How to…..Organise a Public Meeting

Our ‘How To’ series is developed to help start/develop your justice and peace group and are all available on the resources page. 

10. How to organise a public meeting.

You may wish to organise a public meeting or invite a speaker at some time during the year. Time given to sorting out the following points will ensure a successful meeting almost every time.

Be clear about the purpose/s of the meeting. It might be a good idea for someone to clarify them at the start of the meeting and refer to them again at the end.   Be clear what your target group(s) is for the meeting, as this will assist you in advertising.

People will only come to a public meeting if they are clear what it’s about; choosing a punchy title can help to attract them. Also, a count-down splashed across posters is eye-catching. Project a positive image rather than highlighting only the crises in the issue you are dealing with best penis stretchers. Posters should be visually attractive, and provide all necessary details in simple, large and easily readable type. Good positioning is often more important than the number of posters you distribute. Don’t forget to place some in local schools, youth centres, other churches, libraries etc.   If you are advertising in the parish newsletter or press, follow the guide-lines given in the skills sections on using the media and newsletters and bulletins. A verbal notice given from the pulpit together with encouragement to attend usually works wonders. Don’t rely only on formal advertising: phone around and invite friends, and key people in other J&P groups and similar organisations.

If you are advertising the event widely, ensure that

  • The names and telephone numbers of one or two key contacts are included in the publicity to answer enquiries.
  • You have maps and detailed directions to send to anyone who needs them to find the venue.

Try not to clash with a major media event such as the final of Wimbledon. This will affect attendance considerably! Avoid the summer months because people may be on holiday. If you choose an evening, avoid Fridays and Saturdays. On other evenings, give people a chance to return from work and have some supper: start about 7.30 p.m. or consider starting immediately after an evening service when people will be willing to stay on. A full day gathering will probably have to be at the weekend, but a weekday is better if you hope to have a lot of clergy present.

Book a venue which is appropriate for the realistic size of the expected gathering. An enormous parish hall for half a dozen people lacks warmth and atmosphere. Check access (keys), heating, facilities for boiling water, cups etc. (since tea/coffee should really be offered if you are expecting people to stay for a long evening). Check that the chairs are clean (they may not have been used in a long time). If you book a local primary school, check that they have adult size chairs. Put up a few posters and check the lights so that the place is as attractive as possible.

Have a set agenda to follow and make it last between one and two hours. People become bored and annoyed if you keep them longer. Ensure that there is some kind of welcome and introduction and some kind of neat rounding off.

Before the questions you might give an opportunity for people to “buzz” or chat to their neighbour This provides a bit of relief, an opportunity for a stretch and breaks up long sessions.

It is important to offer hospitality to a speaker before and after the meeting. If you know the speaker is travelling some distance, invite him or her for a meal and offer accommodation. Brief the speaker extensively on the topic you wish him or her to deal with, what your aim is in holding the meeting, how many people you expect, their average age and any other useful background. If the speaker is organised by CAFOD or CIIR, for instance, don’t assume automatically that the person is a Catholic, this may not be the case. Research the background details of the speaker thoroughly and introduce him or her correctly.

Chairing the Meeting
The role of the person chairing the meeting is:

  • To welcome the speaker and the audience (particularly important when people from a variety of contexts are involved).
  • To make sure that the agenda is adhered to
  • To control the question and answer session
  • To give a word of thanks at the end
  • To give out necessary notices

Sound Equipment
A microphone can sometimes put a distance between a speaker and the audience, but do use one if the speaker has a soft voice or if there is a large attendance at the gathering or the Sizegenetics. Check out how the system works in advance. Make sure your guest is aware of it and ask someone to ensure that it is working properly.

Visual Aids

Visual aids always make a meeting more interesting, before the meeting take note of the following suggestions:

  • View the DVD/Powerpoint in advance to make sure that it is appropriate and won’t take up too much time.
  • Check the equipment and have a quick run-through before the meeting starts.
  • Make sure that the screen is clearly visible from all points in the room.

It is always a good idea to have a resources stall at a major event. If your speaker has written any books, have copies available.   Stock materials relevant to the talk and a variety of other related material. Invite allied organisations to mount a stall at the meeting.

Place the stall in a suitable position, e.g. near the coffee and tea, and have any prices clearly marked.

Mention from the platform that the resources are there and urge people to visit them after the talk. Also, give them time to do so, e.g. during an extended coffee break.

If your gathering is basically a church one, organise a short prayer at the beginning and end of the meeting. If a liturgy is central to the event and is ecumenical, try to involve as many people as possible from other churches in prayers, readings etc. Creative use of slides, music and/or drama can really set people in the right frame of mind to get a lot out of the meeting.

Follow Up
Meetings should always have some kind of consequence. If your meeting is launching a campaign, inform people of the likely follow-up and ask them to volunteer their names and telephone numbers.