Meeting is, as the name suggests a meeting that is open to the public.
These normally take place, again implied by the name, in public venues
such as church or community halls, sometimes schools. There can be a
number of reason for holding a public meeting but during an election
these can be divided into two categories.
is a 'Quiz the Candidates' type event where all candidates standing
for election will be invited along. In some areas the local churches
have a history of organising an event of type at every General and European
Election. They are not so common for council elections but that's no
reason not to hold one or if someone else orrganises it, not to attend.
of these meeting is a bit like the television show 'Question Time' where
a neutral chairperson will host the event and either put questions to
the candidates or invite questions from the floor. There may also be
a spot early in the agenda where each of the candidates are invited
to speak for a given time on what they are standing for and why they
think they should be elected. If this is going to be part of the meeting
you would normaly be told in advance.
way it is a good idea to prepare thoroughly for such meetings as any
embarrassing slip-ups can be used against you by your opponents. Also,
and this may sound obvious, but if you are going to answer a question
you should listen to that question carefully and answer that question,
I remember well one event where a candidate heard a question and started
scribbling notes on what she would say, by the time she was called to
speak, one of her colleagues (there were more one there from each party)
had dealt with the question and the topic under discussion had changed
completely, leaving her answering a question that had already been resolved.
When this was pointed out to her she loudly accused the chairman of
bias. He then kept quiet and let her make an even bigger fool of herself
by continuing to go on about what was by now an irrelevant subject much
to the amusement of much of the audience. So listen carefully and if
you have not fully heard the question ask for it to be repeated.
prepare you should not only consider what you want to say and what subjects
you want to discuss (your agenda), but also what issues are likely to
arise either from members of the public or from planted questions asked
by supporters of other candidates (their agenda). If there is a particular
subject you want raised then try to ensure that some supporters of your
campaign are at the meeting and ask them to raise the issue with a question
that you can be well prepared to answer. If you do this have your answer
prepared in advance and use it in a press release after the meeting.
one issue you may have to face at this kind of meeting and it is probably
best to raise it now. If all the candidates for election have been invited
to speak then there are likely to be people there those views are diametrically
opposed to your own. This is called Free Speech and means you don't
have the right to not be offended by someone else's views. There are
however some people whose views are so obnoxious that you may want to
consider whether or not you wish to share a platform with them. I am
not going to tell you whether you should or should not but it is an
issue you may want to think about.
kind of public meeting is one where you will want to discuss one particular
issue and it may be that you or the campaign team will have to organise
this. If you are standing for election on a single issue, such as school
closures or road safety or the maintenance of local parks, then you
may only want to alert those residents that are affected most by the
issue. So put out a leaflet telling people of the meeting, put a notice
in the local paper, let your canvassers
know to tell people about it when they canvass and try to hold it early
in the campaign.
for holding it early are, if you are addressing a genuine issue of local
concern you may find that people who attend the public meeting join
your campaign and if it goes badly and only a few people turn up you
will have time to re-focus your energies.
kind of public meeting consider yourself a host; put on refreshments
(not alcohol) and make people feel welcomed. Have two or three speakers,
if possible ones people may know such as local councillors or former
public frigures, to address this the issue with the candidate being
the last to speak. Let people know where you stand but also invite them
to participate in whatever change you are trying to bring about.
also alert the local press to the fact
that your holding a public meeting. Do this sufficiently in advance
that they can go to print prior to the meeting.
the venue is accessible to those you wish to attend and by that I don't
just mean that it shouldn't be up a huge flight of stairs but that it
should be in their locality, be somewhere they feel safe and would want
to go and can be found easily. Church Halls, Public Halls, and Libraries
can sometimes be good choices but not pubs or places that older residents
may not feel safe such as youth clubs.
the meeting as part of your preparation you can draw up a statement
of what you want to say. Your manifesto,
if you wrote one, should assist with this. If for whatever reason you
haven't said all the things you wanted to say, don't worry, you can
always issue them as a statement to the press later.
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