In Forum, as in life, special consideration must sometimes be given to certain individuals, for one reason or another. Doctors, attorneys and celebrities are the most common recipients of such special consideration. For example, an attorney may be required by a judge to appear in court at the same time as the Forum meeting. A physician may be required to attend to a critically ill patient on a moment’s notice. And a celebrity may be on an extended tour that causes them to miss multiple meetings. Each situation must be reviewed individually, but let’s start with a basic challenge that can emanate from these types of situations.
A Forum is intended to be a group of peers. While diversity in the Forum is encouraged, members that require special handling can cause problems within the Forum. These problems should be discussed openly with the entire Forum. If special handling is not discussed, the health of the Forum is at risk. If the rules are ignored for one member, it becomes difficult if not impossible to uphold the rules for other members. Commitment is required of all members, regardless of profession, rank, or status, and it is important for each member, celebrity or not, to realize and accept this condition.
To deal with a celebrity member situation, plan to have a discussion with the entire Forum at an upcoming meeting. This discussion should be led by the Moderator and the celebrity member should be notified of the discussion in advance, to prevent him or her from feeling blindsided by the discussion. The ultimate goal is to identify the type of special handling required and if or how it can be integrated into the Forum in a fair and equitable manner.
Note that unique situations for celebrity members don’t always spell disaster. Many Forums have worked around special member requirements and kept the Forum whole and healthy. In fact, these situations can ultimately serve to be a benefit to the Forum. But this can only happen when there is open, authentic communication about the subject.
One possible solution for a celebrity member is to make them an “honorary” member. This means they don’t attend regular Forum meetings, but they can join the Forum’s social activities and attend an occasional meal before or after the regular meeting. Perhaps the celebrity can attend a special meeting once a year where he or she gives a Presentation, and the rest of the Forum can gain knowledge from this “honorary” member.
As with all Forums, the members of the group must determine the purpose of the Forum and what brings value to the group. Write a mission statement to clarify the purpose and ensure that decisions about membership (like celebrity members) enable the Forum to uphold the mission statement.