Before meetings

    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 needs requirements.

    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 yourself:

    • 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 issues?
    • 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 items.

    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 consumers.

    Prepare

    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 goals.

    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.

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