Hosting a meet-up is key for groups at any stage, whether you're just getting started and looking for more people to join, or whether you're launching a new campaign and want to invite friends, community members, and allies to get involved. This guide focuses primarily on how to organize a meet-up with the goal of getting a new local climate action initiative going, though the steps and principles are the same regardless of what stage your group is at!
A few tips
Running a meeting isn't rocket science, but there are a few key things to keep in mind to make sure your meeting is successful:
- Have clear goals you want to achieve from the meet-up, like getting to know new people in your community interested in climate change, or figuring out what first action you want to take together to build a powerful local climate action group.
- Design your agenda to make sure you achieve your goals in the time frame you have available.
- Delegate someone to facilitate who has some facilitation experience or is a friendly, outgoing person who is a good listener and can help direct the conversation.
- People are more willing to talk when they're fed - think about making your meeting a community dinner or potluck!
- Having name tags and doing a round of introductions can go a long way in helping people to get to know each other.
- Set chairs up in a circle. Don't set up your meeting where everyone is facing the front, like a classroom. If you want to build a community of leaders, set everyone up to be on equal ground to participate.
- Make it fun! This is perhaps the most important tip. Incorporate a fun element, like a game, song, dance, or art project. By making it fun, you break the ice, and hopefully make people more interested to come to the next meeting.
Step by step
1. Bring together a coordinating team
Whether it's just you and a friend, or a group of 10, its helpful to have collaborators to share the work. With your team, discuss the goals for your meet-up, who you want to make sure is present, how you'd like to run the meet-up in the most exciting and appropriate way for your community, and how you plan to follow up. If you're just getting started, your goals might be along the lines of getting to know more people in the community interested in taking action to stop climate change, and identifying initiatives to take on together to address climate change.
2. Decide upon a date, time, and location
Now its time for the nitty gritty - pick a date, time, and figure out a location where you can have it. Ideal locations are easily accessible by public transit, walking, or bicycling, have enough space, have a white board or projector, and are free to use:) Try reaching out to schools, faith organizations, community centers, or even someone's home will work.
3. Reach out
Make a plan to reach out, while being intentional about getting as diverse and representative a group there as possible. Think about your goals of the meeting, and what voices will be important to hear to reach those goals. Then make sure your outreach plan prioritizes calling and e-mailing the corresponding community leaders and groups. If you're looking to host a big and open community meeting, by all means spread the word through newsletters, local listservs, posters on bulletin boards, and more. This is a great job to involve everyone in your coordinating team in - everyone has a network of friends and acquaintances they can reach out to!
4. Set an agenda
Design an agenda for the meeting, creating space for a round of introductions (creativity encouraged!), discussion (up to you how structured you want this to be), discussion of action items and next steps, time to mingle, eat, and get to know each other, and some kind of fun activity. You might want to start the meeting with a presentation or video if you want to frame the discussion, if the group doesn't know much about climate change yet, etc. For a sample meeting agenda, look under "Key Resources".
Make sure to check in with your team before the meeting to make sure you have any necessary equipment, snacks, handouts, sign-up sheets, and that everyone knows their roles during the meeting. Make sure you have a facilitator and note-taker at least - having a photographer, food and drink captain, sign-up sheet coordinator, and fun activity director are also helpful roles.
6. Run the meetup!
Do your best to stick to your agenda to respect people's time, but remember to stay flexible and make it fun. If people are really getting into a particular discussion topic, maybe its ok to let them talk a little longer and shorten the next agenda item. Make sure you have a sign-up sheet to capture the emails of everyone who shows up so you can follow up. Do your best to leave the meeting with some kind of follow-up action, whether its scheduling the next meeting, your first action, or something else. Most importantly, listen, connect with people, and have fun!
Make sure you send an email to everyone who came to the meeting as soon as possible so they know you're serious about taking action and keeping things moving!