Organising your first meeting

Your first Unlock Democracy meeting

The first meeting you organise might feel scary, but don’t worry, you are not alone in this! At any point you can contact the central office for ideas and support.

Before you organize your first meeting, it is a good idea to set up a facebook group, and post a link on the national Unlock Democracy group. This is a good place to start promoting your group and also to find out if your family, friends and colleagues would like to get involved. Here you can bounce ideas around beforehand to decide on where, when and what you want to discuss at your first meeting.

Step 1: Set a date and time

Make sure the people already interested in helping get the group started are included in setting the date. Make sure you give yourself at least 2 to 3 weeks to organise your meeting, so everyone has time to put it in their diaries. If for whatever reason someone can’t make it, ask them if they have any points they would like to have raised.

Check what is going on locally before setting the date for any other events that might be going on. Of course you cannot avoid all clashes but try to avoid the obvious ones.  The key thing is to be inclusive with the day and the time – early evening midweek or a weekend afternoon usually work best.  

It’s also helpful to use a “Doodle” to check availability among people. This is a handy website which lets everyone tick off dates where they’re free http://www.doodle.com

Step 2: Find a venue

No venue is perfect, but  aim to get somewhere that is accessible for people with disabilities, easy to get to and quiet enough so people don’t have to shout.

Start by estimating how many people you expect to turn up to give you an idea of the kind of space you will need--the Doodle and Facebook should give you something to go on.  It might help to think about meetings you’ve been to in the area before: where was good?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Quaker's/Friend’s meeting house

  • Student unions

  • Cafes

  • Museums and libraries

  • Does your office have a meeting space they would mind you using?

  • And of course, pubs--sometimes you can get function rooms for free!

Step 3: Promotion!

There’s no such thing as over-promotion, but at the same time you can over-work yourself, so work out what you can realistically do to promote your first meeting. This is where making sure you have plenty of time to promote your meetings is essential. Here is couple of the key things you should do:

  • Tell the UD office. – We will promote it to UD members living locally via the mailing list,   and create an event for you on the website

  • Social media – facebook, twitter and email

  • Invite groups to attend  - ask can they post something to their mailing list or if you can put a link on their facebook.

  • Invite key local figures i.e. councillors, MPs, political party organisers

  • Posters and flyers – see our resources section

  • Drop an email to local political bloggers and newspapers.

  • Attend other meetings and speak to attendees who might be interested.

Running the meeting

There is no “right” way to run a meeting but there are some pitfalls that can be avoided.  Your role as the organizer is to make sure it is accessible, it stays on track and meets its objective.  Remember as a chair/facilitator your role is to be relatively neutral and enable everyone attending to have their say. Our next guide will teach you how to facilitate and chair meetings.

Checklist!

  • Recon – check out the venue and where necessary reserve space or book a room.

  • A week before organise a meeting Agenda and circulate it.

  • The day before print out the attendance list, sign up forms and a few posters to help you stand out!

  • On the day arrive early and set up by making the space stand out.

  • Make sure someone is happy to take notes/minutes.

  • Thank the staff at the venue when you are done.