continue to act on the issues raised and suggestions made. Public meetings are familiar, established ways for people to come together to express their opinions, hear a public speaker, or plan a strategy. They can build a feeling of community and attendance levels provide an indicator of the level of interest within a community on a particular issue. Smaller focus group meetings can be made up of people with common concerns who may not feel confident speaking up in a larger public gathering (eg women, those who speak English as a second language, Indigenous groups). In a separate venue, these people can speak comfortably together, share common issues and a common purpose. The findings from focus group meetings can be presented to larger group meetings, giving a ‘voice’ to those in the community who are unable to speak up in a larger meeting (See also Focus Groups).

 

Objective

To engage a wide audience in information sharing and discussion

 

Desired Outcome

Increase awareness of an issue or proposal, and can be a starting point for, or an ongoing means of engaging, further public involvement.

 

Uses/strengths

  • Allows the involvement and input of a wide range of people.
  • Can develop consensus for action on complex issues that affect the broad community.
  • Disseminates detailed information and decisions throughout the community.
  • Provides opportunities for exploring alternative strategies and building consensus.

Special considerations/weaknesses

  • Unless well facilitated, those perceived as having power within the community, or those who are most articulate and domineering in their verbal style can dominate the meeting.
  • Participants may not come from a broad enough range to represent the entire community.
  • Organisers must be aware of potential conflicts.
  • Community members may not be willing to work together.
  • May not achieve consensus.
  • Can be time and labour intensive.

Step by step guide

  1. Establish why you need to consult the community; do not hold a public meeting or consult unnecessarily; this wastes people’s time, and may create disinterest for the future.
  2. Consider the circumstances of the community and the issues.
  3. Schedule a series of meetings. A suggested series follows:
    • Meeting 1:
      • Introduce project and key personnel
      • Supply project information
      • Allow the community to ask questions and identify issues of concern
      • Provide contact points
      • Identify groups with specific concerns for targeted consultation
    • Meeting 2:
      • Break between meetings allows participants to consider views and concerns
      • Reintroduce project
      • Activate good listening skills
      • Clarification and expansion of issues
    • Meeting 3:
      • Information and feedback on how issues and concerns are being met
      • Presentation at the conclusion of a project or make recommendations for the community’s consideration
      • Discuss ongoing participation in the process
  4. Publicise and advertise the meeting; advertise weekly in local media
  5. Book a venue and arrange catering with flexibility as to numbers as attendance is difficult to predict:
    • Venue should be neutral territory
    • Provide no alcohol
    • Provide refreshments at the conclusion of the meeting
  6. Timing: Conduct the meeting at a time where the largest number of participants can attend.
  7. Inform participants of chairperson/facilitator/guest speakers.
  8. Determine the conduct of the meeting:
    • Work closely with the chair
    • General format is presentation followed by question time
    • Present agenda
    • Field questions
    • Record comments.
  9. Considerations:
    • Widely advise the ways feedback from the community is being incorporated into the project. Avoid allowing the meeting to be taken over by more vocal community members.
    • Be prepared to change tack during the meeting
    • Cater for people with disabilities or from non-English speaking backgrounds
    • Never lose your temper
    • Set up early.

 

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