At the beginning of a round of dialogues, many programs choose to host a public kickoff event to call attention to the program, build enthusiasm, and sign up more participants.
This is your chance to send a message that people don’t have to be experts on the issue in order to take part, and to make it clear that all points of view are welcome.
Create a team to handle logistics.
This is likely going to be a big event, and there’s probably too much to do for one person. Involve a small group of people to make sure things run smoothly.
Find a location.
Be sure to look for places that feel welcoming to everybody. Think about these questions when considering locations:
- Is it easy to find?
- Is it served by public transportation?
- Is there ample parking?
- Are there public restrooms? Kitchen facilities?
- Is the space large enough to accommodate the number of people we’re expecting?
- Are the locations “friendly” to all kinds of people?
- Are there places with elevators or ramps for easy access?
Set a date.
Choose a date that is fairly close to the beginning of the dialogues – seven to ten days beforehand. The goal is to focus the community’s attention and draw in more participants. Hold the kickoff at a central location and a convenient time of day for attendees and the media.
Plan event activities.
You can choose to host any type of event that works for your community. Think about what kinds of activities would draw people to an event. Once they’re at the event, use the opportunity to give them information about the program and encourage them to sign up. Here are some ideas:
- Provide the overall goal of the dialogue to change program – why this matters for our community.
- Explain what the dialogue to change program is and how it will work including timing, location of dialogues, and plans for the action forum.
- Invite well-known community leaders to speak in favor of the program.
- Invite someone who has taken part in pilot dialogues to talk about their experience.
- Bring in a keynote speaker or a performer who can draw a large audience and inspire them to think about the issue and why their participation is important.
- Host a mini-dialogue so participants can experience the process first-hand.
- Allow time for questions and answers.
- Make sure the sign-up tables are clearly visible and invite participants to sign up.
- Provide time for fun and socializing. Play some games, host a contest, or have arts and crafts tables for the kids. The main goal of the event is to draw attention and sign people up for the dialogues, but this should be a fun event for the whole family.
Consider other logistics.
There are other logistics to take into consideration besides the agenda for the event. Here are some things you might want to think about:
- Food is always a big draw for events – try to provide at least refreshments and snacks within your budget.
- Providing childcare or adequate supervised activities for kids increases the likelihood of parental participation.
- Check to see if you have any hearing- or visually-impaired individuals registered and make needed arrangements.
- Check to see if any participants will be needing the services of a translator.
Promote the event.
Advertise the kickoff widely ahead of time. If you’re providing services such as childcare or translators, be sure to include that information in your promotional materials.
Invite the media and help reporters to get the information they need. Try to create a sense of excitement and anticipation.