Top 10 MUST Do’s for Public Engagement & Open Houses
There is nothing worse than hosting a public engagement session or an open house that has turned into a dumpster fire. Dumpster fire is defined as "an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence: disaster." It doesn’t take long for a poorly planned and executed public engagement session or open house to go from reparable to irreparable damage quickly.
So, we’ve come up with our Top 10 MUST Do’s for Public Engagement & Open Houses to ensure your next one is a smashing success.
Top 10 MUST Do’s:
Have a greeter! No one wants to feel like they are showing up somewhere they aren’t welcome or wondering where to go and what to do. If you want support, embrace the community, and welcome them to an open house like you would a guest to your home. This includes coffee, tea, cookies and for extra flare you can always add flowers!
Ensure your company representative is prepared to answer: who, what, why, when, how of project. You don’t want someone who continuously keeps saying “I don’t know” – it makes you seems unprepared, unknowledgeable, unreliable, and ultimately untrustworthy. That is why you have subject matter experts on your team - bring them!
Anticipate (as best as you can) any concerns that will be raised related to the project and ensure you have the experts or information materials needed in the room to be able to adequately address and mitigate said concerns.
Think about format. What will your Open House be? Trade show format? Presentations? Virtual? The format of the session will set the tone.
Ensure Subject Matter Experts are present! Ask yourself: “Who NEEDS to be there?” Is it a Land expert, an Engineer, or a member of the Leadership team?
Confirm how you are recording Stakeholder concerns – there should be a designated individual keeping notes. Additionally, how are you involving the stakeholders in the room? Are you outlining the parameters of the project by creating a dialogue in collaboration with the community or are you talking at them. No one – we repeat, NO ONE wants to be talked at or made to feel stupid.
Address contentious problems head on! If you are aware that there are contentious issues with the project in the community, acknowledge that and have a game plan prepared. Don’t shy away from sharing the good and the bad. By being honest you gain trust.
Stay hydrated! Refreshments are a must and are more important than most realize. No one wants to be stuck in a room for any period of time without a light refreshment.
Don’t be stingy – Bring company swag. Open houses are a great way to engage with the community and make them feel like they’ve gotten to know the company on a deeper level.
Now that you know what the Community wants – how will you continue the discussion and incorporate local knowledge and community concerns into your Project plan? Keep the discussion going and ensure your stakeholders feel heard and valued.
Are you planning on hosting a Public Engagement Session or Open House and want some expert support in planning and execution? We have experts on our team who are ready to help! For more information, or to learn how we can help you on your next project, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.