A funny thing happened on the way to the public meeting…

1 04 2011

One thing I love about public participation is its sponteneity and encounters with the unexpected. I plan all scenarios imaginable for meeting facilitation, but the real fun comes with real people come through the door. We get to meet people in the course of their daily lives from all backgrounds and with all types of personalities.

I have also learned that in order to be effective in this work, you have to find humor in even the most tense and complex situations. Note that the humor needed to stay afloat is NOT at anyone’s expense and especially should not limit, label or otherwise degrade stakeholders. However, sometimes a simple mispelling (who hasn’t accidentially typed “pubic meeting” instead of “public”?) or delightful turn of phrase deserves attention to recognize the fun and humanity of citizen engagement.

Every project I’ve worked on has had some range of stories of shared experiences and memorable moments. For instance, there was the meeting where I “took the microphone away” from someone a little long-winded. Or the guy who was upset at staff taking photos to document the meeting. Or, in meeting with a group of property owners about potential impacts overhearing a mom and son discussing how it might impact their illegal crop.

Through the course of time, I feel like I have seen and heard it all! But how about you? What are some of the memorable stories and humorous moments from your P2 experiences?


What qualities make a successful P2 person?

11 05 2010

What do you look for in a P2 professional? What characteristics make someone particularly good at public outreach?

I recently came across this list of characteristics for effective speech writers. I particularly like the attention to being a lifelong learner and having natural curiosity. Those qualities translate well to P2.

But what do you expect as a skill set and personality traits for our profession? Here are a few things I look for:

  • Communication skills – effective writing, public speaking, task planning and interpersonal communication are a must
  • Process-orientation – interest in a fair and open process rather than a particular outcome
  • Adaptability – the ability to apply processes and communication techniques to various topics and situations
  • Recognition of constraints – know the parameters with which you are working and convey relevant constraints to stakeholders as part of a fair and open process
  • Commitment – a sense that a good public process contributes to better decisions and better communities

Please leave a comment with the qualities you think are needed to be successful in this field!