Planning tips for public meetings

18 05 2010

Anyone who has planned a public meeting knows the care taken to find an appropriate location and develop a plan for how to set up the room. From way-finding signs and a greeting table to space to sit down to discuss questions and comments, the entire room set-up is designed to facilitate sharing information with participants and answering their questions.

I was reminded of the symbolic power of physical space when I read this article about the closing of the main doors to the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. The open doors represented the accessibility of justice to the American people. It sent a message that all are welcome to the judicial process. According to this essayist, closing the doors sends a troubling message. Sometimes decisions made for practical reasons have serious implications for public perceptions.

You may not be dealing with the likes of the Supreme Court, but your attention to careful planning of physical space for meetings makes a difference to the people you are engaging! Here are a few steps I take:

  • Visit the site, take pictures and draw a map
  • Have an on-site contact you know to call with any questions or concerns
  • Plan how the room will be set up, including what staff will be located where. This will help ensure that you are not over- or under-staffed as well as give each staff person a specific role and responsibility
  • Hold a prep meeting with staff to review the room set-up and responsibilities. Also review the format and content of the meeting so everyone knows the big picture purpose as well as the details being presented
  • Allow plenty of time for set-up as eager stakeholders often start showing up early

What tips do you have for effective meeting planning? Please comment with some “do’s” and “don’ts” for choosing locations and planning room set-up.