The usual way many public meetings start is for people to meander in over the course of ten to twenty minutes, visit the sign-in table, sit down with their smart phones or head off for the food. This can make it a challenge to get people’s attention when you need it and it’s simply not a fun way to start an event.
Instead, here’s an example of a more positive and engaging way to start a public meeting. In a recent set of meetings in Memphis, TN this month, NCI engaged people in the creation of a vision wall beginning the minute they walked in the door. This approach got everyone working and on board with the meeting purpose of creating a project vision.
During the check-in process participants were handed three sticky notes and were directed to the vision wall. There, facilitators instructed people to write down three ideas for the future of the Memphis Fairgrounds. A wall poster with the following examples helped them get started: ample park space, attractive to walkers and cyclists, regional recreational site.
Facilitators instructed people to take their sticky notes to the wall. The first person up placed their three notes in a row. Everyone coming after scanned the wall in search of similar ideas. Similar ideas were placed below, new ideas were placed horizontally to continue the top row. Long columns of similar ideas began to emerge.
Once the public meeting began, the vision wall was closed. The facilitators then worked during the first part of the public meeting to first be sure the columns were correctly ordered by similar ideas. They then quickly wrote up ideas from the longest columns on a flip chart for report out at the end of the meeting.