To actually restore and protect water quality, residents of your watershed need to be engaged in the process. Building functional partnerships are both the hardest and most rewarding part of watershed projects. As a concerned citizen, there are many ways you can gather like-minded people and build more support for local water conservation. Nearly every watershed group will eventually find it necessary to conduct an event (i.e. workshop, field day, public meeting, etc.) to involve the public in watershed management. Event planning boils down to two major components: logistics and content.
- Format – What kind of event will this be? An input-gathering session? A training session? Hands-on or presentation-heavy? You’ll need to decide the format that best fits the topic before you can move on to other logistical considerations.
- Location – Needs to be appropriate for the topic you are exploring, as well as convenient to the intended audience.
- Food/Refreshments – Depending on the time of day (and how long) your meeting is, you may or may not need to feed the participants -– the rule of thumb is if the meeting is going to last more than 2 hours, have refreshments. Often, you can get these donated. Be aware that some venues have in-house catering services that must be used when you reserve their facilities.
- Set-up – Round tables, banquet tables, table configuration, chairs, sponsor/vendor displays – where is all this stuff going to go?
- Props – Are you bringing any demonstration materials?
- Print material – Will you provide an agenda/program, presentation handouts, or evaluations?
- Equipment – Audiovisual, farm implements, easels and flipcharts (don’t forget the markers!).
- Partners’ input/assistance – When can you get help? Is it possible to arrange a trade with partners? Maybe your partners have content they’d like to add to your program in exchange for manning the registration table?
- Timing – You wouldn’t do a cover-crop field day in mid-summer (there’d be nothing to see!). Also consider local calendars so that you do not overlap other events that your prospective participants would want to attend.
- Advertising – How will you get the word out about your event so that people will attend?
- Budget – Carefully consider all of the items on this list and plan ahead for all expenses. You wouldn’t want your event to go poorly because you didn’t have enough money for an extra flip chart or to make a few more copies of materials for those extra stakeholders that arrived minutes before the event starts.
Content is the “meat” of your event. What are you going to talk about or do at the event? Most groups know what overall topic they want to cover. Planning out the more specific talks or activities generally takes some brainstorming. Estimate (to the minute) the time you’ll need to cover each item on your agenda to keep the event on schedule. Make notes about the supplies, equipment, and props that you will need in each segment.
Groups often invite experts to speak to the topic at hand. Using speakers brings variety to your event and breaks up the day into nice “chunks.” They can also bring a level of credibility to your event (after all, you are not the only one preaching your message!) However, speakers often charge a fee to attend events, so you’ll want to look into this ahead of time.
Even if you have everything planned perfectly, there’s no guarantee that the event will proceed smoothly. In planning for events, as in life, having a Plan B is a good idea. Consider what you will do in case of: foul weather, power outage, higher attendance than expected, computer glitches, the restaurant bungling your order, or your main speaker getting sick at the last minute.
Specific pages dealing with planning field days, workshops, public meetings, steering committees, education campaigns and agendas are available on our website. Regardless of the topic or format, remember that the reason you are planning your event is to involve other people. As you work toward this goal, always keep in mind the needs of your participants and make adjustments to suit them.
- Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program (National Park Service) Community Toolbox:
- This website includes information on decision-making, facilitation, meetings, outreach, and organizing in relation to natural resource topics.
- NRCS Social Sciences Team Publications - People, Partnerships, and Communities Series:
- Many resources are available at this site to assist you in working with people during your watershed planning efforts.
- Conducting a River Cleanup:
- This manual from an experienced watershed group is packed full of ideas and practical advice on how to start a cleanup program. Whether you’ve never conducted a cleanup or have been doing them for years, you’ll find this guide useful.