Organise meetings and events
IntroductionHow to organise a major meeting or event.
There are a lot of little things to remember when you’re organising a major meeting or event.
On this page:
- Who to invite
- Organising a venue
- Setting a date and time
- Organising equipment
- Agenda and process
- Planning your evaluation
Before you even start to organise your meeting or event, it’s worthwhile checking that this is actually what you need to do and that it’s realistic for your budget etc. It’s also important to identify who can help you – ideally you’ll have a team of people with different strengths, e.g. publicity, artwork and displays, catering, iwi liaison. If you’re the sole organiser, use experienced people to check your initial ideas and make sure you’re on the right track.
Together with your organising team, discuss the following questions:
- What are our goals?
- Is an event/meeting the best option for what we want to achieve and for our audience?
- Is there sufficient time to organise and publicise it adequately?
- What resources can we muster for this event or meeting? Who else can help?
- What do we want those coming to know/do/experience?
- Will people attend? What ‘market research’ have we done for this event/meeting? Is it something that people have been calling for, or an idea someone came up with? If the latter, it may pay to ring around a few people you would expect to attend and check on their interest.
- Are there any possible legal aspects, such as OSH considerations?
Write up an action plan with allocated tasks and organise one person to check periodically that things are on schedule. For a big meeting or event, you may need to draw up an indicative budget. Even for a smaller event, it’s important to check you have enough money for venue hire or the equipment for catering (for example, a barbecue and gas bottle). On the income side of the budget, consider whether:
- Costs can be shared amongst different groups and agencies.
- Sponsorship is a possibility.
- It’s practicable to charge participants.
Think about whether any of the following expenses will apply:
- Venue hire.
- Equipment hire (see list provided in the checklist.
- Speakers’ fees/travel/accommodation.
- Gifts/Koha – if you are being hosted on a marae, the koha should reflect the costs of normal venue hire as well as food if this is provided.
- Food and drinks.
- Mail-out of invitations.
- Transport (e.g. providing a bus etc.).
- Stationery and photocopying.
For a ‘start-up’ meeting or public meeting, invite everyone who has shown an interest and publicise it widely so everyone has a chance to get involved. Use a range of publicity options, such as school newsletters, posters on notice boards and shop windows, free papers, local radio. Send a copy of the programme and a press release to the local papers. When advertising, keep in mind the objective and target audience – let the audience know what they will get out of attending.
Check out the venue in person or get someone you trust to do it. Consider:
- Size – enough room for everyone together, plus space for break-out groups.
- Suitability of furniture and facilities – number of chairs and tables, comfort, equipment availability, location of power points, parking, access for disabled.
- Location – travel times, transport to venue. Is it near your project? Easy to find?
- Lighting/blackout for slides and overheads, heating and fresh air.
- Acoustics and background noise levels from the street or other meeting rooms.
- Space for childcare or children’s activities if a family-oriented event.
- Access to refreshment facilities and toilets.
- Space for displays and other information.
- Occupational, safety and health hazards – undertake a site inspection prior to the event.
- Accommodation if required – at a standard and price that suits the audience.
- A back-up venue, especially if meeting is on a marae, as a tangi will take precedence/
Additional considerations for an outdoor event or field day:
- Can you demonstrate everything you want to at the site?
- Will you need transport at the site? If you’re organising a bus, look out for bridge limits, tight corners and turning spaces.
- Traffic management, especially where access is off a State Highway.
- Shade and shelter for participants.
- Public address system.
- Contingency plans for wet weather.
For a meeting or small event, try to give people two weeks’ advance notice. For more significant events, such as an all-day field trip, you may want to give a month’s notice and request an RSVP. Follow this up 3–5 days before the event with a phone around or further general publicity.
Consider organising a ‘telephone tree’ to share the load or focus on people you think are critical to the success of your project. Sending out personally addressed invitations works well. Make sure you include a map if directions are required and list clothing needs for field trips.
Hold the meeting or event at a convenient time for everyone. Consider school hours, and the time of the year (avoid lambing, calving, planting or harvest if working with farmers!) Avoid clashes with other events or major projects.
Consider how long you need to achieve your purpose and how far people might have to travel. If a half-day is suitable, invite people to bring lunch and start afterwards, or hold the event in the morning and finish with lunch. If your audience includes dairy farmers, consider milking and travel times, and start evening events early.
- Identify handouts for photocopying, such as copies of slides or speaker’s notes.
- Identify any background information you want to display.
- Prepare a clipboard and contact sheet for registration.
Identify the equipment that you, the facilitator, presenter(s) and caterers may need (refer to the checklist). Make up a kit/bag to take to meetings and events with any materials you might need (see the checklist for ideas).
Get to the venue at least one hour before the event starts. Put out signs to direct people. For a meeting:
- Arrange chairs in a semi-circle or circle where practical.
- Organise refreshments so that they’re ready when you need them.
- Clear away any unnecessary rubbish, posters, chairs or tables but remember where things were so you can leave the room as you found it.
- Arrange paper, pens, sticky notes, whiteboards, and overhead projectors so they’re in easy reach. Try out equipment to ensure it works and you know how to work it. Set out materials for small groups to record ideas.
For a field day:
- Test your public address system – get someone at the back to check for volume and distortion.
