Tailor your event to reach the following goals: generate public awareness and discussion on issues; provide a forum for people to hear key individuals talk about this issue; give participants an opportunity to discuss options; and enable them to strategize with others about action to be taken.
Decide on a target audience
Determine the audience you would like to reach; examples include: students, general public, opinion leaders, elected officials and coalition partners. It is important for leaders of the coalition to collectively set an attainable goal for attendance. Set an internal goal and a general public goal. The primary focus of the forum should be quality, not quantity; in other words, be selective.
Develop an agenda/format
Choose the most appropriate format to achieve your goals and accommodate the people you want to attract. You may want a briefing, panel presentation, or discussion groups. The community forum should last no longer than two hours. If you decide on a panel of speakers with discussion, the following is a sample agenda:
- Leader lays out purpose and introduces moderator and key coalition partners (5 minutes)
- Moderator introduces panelists (5 minutes)
- Three panelists each speak for 10 minutes (30 minutes)
- Moderator leads discussion session with audience (40 minutes)
- Leader wraps up with key messages, a call to action “task”, and thanks panelists and attendees for participating (10 minutes)
Select panelists or discussion leaders
Choose bipartisan, credible individuals who will bring media attention to the event. Speakers should represent a variety of ages, ethnic backgrounds, and gender; and be affected by, or work with, this issue. This could include a coalition partner, legislators (as long as you invite one from each party), Chamber of Commerce representatives and/or someone with a personal story about the importance of this issue. It is always best to have a run through before the actual event. However when that is not possible, have local speakers send you their intended speech, and ask national speakers to highlight specific subject matter. This step is not to edit there work, but to make sure that the message is cohesive.
Invite a familiar face to be a moderator
The moderator could be a media personality, coalition partner, or a publicly recognizable individual. A well-known, nonpartisan moderator who is respected in your community will generate interest in the event and give your work added credibility.
Build a floor team.
Recruit volunteers to:
- Make sure the event starts on time and ends on time; alert presenters when their allotted time has waned.
- Record the proceedings, especially action strategies and next steps.
- Serve as ushers for large events
Work with the panelists, coalition partners, and the other participants to make available relevant materials, including:
- Sign-in list
- Position papers
- Fact sheets
- Legal briefs
Day of the event
Meet, brief, and escort all speakers on the day of the event.
After the event
Debrief with the planning team to assess if goals were met. Thank the panelists and moderator in writing.