Participating in meetings


When involved in cancer clinical trials as a consumer, most of the work involves meetings. These could be one-off meetings such as focus groups, or regular meetings as part of a group, committee or board.

When you are participating in a meeting as a consumer, you are speaking not just from your own experience, but also on behalf of other consumers. To do this, you need to ensure that your views are informed by and reflect the views of other consumers. You’ll likely need to organise workshops or something similar to obtain these views.

Also see Consumer involvement.

Effective meetings

There are 3 key factors to good meetings:

  • Role of the Chair - good meetings require a Chair who oversees the agenda, knows the meeting processes, ensures that everyone is heard but keeps tight control of the meeting.
  • Role of all members – good meetings require members who take their role seriously, are well prepared and willing to take part in discussion, but courteous and polite to others.
  • Individual behaviours – good meetings need a recognition that collective decisions are being reached and that these are not an opportunity for individual agendas.

Efficiency is key to achieving good meeting outcomes. The time that you give as a consumer is precious and needs to be used as efficiently as possible. This means that:

  • agenda papers should be sent out with enough time for you to review them all before the meeting. Most organisations will email them to you, or provide access through a shared drive.
  • minutes of the previous meeting sent out soon after the meeting. This is important so that any agreed-to items or actions can be progressed.

If these are not happening within a reasonable timeframe, speak to the Chair to raise your concerns. 

If the agenda papers are overly complicated, this is also not appropriate. Again, talk to the Chair. Options include asking for minutes, agenda papers and agendas to be sent out earlier to give you more time to review them. You can also ask for long documents or complicated documents be sent out with a plain language summary?  It is your right to be able to fully understand all the issues being discussed at a meeting.

Virtual meetings

The secret to a successful virtual meeting is to act with the courtesy and professionalism you would in a face-to-face meeting. This means:

  • dressing professionally and appropriately – you’ll be meeting with professionals and in a professional setting
  • not interrupting others – this can be difficult if you cannot see other participants. It’s good practice on a teleconference, or when first speaking, to wait for a pause, then start by identifying yourself so everyone knows who is speaking
  • giving your attention to the group – this means not checking emails or doing chores during meetings.