What to do before any meeting
Organizing the members of your community will involve many meetings of different sizes and for different purposes. Here are some guidelines that will apply to any meeting you hold.
Set the date, time, and place. If you are planning to use a community hall make sure you book it and know who is going to open the doors to let people in.
Decide on an agenda
(See the Organizing Tools section for a sample.)
Write down the items you wish to cover and print copies of the agenda for anyone helping out—this will help you focus and keep the group on track. Make sure to bring the agenda with you to the meeting! Your agenda can cover information you’ve already found out about the operation, a background on the factory farm issue in general, and a brief talk about what you would like to accomplish by creating a group.
Keep your agenda short. Focus on a few main points so you don’t overwhelm the audience. Set up time toward the end of the meeting for a question and answer (Q&A) period. Use this time for issues not on the agenda. If, during the meeting, anyone strays, let them know you will address their questions or concerns during the Q&A session. If you cannot answer a question, simply say you will get back to them with an answer (and make sure that you do). Move on to the next question.
The chairperson or moderator has to keep the meeting on track, maintain order and build confidence in your group among people attending the meeting. The person chairing the meeting does not have to be the most knowledgeable person in your group, but he or she needs to be self-confident and assertive.
Establish a few ground rules for the meeting. For example: no interrupting while someone else is speaking, no personal attacks, being acknowledged by the facilitator by raising your hand, no repeating what’s already been said, etc. The organizer is responsible for making sure the stated guidelines are followed. For this reason it is a good idea to have a moderator who will keep everyone on track.
Determine who you want at your meeting. For a public meeting, you want as many people as possible. If you are developing strategy, you only want core members of your group. Determine your audience from the start—that will help determine the agenda, who’s invited, the type of advertising, etc.
Have a table by the door to the meeting. Put a sign-in list, handouts and fact sheets on the table. (See the Organizing Tools section.)
Take notes at all your meetings. Make sure someone in your group agrees to write the notes. These notes will be a record of the decisions made and form an important document of your group’s history. Make copies of the notes for members of your group, and keep a complete set of notes from all your meetings in one place for future reference.
Consider having the presentations at your public meetings videotaped or taped on cassette. Clearly label the tapes of your meetings and include them in your files—do not record over them! Determine a policy with regard to taping. Some groups have had great success and have held officials accountable for promises made and then broken. Other groups have found taping to inhibit group members from speaking up. If you do tape, inform everyone who will be recorded.
Have someone speak who has experience fighting factory farms or someone who has experienced the impacts of living near a factory farm. They can share insight on their successes, failures, and experiences. Contact the Beyond Factory Farming Coalition for help in finding someone suitable. If someone cannot make it to a meeting, have them write a testimonial letter that you can read aloud at the meeting.
Get the word out to as many as people as possible. Here are some excellent ways to publicize your meeting:
- Phone your neighbors
- Type up a simple, one-page bulletin, voicing your concerns and inviting people to the meeting. Post on supermarket bulletin boards, schools, libraries, or any public place that has a bulletin board.
- Place your flyers (with permission) at the checkout stand of the local grocery store, café, or bar. Include your contact information on all flyers or bulletins so people can phone with questions.
- Advertise in your local paper at least twice.
- For public meetings, call your local radio and television stations and see if they do PSAs (public service announcements). CBC radio stations have an automated system where you can record your announcement over the phone.