If your public engagement activity is complex or time-consuming to organise, you may need to involve specialist agencies to provide support. Working with a specialist allows you to focus on your own areas of expertise and knowledge. It can also provide reassurance that the event will be well thought through and managed.
Finding an agency
The agency you choose will depend on the level of support you need and how much involvement you want to have in organising the project. Some agencies can help you with specialist aspects, such as participant recruitment or marketing, facilitation or evaluation, while others can manage the entire project. Agencies also vary in size, from lone consultants to large organisations which can draw together a project team that meets your specific requirements.
If you want to be involved in organising the project, most agencies will develop a support package that suits your specific needs, skills and interests. For example, agencies may work with you to develop the initial project ideas and then provide specialist input in, for example, facilitation. Alternatively, you may want an agency to handle the day to day organisation, audience recruitment or venue selection aspects of the project.
Key to managing an agency is setting expectations at the start of the project. Be clear about what their role will be and what input you expect to have into decisions. Both you and they need to understand how much of the project you are delegating to them and how much time you have to spend on the activity. Ensure you get a full quote from the agency that clearly outlines the different costs involved in the project.
It is good practice to recruit a specialist or external evaluation agency – this ensures that the evaluation is independent of the organisation delivering the event.