Planning a Meeting
It is helpful to have an organizing committee set the agenda and a general direction for the first large neighborhood meeting. Oftentimes, a group will start out with a large meeting that has no direction, no chairperson, and no agenda other than a discussion of the issue. The resulting confusion from such a meeting can be frustrating to the initiators, alienating to potential members, and wasteful of a lot of good energy.
When you are ready to have that first neighborhood-wide meeting, here are a few ideas to help you plan it.
- Choose a neutral meeting place. A school or large community room in your area is best. The Neighborhood Action Office can assist with reserving some City facilities such as conference and community rooms at Fire Stations or Parks facilities.
- If you have a choice, choose a room that is a bit too small for the crowd you expect. A group of 50 can get lost in a room meant for 200; whereas, that same group in a room meant for 40 will feel a greater sense of unity and closeness (although it might get a bit stuffy).
- In choosing your site, be sure to be mindful of cultural and ethnic demographics which may dissuade some residents from attending. (For example, Muslim residents may feel uncomfortable attending meetings at a Christian church building.)
- Schedule the meeting in the early evening.
- If possible, make arrangements to transport interested seniors that are without a ride to the meeting.
- Prepare a flyer that states the time, place, date and purpose of the meeting. If there is a quick-copy printer in the neighborhood, ask if they will donate the printing. If not, the Neighborhood Action Office can assist with providing a limited number of black and white copies for the purpose of advertising the first meeting.
- Invite the Neighborhood Action Office to the first meeting.
- The organizing committee should personally distribute flyers throughout the neighborhood. Be prepared to do a lot of talking. Also, if appropriate, check with the principal of the elementary school in your area about sending flyers home with children. And don’t forget to include merchants, ministers and others who work in the neighborhood.
- Arrange chairs in a circle so that people can see each other.
- Have visual aids available and on display: maps, petitions, etc. You can obtain a map of the neighborhood from the City-County Planning Commission for a small fee.
- Greet everyone at the door. Introduce people around, and make sure they put on a name tag.
- Have everyone sign-in at the door. Include name, address, phone number or e-mail address and area(s) of concern. This will allow for follow-up.
- If you can, have coffee or light refreshments available and allow time for mingling.
- Set an agenda and time limit for this first meeting.
- Appoint one neighborhood person to conduct the meeting.
- Ask someone to take minutes at the meeting.
- Follow your prepared agenda and give everyone a chance to speak. Keep emotional or controversial issues at the end of the agenda. This will let you take care of the small, yet necessary decisions first.
- Start and end on time. Don’t punish those who arrive on time by making them wait for latecomers.
- Follow Robert’s Rules of Order, if you wish. This may not work for your group. Your group may operate better using their own set of rules. Just make sure that all decisions are made democratically by the entire membership.
- To vote or not to vote: voting creates winners and losers. Consensus results in a more satisfying agreement because people are able to speak their minds and then come to a compromise. Consensus creates more lasting decisions.
- Minutes. Have someone keep official minutes. Minutes should include items presented, decisions made, votes taken, tasks assigned and the next meeting place, date and time. Keep the minutes in a binder along with other important documents, such as incorporation papers, sign-in sheets, etc.
- Don’t allow minutes to fizzle out. Let members go out of a meeting with a BANG. Make them want more!! Assign tasks with deadlines.
- Decide on the next meeting, place, time and date before the members leave.
Some information provided by the City of Tacoma, WA.