Logistical Considerations When Convening Your Engagement

Community engagement events can be logistically complicated, particularly if you seek to engage large groups of people in depth. Managing your event may require multiple tasks and using a variety of different materials or resources. Having a framework in place for what you may need and assigning the appropriate team members can make your engagement event successful.

Location and Facilities

Courts should strive to meet community participants “where they are” – e.g., using meeting facilities that are physically close, accessible, and well known to target audiences. The engagement location should support your planned activities.

An ideal facility might have:

  • Comfortable spaces for both large and small group discussion sessions
  • Physically accessible entrances/exits and restrooms
  • Enough chairs and tables for all participants
  • Facilities for managing food and beverages
  • Indoor temperature controls, available electrical outlets, and easy access to the internet
  • Nearby parking facilities
  • Close to public transportation or within walking distance of your target audience

  • Going into the neighborhood: A number of the pilot teams held events in their participants’ neighborhoods or locales. The Kansas City team held engagements in neighborhood community centers, the Nebraska team traveled to urban and rural areas, and the Franklin county team held their engagement in a local church.
  • Meeting people in the courts: Other times, the teams intercepted and engaged people in the process of using court services. For example, the Texas team engaged jury pool members present but not chosen for jury duty and the Kansas City team surveyed court users as they were leaving court after conducting their business.
  • Joining community activities: Another strategy is to go to a location and facility where other community activities are already ongoing, and become part of existing community activities. For example, the Puerto Rico team conducted engagements with teens already participating in Boys and Girls Club, and the Kansas City team held an engagement with youth enrolled in a restorative justice class. The engagement was held at their school during their lunch.

Room Setup

When conducting a face-to-face event, it is also important to consider the lay out and setup of the physical space housing your engagement. There are a number of different ways in which you can set up a space for different purposes and with different pros and cons.

Auditorium/Theater or Classroom Styles

This room setup has rows of chairs all facing the same direction facing toward a single focal point (e.g., presentation or speaker). It can accommodate groups ranging in size from small to very large. Theater/auditorium setup has chairs in rows only, while the classroom set up may have desks or tables in rows, all facing one direction. The auditorium/theater setup is beneficial for fitting a large number of persons efficiently into the allotted space. In a classroom style setup, the tables or desks allow participants to more easily take notes or eat refreshments during the meeting.

These styles work fine for large group presentation and can allow for some large group discussion. These styles are not very conducive for small group dialogue or for individualized interactions between facilitators and small groups.

Banquet/Small Group or Cocktail Styles

This room set up arranges people in smaller groups around tables. A 5’ diameter round (banquet) table can comfortably seat eight people. Smaller standing (cocktail) tables can encourage even smaller groups and movement of members between groups. The tables facilitate notetaking and refreshments or meal sharing. The layout in which small groups of people all face one another facilitates small group discussion in which everyone is encouraged to have a voice. Because individuals are all facing different directions relative to any given part of the room, this set up may make it difficult for all persons to focus on a single presentation without some people needing to reposition themselves. Depending on the size of the event and room, you will need to pay attention to room acoustics. Although this room set up can be scaled so that large numbers of people are broken into small groups, individuals in small groups may have to hear each other

U-shaped and Hollow Square Styles

For medium-sized groups of around 20-30 persons, individuals may be seated on the outside of tables arranged in a U-shaped pattern, allowing space in the open end of the U for a presenter and audio-visual equipment. In this way, participants face one another to facilitate large group discussion, while at the same time they are all able to easily see the presenter. Another option is to arrange people and tables in a large square. People can have small group discussions at the tables located on their side of the square. The hollow part of the square becomes a hub for larger group presentations and plenary discussions.

Tasks, Roles and Responsibilities

So that your event runs smoothly, you will want to identify the tasks and responsibilities needed to execute the engagement, and delegate those tasks to your team. Be sure to identify staff for all your event’s activities, and make contingency plans for unexpected developments like illness or staffing changes. Below are some common tasks, roles, and responsibilities.

Planning: A core group will make decisions about the event including objectives, activities, attendees, and other details.

Partner and participant recruitment: A subgroup of the planning team can be assigned to recruitment  tasks including identifying and reaching out to relevant partners and participants. Community partners may be well-situated to recruit participants through their networks.

Arrange for speakers and facilitators: If you plan to have one or more speakers at the engagement, or need facilitators to ensure effective small group discussions, someone will need to be assigned to take care of the logistics and to be a point of contact for those speakers and facilitators. For example, someone will need to secure agreements and make sure the speakers and facilitators have the information and materials they need to participate. If they will be paid for their time and effort, someone will need ensure they have payment information and can check on the status of payment.

Other Logistical Arrangements:

  • Venue: If the meeting will be face-to-face, you will need to locate options for where the event could be held and reserve the chosen facility. If the meeting will be virtual, you will need to consider what virtual spaces or platforms  will meet your needs.
  • Refreshments: If meeting face-to-face, your team may want to arrange for a meal or refreshments.
  • Child care: Arranging for child care may enhance the likelihood that people with children can attend your event. Another option is to offer stipends to participants to help them pay for child care that they arrange themselves.
  • Gathering and preparing materials (see materials): As you think through the materials that you need for your engagement, a person or small group of persons will need to be responsible for gathering or designing the materials, and making sure the materials are purchased or printed.
  • Packing for the engagement (see materials): It can be useful to have a single checklist of all your engagement materials and supplies, and then packing together prior to the engagement. This way, someone can be responsible for packing and checking the supplies against the checklist.

Facilitator(s): Your engagement may require large or small group facilitators who will manage discussions and engagement activities.

Note takers: Having event staff who document discussions, including taking photos or video recordings, can help ensure you do not miss any viewpoints when you report on your findings.

General support: To ensure your event goes smoothly, consider having event staff responsible for managing check-in and check-out procedures; distributing and collecting any evaluation materials such as surveys; handling and distributing incentives; managing food; managing requested accommodations for participants; and overall preparation and clean-up.

Media contact: A designated team member to engage with representatives from the media will help ensure your team provides consistent messaging.

Audio/Visual support: If you use technology at your event, it is useful to have event staff for troubleshooting any audio/visual or technology needs.

Interpreters/Signers: To ensure your event is accessible to everyone, you may wish to have event staff serving as interpreters or signers.

Security: It may be appropriate to hire security if there is a concern about possible disruptions.

Clean up: Immediately after the engagement you may need a team to make sure that you have collected all your materials and supplies and, if you had food and drink, the area is cleaned up of any spills or debris.

Data analysis and reporting: Your engagement likely resulted in data in the form of audio/video or notes from conversations, surveys, and attendance records. After the event, you will want a team member to summarize and report the findings from such data so that you can use it in future decision making and public communications.

Follow-up communication: Follow-up communications are important in order to express appreciation for your participants (including speakers, facilitators, court actors and the public) and to make it clear that the event had an impact. A team member or small group may be responsible for writing thank yous and communicating findings from the event so that people know their time spent at the engagement was worthwhile.

Example Checklists for Tasks and Roles

The lists above are drawn from consideration of a variety of engagements, including those conducted by the pilot teams. Your team may not need to include every task or role. Below are some examples of lists of selected tasks and roles used by the pilot teams.

  • Nebraska team list identifying staff roles and responsibilities needed for listening session events

  • Kansas City team list of roles for its adult engagements

  • Kansas City team list and sign up sheet for engagement tasks

  • Kansas City team list of tasks  for transitioning from in person to virtual engagements