Online Community Meetings:
Tips for Maximizing Quality and Participation

Recently, many communities have settled into a regular rhythm of virtual town meetings conducted over remote desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Even though these gatherings may not take place in a physical space, they are extremely important for helping to keep local governments and constituents engaged. To help ensure that virtual community meetings are productive for all, here are some tips to keep in mind: 

  • Practice makes perfect
    Don’t let the actual meeting be the first time you run through the setup. Schedule time with other presenters prior to the meeting to review the format, discuss roles, delegate responsibilities and finalize the agenda.Record a practice session to evaluate sound levels, background noise, lighting and overall visual quality before the meeting then make adjustments as necessary.
  • Use teamwork
    Whether you’re sharing slides or speaking face-to-face with your audience, what displays on your screen is important for engaging the audience. Having someone from your team joining as a participant allows them to provide you with feedback so that you can adjust content and technical components of the meeting. 
  • Spread the word
    Use your community website to promote the meeting and encourage participation. Provide an opportunity for people to sign-up to present during the meeting.  Stream the meeting so interested parties can watch and allow post-meeting comments.
  • Make the most of your meeting agenda
    Ask everyone participating to submit questions and comments by email before the meeting begins. Add any pertinent information about how to join the meeting, or how to participate in the meeting to the agenda.
  • Set expectations for participation
    Before starting the meeting, familiarize attendees with the tools of the meeting software, and how to use them to answer surveys, poll questions and share comments properly. Encourage participants to identify themselves each time they speak.
  • Quiet please
    Mute participants when they are not speaking to reduce background noise and improve the audio quality of the meeting for all in attendance. Many individuals might not know how to mute themselves, but the host can mute and unmute as needed. 
  • Record the meeting as a video
    Most platforms allow you to record your meeting so you can share with community members who were unable to attend. Explore these settings before your meeting so you are comfortable with this feature on meeting day.
  • Enable “Waiting Room” 
    This feature will prevent attendees from joining the meeting before you (the host) are present or before you’re ready to start the meeting. By creating a virtual meeting room, attendees can be added to the meeting at the actual start time. This feature is also convenient in the case that you must remove someone from the meeting and do not want them to be able to reenter.
  • Gather an attendee list 
    After the meeting is over, you (as the host) can generate an attendee list that you can use to follow up with participants with meeting notes or a recap.

For more tips and best practices, view our on-demand webinar, “Engaging the Public in Virtual Meetings.”

Source: coUrbanize: How to Run Effective Online Community Meetings

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