Public Participation Guide: Briefings
Briefings are generally short presentations provided directly to community groups at their existing meetings or locations – such as social and civic clubs – to provide an overview or update on a project. The presentation may be delivered by the sponsor agency’s representative and can be followed by detailed discussions in a question-and-answer format. Briefings are useful as a public information activity when an identified group is going to be affected by a proposal or needs to be kept up to date on issues and activities. Briefings can also be used as a forum for feedback and may provide some preliminary ideas of community issues and values based on the discussion and questions. Accomodations for different languages and literacy levels should be made when planning.
- Informs stakeholders of a project, product, or proposal and provides them with a chance to ask questions
- Keeps key stakeholder groups informed and involved in a less formal and expensive process than large public meetings
- Can be held more frequently than larger public meetings
- Generally used with existing groups who hold meetings or are willing to add agenda topics to an existing meeting or to organize a special session to get information about the project
- Provides a forum to interact directly with a particular group and allows tailored presentations to explain issues, circumstances, and implications unique to the group, and to get feedback and input on what is important to the community
- Allows sponsor to reach groups and individuals who may not attend other types of meetings
- Are informal and help to build community good will and create a more effective atmosphere for dialogue and responding to specific questions
Challenges to Consider
- Make sure that all groups are treated equally
- Briefings should not be treated as public relations to convince specific groups of your proposal or to pit groups against each other
- Individuals conducting briefings should be well versed in the project and be able to answer questions, but also open and approachable to help build community relationships
- Stakeholders may be disappointed if the briefing is used only as a means to inform them and not also to answer their questions and get input to their ideas, interests and concerns
Principles for Successful Planning
- Manage expectations of the audience by stating a clear purpose and agenda at the outset.
- Stay within guidelines and constraints provided by the host organization
- Don’t just favor one or two key groups; get out in the community and work to identify a full range of organizations
- Reach out directly to groups and make personal contact with offers for a briefing; it is important to accommodate group/community needs as much as possible
- Clarify whether the groups are willing to promote the event, and whether you need to provide promotional material (flyers, posters, newsletter articles)
- Know your audience in advance; be sure not to make the presentation too technical
- Do not use briefings as a forum for making decisions or reaching consensus
- Questions, concerns, and issues of stakeholders should be recorded.
- Provide a summary of what you heard at the end
- Prepare presentation materials in light of the specific interests of the target audience
- Leave behind information about your project that attendees can share with others
- Bring refreshments if not already provided
- Offer to offset any special costs your presentation might entail
- Prepare and bring printed material and background information
- Make presentations engaging, fun, and concise
- Bring visuals if possible, especially hands-on materials, and talk about case studies or personal experiences to illustrate the points you want to make
- Record all input and comments; summarize what you have heard at the end of the meeting and let participants know what you will do with their input and what to expect next in the process, especially opportunities for ongoing participation
- Acknowledge past exclusion of certain groups and how project is an opportunity to move forward in a meaningful way
- Staff to develop briefing and handouts
- Presenter and one or two support staff to attend meeting
- Interpreters, if necessary
- Data projectors, laptops, screens
- Flipcharts, tape, and markers
- Presentations, fact sheets, agendas
- Demonstrations, models, giveaways
- Comment forms
- Effective briefings should be carefully planned but can generally be done in a few days
- It could take several months to coordinate with all the different groups that desire briefings; not all groups meet frequently or on a regular schedule
- Briefings are generally short, often less than an hour including dialogue time
- Briefings are generally designed for smaller audiences, though can be adjusted
- Limit the number of staff that attend a briefing as you do not want to overwhelm the meeting.
- Briefings are generally very low cost.
Most relevant participation levels:
- Briefings can be held at all levels on the IAP2 spectrum.
Explore the full Public Participation Guide.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2650R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460