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This information is intended to convey the underlying concepts for Reclamation's decision processes. It is not mandatory.
See the Reclamation Manual for official Reclamation-wide requirements.

Reclamation's Decision Process Guide


go through page Decide / Set Up / Hold / End / Go On /

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This page discusses the concepts behind holding a meeting. Talk to your local public affairs/public involvement specialists to find out more about specifics.

Public meetings are places to exchange information and work on problems. They are interactive to allow everyone to participate. They can be either informal and formal, There is a general record of events.

Public hearings are highly structured, formal meetings designed only to receive comments. They have a verbatim record as required by laws such as NEPA . Please note these are not to be confused with scoping meetings or the scoping process.

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navigate in the page--Deciding to Hold a Meeting

Tailor communication methods to what you are trying to do. Decide if a meeting is appropriate. Do you want to:

  • Get information or advice
  • Get participants involved in solving a problem
  • Broadcast and explain information
  • Clarify an issue
  • Address several groups

If so, a meeting might be an effective tool. Meetings are not appropriate when:

  • The decision has already been made (Announce decisions in news releases or press conferences--not public meetings. Hearings may be required to get comments on a decision for the record.)
  • You don't have enough information to provide participants with an understanding of the problem
  • There isn't enough time to deal with comments
  • Emotions and conflict are too high

Public meetings are most effective when early in the process to get input and to communicate to a wide variety of people. Be honest about timeframes--if it will take a few years, explain why. Later on in the process, meetings serve as reality checks.

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navigate in the page--Setting up the meeting.

Rabbits should not sit in the stew pot while meeting the cook.

Pre-meeting planning is vital to ensuring that the meeting gets things done. It is often wise to:

  • Include some of the participants in your pre-meeting planning.
  • Have a local host

Choose a place that is accessible and convenient. When you meet with groups, make it easy for them to participate. Consider providing transportation, translators for non-English speakers, and other special accommodations if needed. Holding meetings when it is convenient for most participants will increase participation , gain credibility , and build consent .

To determine what kind of meeting and what to do, ask:

Why hold it?
Identify your place in the process . Briefly list what you want out of the meeting and what it will be used for.
Who will be involved?
Target your audience. Who will come? What are their background and attitudes? Are all sides of the issue and all groups affected by the issue represented? Who are the decisionmakers--and will they be there?
What do you want?
To get input? Develop options? Get reactions to a plan??

Decide which format will best meet your audience and purpose. Meeting formats include:

  • Workshops
  • Open houses
  • one-on-one informal meetings
  • Small group break outs
  • Panel discussions
  • Question/Answer sessions
  • Presentations and discussions

Determine your agenda. How will you reach your goals? Create a mental checklist: What absolutely needs to be covered in the meeting? Use this as part of your agenda and go back over it with everyone before the meeting ends to ensure everything was covered. A written agenda should cover:

  • Welcome/intro
  • Purpose for process
  • Short background
  • Purpose and end goals for this meeting (clearly separate this from the purpose of the project or process.)
  • Procedures for input
  • Items to discuss

This agenda sets up the ground rules and gives you a recourse if discussions get off track. Setting up ground rules at the beginning of the meeting will also help ensure the meeting accomplishes the goals.

Plan your presentations. What points do you need to cover?

Create a physical checklist: What do you need for the meeting (e.g., chairs, pens, cookies, name tags, handouts).

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navigate in the page--Holding the Meeting

In large meetings, facilitators can help ensure that people have a chance to speak without monopolizing the meeting.

Keep checking back with the agenda to cover all points.

The Parking Lot will help keep track of out-of-sequence items so you canfocus on the matter at hand and come back to other points.

Pare it down techniques will help focus on important issues.

Leave time for networking.

Hints for large meetings:

  • Break up into small groups
  • Hand out packets of materials, including a response sheet or card

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navigate in the page--Ending the Meeting

Referring to the agenda with its written objectives will help summarize and foster a sense of accomplishment and common ground.

Don't go away empty-handed! Before people start for the door, ensure that everyone agrees on:

  • What will be done as a result of the meeting
  • When and by whom
  • How participants will be kept informed
  • What steps remain in the overall process
  • What elements are outside the participants' control--including your own control?
  • How this input will be used.
  • Who will make the decision and what they will consider
  • When the decision will be made

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See the Public Meeting Survival Guide , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA, Forest Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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navigate in the page--Go On


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Please contact Deena Larsen 303-445-2584 with questions or comments on this material.