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[COVID-19 FAQ] How Do I Manage Public Meetings Online?

You’re working around the clock to support residents and keep your organization running during the COVID-19 crisis. Many government offices are closing, sending employees home to work. During this time of quarantine, isolation, and social distancing, you still need to keep the legislative process moving forward. At Granicus, we’re getting questions from clerks all over the country:

  • How do I prepare for meetings outside of the office? Can I still get items and agendas approved?
  • How do I run meetings and maintain transparency when chambers are closed to the public?
  • What if I’m unable to hold meetings in chambers? Can I still stream meeting video?
  • How do I communicate updates around meeting schedule changes and guidelines?

Good news, you can continue vital operations and provide transparency with meeting and agenda management software, which enables you to prepare for and conduct meetings virtually. Read on to see how this type of software can help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I manage the meeting process online?

Most meeting preparation and work can be done from anywhere using meeting and agenda management software. These applications are largely accessed via the cloud, making them available should you need to work remotely.

How do I prepare for meetings outside of the office? Can I still get items approved?

Yes, meeting prep can be done remotely, and many meeting and agenda software features — like automated approval tracking — can help push work forward automatically. With this type of software, you can:

  1. Login to create new items, or work on existing ones.
  2. Initiate and automate the approval process remotely. Review and approve items from anywhere, on any device. The system can automatically move through the approval sequence.
  3. Publish agendas to the web and applications from a web browser. Provide the public and officials with digital agenda packets to review ahead of meetings. Updated versions can quickly be pushed to a officials via an app, which can be accessed on a phone or tablet, ensuring everyone’s on the same page.

How do I run meetings and maintain transparency when chambers are closed to the public?

Streaming video is a great option to continue providing public meetings transparency. If you’re still able to run meetings within chambers, albeit behind closed doors, purpose-built streaming video solutions bring the public meeting experience online. Here’s how meeting and agenda software can help maintain transparency and openness:

  1. Video stream your meetings, and link agendas and documents. Purpose-built streaming video software allows citizens to engage and follow along with public meetings in much the same way they can in person. By timestamping and linking video segments to agendas, minutes, captioning, and supporting documentation, you can create an online meeting experience that’s more effective than an in-person one.
  2. Optimize for accessibility to ensure your entire community can engage in meetings. Check meeting web pages and content for accessibility and use closed captioning when streaming video. Use an accessibility checker (we recommend WAVE) to ensure documents are screen-reader friendly.
  3. Use public meeting online participation tools, like govMeetings eComment, in place of public comment. Some changes to transparency laws are now allowing online comment collection prior to meetings. With eComment, residents and other stakeholders can submit feedback on specific items or even attached them to the public comment section of the agenda. Comments can be read aloud during the meeting and can also be easily added to the public record.

Can I still run meetings and video stream if I’m unable to hold meetings in chambers?

Because of the nature of public meetings and related laws, purpose-built software solutions are designed to ensure open meeting rules are followed. For this reason, meeting and agenda management software is not designed to operate outside of meeting chambers.

However, a robust in-meeting solution will allow you to complete all your work (finalize minutes, add votes, time-stamp video, publish to the website) after the fact. This will help you provide a comprehensive archived record to the public quickly and easily.

If meetings can be held remotely during this time, simply record the audio and video using any recording device, then upload the media file afterward to complete your work. You can streamline this process by letting automation tools finalize and publish your meeting to the web, eliminating much of the work you would normally do.

Can I finalize meetings and publish to the website remotely?

Absolutely — finalizing and publishing meetings can be done remotely. With meeting and agenda management software, you can finalize and publish meetings quickly, from anywhere, helping you meet deadlines and inform the public.

  1. Login from a web browser to finalize minutes and prepare for review.
  2. Publish the meeting record online, including minutes, video, and supporting documents.

How do I communicate updates around meeting schedule changes and new guidelines?

Communicating changes to public meetings during a crisis is challenging — reschedules, cancellations, and new guidelines must all be shared. And, it’s important to get these communications out to as many people as possible, through as many channels as you can. Here are a few best practices you can follow to effectively update residents and stakeholders when meeting changes occur:

  1. Visit our blogPublic Meetings + COVID-19: What to Say When Things Change — for best practices on communicating changes to public meetings during a crisis.
  2. Use SendAgenda. The new govMeetings SendAgenda feature can help update the public when a meeting is cancelled or rescheduled. SendAgenda is also connected to the govDelivery Network of subscribers, helping you automatically connect with and inform more people in your community.

Bringing It All Together

Just because you may need to move your operations home, doesn’t mean you can’t complete important work. You can continue to provide transparency and vital information to your residents during this public health crisis with the right meeting and agenda management software.

Still have questions?

  • Speak with someone directly about how to transition your meetings online. Contact Us Now
  • Continue learning and be prepared for future meeting challenges by joining our Clerk Virtual Summit on March 25 at 2 p.m. ET