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How to make the most
of meetings and events

Going to an event should not be passive, like watching TV. Here are a few tips on how to be more active — and have a lot more fun — at events and gatherings.

(1) Register or "RSVP" if possible. Some events ask you to register in advance. Not only does this reserve your space, but it is a great help to the organizers. On the other hand, if you can't register in advance, it's sometimes possible to turn up at the door even if the poster said "registration required". (Note: do this at your own risk and be prepared to be turned away gracefully if you're not registered).

(2) Can't afford the admission fees? Call the organizers in advance to ask if there are lower rates for students, seniors or under-employed (also known as "sliding scale" or subsidies). Better yet, ask if you could volunteer in return for free or reduced admission.

(3) Set yourself a goal or two. Are you going just to fill time? Or do you want to learn something new or contribute in a meaningful way? Before you leave home, spend a moment thinking about what you could do before, during and after the event, to help you towards your goals.

(4) Don't just sit on your butt! Ask questions, talk to people, give the organizers a hand, participate in the discussion.

(5) Ask questions. There's no such thing as a dumb question. Chances are, many others have the same question. The only thing that's "dumb" is not asking it!

(6) Be helpful. Helping out or volunteering can be lots of fun... and can be a great way to meet both the organizers and the participants. If possible, call the organizers in advance and tell them you're interested and how much time you can offer. If there are certain kinds of things you'd like to do or special skills you can share (e.g. putting up posters, photographing, recording or videotaping the event) — let the organizers know.

(7) Go around to the tables and displays, and speak with the people behind them. Ask them about the issue they're they're to talk about... but also ask about their organization, possible job or volunteer opportunities, how you could become a member, what you can do at home, etc.

(8) Don't run out when the presentation or film is over. The discussion and socializing that follows is often the best part. It's a chance to meet new people and hear what's going on outside of the formal presentation. Listen actively, to hear what different people are feeling and thinking (help with listening skills).

(9) Keep it positive. It's easy to complain and criticize, but it's much more important to create positive solutions. Look for ways of actually implementing your values, whether at home, in your community, or in the world. Rather than blaming people (e.g. politicians), think about how to create structures and environments, locally or globally, that foster healthy and sustainable behaviour. (positive thinking articles & resources)

(10) Don't steal the floor. On the other hand, don't talk too much. All it takes is one person with "verbal diarrhea" to really spoil things. If you're participating in a discussion, keep it brief. Try to make one point only, and make it in less than a minute. Repeating yourself or going into lots of detail isn't going to persuade anybody – or win you any friends. If you think you're talking more than others, be quiet for a while, ask some questions and listen carefully to the responses. (help for verbal diarrhea)

(11) Help get the communication flowing. If people don't know each other, or if everyone hasn't already spoken, suggest a "go-round". If possible, sit or stand in a circle, and have each person briefly introduce themselves and their goals, hopes or fears for the day. Or, if a discussion doesn't seem to be getting to the heart of things, suggest a more in-depth "talking circle". Offer to help facilitate a discussion or break-out group. (tips & articles on facilitating productive discussion)

(12) Sign up for an e-mail announcement list to hear about upcoming events & opportunities, or even a discussion list if there is one (usually involves a higher volume of e-mail). Announcement lists usually only send very few messages, but are a great way to stay connected. If there is no e-mail list, suggest it or offer to create one yourself. (tips for starting, managing, or using an e-mail list)

(13) Don't run from your feelings. If the subject of the day is a big one (peace, environment, social issues), it may leave you feeling confused, fearful or angry. One way to deal with this is to avoid your feelings by avoiding the issue (i.e. going home and not coming back). Better: find someone who seems involved in a positive way, ask them how they deal with it. And remember the proverb: "It's not your obligation to complete the task [of perfecting the world], but neither are you free to desist [from doing all you can]." (Rabbi Tarfon). (help coping with fear, coping with anger, anger management)

Resources for Event Organizers and Volunteers

How to Organize & Promote an Event | Group Process | Creating Community 

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