The first meeting of a coalition is very important. By the close of the meeting, members should leave with a commitment to collective action, shared purpose, and a specific set of tasks with clearly defined responsibilities and timelines. Here are a few ways to ensure a successful first meeting:
- Be certain that members, who are strong advocates of public transportation, attend the meeting and express enthusiastic support for the coalition.
- Send a letter to all potential members at least two weeks in advance of the meeting date. The letter should state that the meeting is to discuss formation of a local coalition to support transit in your community.
- Make follow-up telephone calls a few days before the meeting to all invitees. If an individual cannot attend, ask if a substitute can attend. Aim for the most influential representatives possible.
- Draft a tight agenda that covers all important issues and does not exceed two hours. A printed agenda will help you keep to the time limit. Include the following topics for discussion: reason for a coalition, its mission, how it will be governed, and the kinds of activities it will pursue. The agenda might also include a set of tasks that members can volunteer to perform. This will help create a sense of ownership and influence.
- Ask members to sign in when they arrive (i.e., name, organization, and contact information). Also, distribute your own business card and contact information, as well as enrollment forms.
- Expect questions. Prospective members are likely to ask about funding, leadership, and time commitments.
- Conclude the meeting with a clearly identified, written set of follow-up responsibilities.
- Follow-up with telephone calls to ensure that groups join. Some members will be more active than others. Allow members and groups to find their own comfort level with the coalition and their participation.