An animal activists' handbook
6. organising a PUBLIC MEETING
These are a brilliant way to raise your group's profile, attract new members, give out a lot of information and recruit support for a specific campaign. They do however require a lot of organising and even if you charge a small admission, or appeal for donations on the night, there is no guarantee that you'll recover your costs.
The first step is to call a meeting of any people in your group who are interested in helping to do the organising. The following things will need to be arranged:
time and date
public address system (PA), if in a large hall
speakers (people not PA)
catering (a good chance to show off cruelty free food!)
videos or slides to show
The group needs to decide exactly what the topic of your meeting is going to be. It should be a single issue, preferably a local one. You then need to decide how you are going to structure the meeting. Will you have one speaker or several? Will you show slides or videos? How long will the meeting last?
Decide which day of the week to hold your meeting. From personal experience, we recommend weekday evenings. Most people are busy Friday and Saturday nights, so these are the worst times! The best time to start the meeting is between 7 and 8pm, which gives working people a chance to go home and get changed. If you start much later, people who are relying on public transport to get home will start leaving early. In the following example, you'll see how Anytown Animal Action organised their meeting.
The group decided to hold a meeting about the cruel conditions in their local zoo. They sat down and discussed how they were going to arrange the meeting. They invited a speaker from a national organisation that campaigns on behalf of captive animals, as well as one of their own group volunteering to give a talk. They planned to show a video and some slides that had been taken when one of the group made an 'inspection' visit to the zoo.
One of the group made enquiries and then booked a hall which was big enough to seat a hundred or so people with room left for several stalls. She deliberately chose a hall in the town centre with parking nearby so that it could be reached easily by car, bus and train. She made sure the hall was cheap and had disabled access. Another group member booked a speaker to give an in-depth talk on the subject and he also made sure that the group had plenty of leaflets, posters etc. to stock a stall with.
Other members drew up some posters and flyers about the event, then got them printed. They then distributed them widely in the area. They did this about a month before the event.
A rough agenda was drawn up by several of the group.
7.00pm doors open
7.10pm introductory talk by a group member, during which slides of zoo are shown.
7.40pm questions from audience
8.00pm break for refreshments and time to look at stalls
8.30pm guest speaker
8.45pm summing up and appeal by group for support in their campaign
9.00pm end of meeting... more time to look at stalls, buy food etc. 9.30pm doors close. Group tidy up hall.
As well as the refreshments stall, the group arranged to have several campaigning stalls. One was a group literature stall, containing leaflets and fact sheets covering a wide variety of animal issues. Another one was for merchandise, such as posters and badges, and two were for related groups (such as the local Hunt Saboteurs and the Green Group) to use in order to promote their work.
On the day, just before the doors opened, the group made had someone on the door to greet people and direct them to the right room. They ensured that the information stalls were all set up and ready and they put a leaflet about their group on each person's chair.
The group tried as hard as they could to stick to the agenda and not run overtime. They didn't want to risk having to rush the last parts of the meeting.
1. Call a special planning meeting in order to discuss theme of meeting and the important details such as date, venue etc. and who is going to take responsibility for organising what.
2. Publicise the meeting and arrange speakers, stalls, PA etc.
3. Make sure that everyone has a specific job to do on the day, eg. collecting donations, making announcements, and that they do it!
If you have access to a computer with desk top publishing (DTP) facilities, excellent. This is by far the easiest way to produce a poster. Failing that you'll have to use the old fashioned cut and paste method.
A poster needs to be very attention grabbing and easy to read quickly, so it can't contain too much information. When you look at advertising, for example on bus shelters, note the way they are arranged and how they've been carefully designed to attract and hold your attention and put their message across effectively. The formula is:
Attention - get it
Information - tell 'em what you're up to
Desire - make sure you've made it sound worth following up
Action - tell 'em where to go or what to do
You need a headline or title or slogan printed in
which is the most eye-catching part of the whole poster. It's best to put this at the top. Underneath put a picture or other graphic and the rest of the information which you want to get across.
A common situation where you are likely to produce a poster is when your group has organised an event and you need to publicise it. Remember the five W's: who, what, when, where and why. This is all the information your poster needs to put across. Do so in as few words as possible. The most important W's are what and when.
For example, Anytown Animal Action organised a meeting. They photocopied and circulated posters advertising the meeting. At the top was the headline: PUBLIC MEETING. Underneath: Come to our public meeting about animal rights to find out how you can help stop cruelty in Anytown. 7.30pm, Monday 5th December, Function Room, Town Hall. Free admission. Bring your friends. They included an attractive picture of an animal. This was a simple but striking drawing, not a photo which when photocopied looks terrible from a distance.
Perhaps your group could produce a standard poster with a box at the bottom where you can fill in the details about the time and venue by hand. You can then save costs by producing a very large number of these posters at once and use them for a succession of different meetings.
Posters will stand out better if they're printed on brightly coloured paper. You will probably have to start off by photocopying rather than printing your posters because printing small batches is not cost effective. Shop around for cheap bulk photocopying in your area, for example at Office World superstores.
Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that if you wish to display posters in a public place you must obtain permission from the owner of the site. Otherwise you will be flyposting which the police can interpret as unlawful.
Campaign Against Cruelty An Animal Activists Handbook
available for £4.99 (plus p&p) from Vegetarian Guides, or order it from all good book shops.