Meetings are a key means for communicating and planning with your core group, volunteers and the wider community. They can enable a range of people to contribute ideas and participate in decision making, whilst being kept informed about progress made and future plans. Meetings can not only serve a variety purposes, but can also take a range of different forms. Different formats will suit different objectives and engagement targeted at different sections of the community.
The following sections offer ideas and examples for different types of meetings and how to use them as a platform for participation. General considerations for maximising engagement through meetings include:
- Venue. For open meetings which the general public are invited to, try to pick a neutral venue which is accessible and well-known within the community, such as a local café or village hall. The more convenient the location, the greater the number of people who are likely to attend.
- Timing. Try to arrange your meeting for a time when your group or target audience are most likely to be available. Turn out is likely to be higher during evenings and weekends, and check local calendars to avoid clashes with other events. For internal meetings for your core group or volunteers, using a tool such as Doodle polls can be useful for scheduling a time that best suits everyone.
- Invitations. Making a list of people to invite and inviting them directly can help to make sure that all the key people are present on the day. Remember to keep a record of those who have confirmed they will attend and those who turn up and send their apologies on the day. For public meetings, making sure you have publicised the meeting widely is vital if you are to have a good turnout.
- Agenda. Sending an agenda to those invited to the meeting, or publicising the agenda of open meetings via your marketing and communications, can encourage people to attend, help them to prepare for the planned agenda items and also ensures the meeting is well-structured and organised. A good format for the agenda is to set out the time, date and location of the meeting, with a short description, named person to lead discussions and time allowance for each item.
- Chair. Having someone as a Chair will help to structure the meeting and ensure that the agenda is followed. Even if the meeting is intended to be relatively informal, it is a good idea to have someone to lead and guide discussions.
- Minutes. Writing minutes during the meeting and circulating them afterwards to the whole group is useful to keep a record of what was discussed and agreed, even if the minutes simply take the form of a brief summary of agreed actions for particular people to take forward. For a more creative approach at a significant public meeting or event, you could ask someone artistic to produce ‘visual minutes’.
Click on the categories below to explore practical suggestions and detailed case studies by theme.