Planning and preparation before your committee's meetings will enable you to appear relaxed and to
effectively represent the consumer perspective.
Gather information about the meeting venue
It may be helpful prior to your first meeting to check on access eg. stairs, security procedures and
parking. You should also ensure that the committee Secretariat has noted any dietary or special
Gather views on issues
Talk with consumers and other consumer representatives within your network to provide you with
consumer views on various issues. Listen carefully to what everyone has to say, ask questions,
clarify issues and principles. Your job is to understand a range of consumer viewpoints, and to try
to present this diversity of issues. Keeping in touch with your networks will ensure you gain an
informed view of the consumers' perspective. Look for the principles and interests in common among
the people or groups you are representing. If you cannot reach a consensus you can use material such
as the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights to express consumers' needs
and a broad perspective on a range of issues.
To remind yourself of your role as a consumer representative, you need to constantly ask
- what are the views of consumers?
- what are the needs of consumers?
- how can the views of consumers be captured?
- what does my experience as a consumer contribute to an understanding and identification of
- how will consumers be affected by this committee's decisions?
Obtain a briefing
If you need to, examine the agenda with your nominating organisation or other consumer groups.
Determine which issues concern consumers and are relevant to them.
It is sometimes impossible to prepare well for all agenda items. If this is the case, prepare three
or four items which are pertinent to consumers and do not worry too much about the other agenda
Make contact with the committee Chair to introduce yourself, obtain background information on the
committee and what they expect from your position on the committee.
Submit agenda items
When you join the committee, find out when agenda items are required, and in what form. A formal
committee will require items in writing, while a more informal committee may accept items verbally.
Committees which send out agenda papers in advance often have a deadline for putting items on
the agenda. Find out these protocols so you can contribute effectively. The committee Chair or
Secretariat can advise you on these protocols.
Look at the agenda and minutes of the last meeting
Check to see whether significant decisions or comments were correctly recorded in the minutes. If you
want an important decision or comment recorded or changed, ask for an amendment at the next meeting
or email the Secretariat any changes, if this is the committees' procedure. Even if meetings are six
months apart, don't let it pass.
Check to see what action was recorded at the meeting, and remind yourself whether you agreed to
follow-up any matter, or obtain any information, particularly any input or issues from
Preparation is crucial when attending meetings. Make sure you read all meeting papers carefully. Seek
out additional information if anything is not clear. The Secretariat or committee Chair may be able
to clarify any concerns you have and provide you with additional information.
Set your goals for the meeting
Set short term goals for each meeting. These short term goals may be steps towards your long term
Your short term goals may include ensuring that:
- a certain point is understood, and agreed
- a certain question is included in a planned survey
- a certain issue is raised
- an issue is clarified or
- an item in the minutes is corrected.
Tackle any achievable goals early on because this will give you experience and confidence.
It's a good idea to write down your short term goals as this will help you to refer back to them and
use them as a guide to evaluate your achievements.