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Q&A: How to Run an Efficient Public Meeting

Clerks are superheroes; they make an efficient public meeting possible. They compile and share the agenda, make sure rules are followed throughout, hold votes on motions and compile minutes of the meeting to share afterward.

Because of everything they do, clerks are pulled in a million different directions. That’s why we created a guide, “Simplify Your Work Life: An Efficiency Guide for Managing Public Meetings,” that provides the best time-saving tips from clerks across the country.

Last week, our “Municipal Clerks vs. the Clock” webinar walked through that guide, as well as showed how Granicus’ meeting and agenda management solutions can make an efficient public meeting even easier to achieve. At the end of the webinar, there were quite a few questions from the audience.

We wanted to share a summary of a few of the questions and answers provided by one of our presenters, Jay Vickers, General Manager of Legislative Solutions at Granicus.

What’s the best way for a clerk to handle others blowing past deadlines when the offender holds a higher position (e.g. the city manager)?

This is a question we might say is a little “out of scope” for us!

It’s hard to tell your boss to “do better,” but our presenter had one suggestion: See if there’s a way for multiple people or departments within your organization to use some peer pressure to make sure deadlines are met.

What does a clerk do when the city council wants reports updated until a day before a public meeting?

One attendee asked about finance reports that needed to be updated after the agenda had been published for the public. Vickers warned against this, calling it a bad practice. Why? Because if you publicly disclose your agenda and update it after the fact, you’re opening yourself to questions from the public about why you were adding items on. After all, did that finance report “sneak” into the report at the last minute to prevent people from knowing about it?

Vickers said this is a real risk for the council to be taking, because a material change to the agenda after the legally required disclosure window could open the city up to a Freedom of Information Act violation (or whichever public disclosure law applies in a given area). This can lead to lawsuits.

Can a clerk be punished for publishing draft meeting minutes immediately after a public meeting (before they’ve been approved)?

This is a question best left to a clerk’s legal department, but draft or summary minutes of a council meeting rarely run afoul of any legal issues.

How do you ensure the accuracy of closed captioning? Is it ADA compliant?

Most closed captioning services available today are a combination of voice recognition and human interaction. Technology allows computers to quickly transcribe, while humans can make corrections when the software makes a mistake, as well as break down who is saying what. In the future, artificial intelligence will help fully automate this process.

Granicus’ closed captioning services provide 98 percent accuracy and are ADA compliant.

How do you get around size limitations when you’re trying to share documents?

Some email programs don’t allow attachments above a certain megabyte limit, which can make sharing a hassle. If possible, avoid zipping a file – it does shrink the size of the file, but it relies on the person on the other end having unzipping software. Instead, try to break the file into multiple smaller versions or see if the software you’re using allows you to save a lower-resolution version.

Want to learn more about beating the clock as a clerk? Check out our guide, “Simplify Your Work Life: An Efficiency Guide for Managing Public Meetings.”