- Park the first few cars in the parking area so people will follow suit.
- Ensure electric fences are turned off and stock are moved away.
- Check for any new occupational, safety and health hazards, e.g. poison recently laid.
A meeting or event is usually only as good as its food – in fact you’ll often use this as a draw card to get people there, so make it the best you can!
- Consider dietary needs (such as vegetarians) and have a range of teas, coffee and water.
- Organise equipment to keep and serve food - warmers/fridges/chilly bins, paper plates, tea towels, cutlery or finger food. Consider reusable plastic cups - avoid polystyrene.
- Where possible, organise a cup of tea and something to eat on arrival, especially if people have driven some distance. If you’re having a powhiri, refreshments can be served after this and generally in a separate area from the ‘working’ space.
- Offer the catering to a local group (such as a kindergarten or kōhanga reo) to give them a fundraising opportunity.
Consider who should facilitate or chair the meeting or event – ideally someone with local respect, an understanding of the issue and experience in facilitation. A guest speaker could also be a good idea – for example, a scientist or expert working on the issue; a kaumatua familiar with the history of the site; or a community leader with a passion for the issue or the area. If a formal presentation is planned, organise a practice run and offer feedback on length, language, etc.
Make sure you brief everyone with a formal meeting or event role. It’s important for them to understand the time they have available, the purpose of the meeting/event, how their role/presentation fits with this, and to be aware of any technical matters such as how to work equipment, location of lighting, etc. It’s also important that people understand the role of the facilitator.
Working out how your meeting or event will run is a critical step in your preparation.
Purpose and results
When planning your meeting or event, be clear what you want to achieve by the end of it. This will help identify your key messages, meeting or event purpose and key topics for the agenda.
Designing the experience
As well as the outcomes or issues you want to resolve, consider what type of experience you want people to have. Are you aiming for fun, joint decision making, cultural exchange, sharing knowledge on a topic, debate, learning skills, or a celebration of people’s contributions and achievements? Consider appropriate ritual or ceremony, such as a blessing, song or performance, plaques or certificates. Use an element of humour or entertainment where appropriate
Allowing for introductions
Welcomes and introductions are important to help people to get oriented and feel at ease. Sometimes it will be appropriate to begin your meeting or event with a powhiri, karakia or other ritual – take guidance from someone familiar with the cultural setting and people you will be working with. For meetings, workshops and seminars, introduce the organisers, speakers, the facilitator or chairperson at the beginning. Where time allows, ask all participants to introduce themselves, especially where people will work together later on (for example, at a workshop). Consider using a round for introductions or an ‘icebreaker’.
Remember to invite people to leave their name, address, and phone number (send around an attendance list) and to ask for the names of those who couldn’t come but want to be kept in contact.
For public events, consider having:
- People at the entrance to welcome visitors, hand out an information package, or gather registrations.
- A notice board with ‘Welcome’ and critical information posted underneath, such as the schedule, location of displays, toilets, refreshments, etc.
For hui, consider:
- A powhiri – you will need to liaise with tangata whenua and organise a koha for presentation at the powhiri if you are the visitors.
- Mihi – inviting each person to stand and introduce themselves, saying who they are and where they are from. This allows for whakawhanaungatanga – identifying interconnections and relationships.
Creating an inclusive process
Everyone should be able to contribute constructively to the discussion and activities. This means a minimum of ‘talking at’ and a maximum of ‘talking with’ participants:
- Use inclusive activities or methods to run the meeting or event.
- Encourage participation when facilitating.
- Provide time for feedback at critical points in the meeting or event and at the end.
If your hui is on a marae, it may be run according to local kawa and protocol, rather than a facilitated workshop format. Face-to-face discussion is likely to be emphasised with a full and frank sharing of opinions.
Tempo and timing
- To keep energy levels high, think about the order and length of activities:
- Allow sufficient time for breaks and social time/networking, particularly for long meetings.
- Don’t try to do too much or fit in too many speakers.
- Plan something active or interesting after lunch.
- Have a mix of full group sessions and small group discussion.
- Provide a range of activities for different learning styles – some visual, aural, and movement-based activities.
- For meetings, consider how long people are sitting down – the average concentration span is about 20 minutes for any one topic. Don’t sit for more than an hour at a time.
- For field days, consider how long people will be able to stand in one place and how long it will take to move between sites.
Consider how you will evaluate your meeting or event when you’re designing it. Be specific about exactly what you want to review or evaluate as this will help you decide the best way to go about it.
- Acknowledge all contributions on the day with public and personal thanks, including participants as well as the people who made it possible, such as caterers.
- Send thank you notes to speakers, hosts, helpers, sponsors etc.
- Koha can also be given to contributors, especially if they are unpaid.
- Petrol vouchers can be helpful for those who travel a long way.
- Consider a gift for participants, such as a native tree.
- If the venue is a marae, organise a koha to be presented at the powhiri and thank the hosts at the end of the hui, including the ‘ringa wera’ (kitchen hands).
Make sure agency staff don’t outnumber locals at the meeting/event and keep paper to a minimum – both can be intimidating to those looking to get involved. Structure the meeting or event so your agency is a part of the group rather than always in charge. Invite feedback on your ideas or alternative options. Consider what the local people are getting out of attending, not just your own needs. Think partnership!