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How to arrange a community meeting

Public meetings are the best way to bring your campaign to the people most affected by it.

A public meeting is a great catalyst for positive change. It can give a huge boost to your group’s morale and the profile of your campaign, by generating discussion, securing support, informing and inspiring people. It can also act as a lobbying device. 

Check out our top tips to help you prepare.

Find the right venue

If you don’t already have a place in mind, you will need to find a venue that is accessible and central to the area. Ideally it should have:

  • Suitable seating and enough room for everyone
  • Decent toilet facilities
  • Good public transport links
  • Space for display boards, sign-up sheets and information.

Preparing your meeting

Most public meetings consist of a panel of three or four speakers who give their views on the issue, then take questions or comments from the floor.

Decide on a running order and allocate time to speakers fairly. Include time for breaks and networking, if appropriate.

You could invite speakers who represent opposing points of view for a panel debate with a series of questions and audience contributions. This can be especially popular and often allows more in-depth discussions. Try to invite MPs from different parties to debate their different positions.

You’ll need an experienced and assertive chairperson to manage timings and people effectively and allow everyone to have their say.

Who to invite: six useful guests

  • The developer or senior officer to put forward the full details
  • Local MPs
  • An academic or other expert
  • A representative from the Environment Agency
  • A representative from your campaign group to introduce and endorse the campaign
  • A member of the local press.

Advertise the event

To get the best results for your campaign, you’ll need your meeting to be popular. Advertise widely and well.

Give your meeting a topical or catchy title and send the details to the press, local radio and TV in good time.

Design and print a leaflet to display at the local post office, doctor’s surgery or bus stops. Ask community centres, libraries, local shops and businesses to display the leaflets too.

And of course, don’t forget to share news of the meeting on social media and local websites. There’s no better way to spread the word quickly.

Tips for the day

The chairperson should lay out ‘the rules’ early on. Gauge the tone of the event and remember that feelings may run high. You don’t want people shouting over each other, or the meeting to descend into mayhem!

The chair should politely stress that it is a public meeting in order to take the issue forward and that everyone should respect each other’s right to disagree.

Leave time for closing statements, and make sure you finish with an action for people to take and an agreed date for the next meeting or event.

Even if you didn’t see many people, you will have kicked off the campaign and found some new allies.

4 tips to keep up the momentum

  1. Write to your speakers and chairperson to thank them for their time and support
  2. Follow up your event with a press release to the local press about how well it went and share the results on social media.
  3. Do a letter drop in your area, encouraging others to submit an objection and keeping the issue fresh
  4. Set up an online petition on Change.org or Parliament.uk.

Could you become a Tree Charter Branch?

If your meeting has brought together passionate, like-minded people, why not set up a Tree Charter Branch? Together you can bring the principles of the Tree Charter to life in your community, shaping local policies to support the role of trees, and helping people understand their value.