No More Unproductive Meetings! How Technology Can Improve Your Council Meetings

The days of meetings that run too long, that have no zest and that don’t connect with people are numbered. It was only a matter of time before someone realized that this old-fashioned style of meetings was becoming increasingly less effective, and how technology could fix all of that. How many meetings have you been to where there was nothing new presented? Where the agenda was more like a rough outline and merely surviving the meeting felt like an accomplishment?

Have you ever sat there with that pamphlet, that flyer and that two page meeting outline paper in-hand and wonder how many trees died for this? Maybe there has been more than one occasion where you wanted to share valuable information or give feedback, but there was never a forum within the meeting for that. That seems counterproductive doesn’t it?

Now picture this – a meeting that people get excited about and want to attend! This is the new concept of meetings. Let’s face it, if people are dreading that upcoming meeting beforehand, then it is only going to be that much harder to produce a successful and effective event.

The Meeting Agenda
It isn’t uncommon for successful business people to have a meeting penciled into their calendar. Maybe it follows that business closing at 10 a.m. and comes before their flight back at 4 p.m. This is only one of  a hundred possible examples of why having an agenda, and sticking to that agenda is important. Not only is it showing respect for others and placing a value on their time, it is also the way professionals handle events.

Technology permits the tools to keep everyone aware of schedules, updates or changes. Technology will also expedite the meeting, helping everything to flow more smoothly and maintain those agendas.

Be Creative and Innovative
This aspect of meeting planning can be the make or break point. You may be ready to share the newest and most groundbreaking news, something that will impact the entire community but a dry, long and boring meeting could undermine the message, the entire purpose of the meeting. How creative and innovative you get is only limited by the imagination.

With the power of technology meetings can be infused with videos and graphics. Attendees can be engaged and interact with the means afforded through technological aids, meeting planners can be more creative and innovative than ever (and many can get creative for the first time ever!).

Provide Value
In every aspect of the meeting, provide your attendees value. Provide valuable information they can use. Provide opportunities for the community to speak and be heard, a forum where communication and exchange of ideas can happen. Provide value wherever possible.

The litmus test for every meeting is in this question: Did it work? Did your audience benefit and appreciate the meeting? Did your members and audience appreciate your accurate timeline, were answers found…did it work?

Guess what? Technology can provide solutions and answers for these questions and issues too. Maybe the mere value of going green was appreciated? Perhaps having the opportunity to engage and be engaged and having accessible information was the value delivered? Even getting the feedback to these types of questions can be delivered through technological means.

Better Meetings
Have you asked the question, do you want to know how technology can improve your council meetings? The answers will please and amaze you. Technology can save time and money. Technology can provide a centralized platform for dialogue. Technology can help your council meeting do what it was intended to do – fix problems and find solutions.

Council meetings are the core of community, the place where people join to share ideas and implement plans to provide the happiest, healthiest most viable community possible. How can technology help? In every way.

4 Ways Technology Can Improve Your Council Meetings

Council meetings have a long tradition in America, going all the way back to the colonial days. Local representatives would have meetings in places where the public could hear what was being discussed, where they could offer their views, and ask questions. It ensured a transparent system of government, and let everyone see how the machinery worked.

However, things have changed since then. While the idea of keeping council meetings open to the public is certainly good, we live in a much faster-paced world than we used to. A world where people can’t stop everything they’re doing to drive across town spending several hours listening to a council meeting. Fortunately, our technology allows us to improve our meetings in a variety of ways.

1. Improve Accessibility

People lead busy lives in the modern age. We work around the clock, we go to school, and we try to better ourselves and our situations. Even if we have an interest in government, we can’t always block out an hour or three in the middle of a Thursday to go attend a meeting. What we can do, though, is watch that meeting on our smartphones, leave comments in a live chat, and interact with politicians that way.

All it takes is a camera and Sliq software to take a meeting that only a few people could attend, if they chose, and open it up to everyone who has an interest in finding out what’s happening in their constituency.

2. Save Time

Another reason old-fashioned meetings might not be attended with the same regularity that they once were is that they take time. Both council members and members of the public have to block out the time, they have to travel, find parking, and go through a dozen other hassles. Technology can cut all of those hoops out of the process, and allow everyone to get right down to business. Council members could log in straight from their offices, and have digital meetings in an online space. Constituents can tune-in from wherever they are to watch. And no one has to leave their house, or cancel their evening plans, to see what’s going on.

3. Encourage Engagement

When you take down barriers to attending an event, the result is that more people tend to show interest in that event. Council meetings that take place at 6:30 on a Friday night might be convenient for some people, but those who have work, or who can’t beat traffic, or who otherwise can’t make that time can’t participate. People who are free, but who don’t want to go through the hassle of physically attending would also be turned off. But by removing those barriers and taking a meeting digital, more people would engage with it. Because taking out your phone and watching a meeting, whether live or recorded, is a lot easier than trying to fit in into an already busy schedule.

Additionally, technology can be used to let people know when and where meetings are taking place with greater ease. Instead of burying the details in a website, it’s now possible to put meetings up on the council’s social media pages, and to blast links to anyone who cares to watch. Technology can actively reach out to people who would otherwise not even be involved.

4. Go Green

Another of the great benefits of integrating technology into your council meetings is that they become more green. Most of the time, though, this happens in subtle ways.

For example, say that meetings are largely attended digitally instead of in-person. Ask how many people are no longer driving across town, burning fuel to attend. How many resources are saved by using a smaller room that doesn’t take as much energy to heat or cool, and how much less power it takes to communicate digitally.

To read more about how technology can improve your council meetings, read GovTech’s article entitled “How Technology is Giving Town Hall Meetings a Modern Twist“.

The Hard Truth You Need to Hear: Citizens Don’t Have Time For Your Meetings

The idea of a city council meeting is a fairly simple one; being open and transparent with your citizens. It’s a tradition in America that when government officials are discussing decisions that can affect their constituents, those constituents should be privy to the discussion. They should also have a chance to raise their voices, and be heard.

All of that sounds great, but there’s a problem. Most citizens do not have the time to show up to council meetings. Not because they aren’t interested, of course, but because we live fast-paced lives in the modern world. Even if citizens are very interested in the issues being discussed, they have jobs to go to, families to spend time with, and a thousand tasks filling every day. They can’t drop everything they’re doing just to show up to a city council meeting, much as they might wish they could.

The result is that, even if an issue is genuinely important to the public, the public largely won’t be able to show up. Fortunately, because we live in the age of the Internet, it’s possible to bring city council meetings into the 21st century. If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves, and find solutions that will work.

Bring The Meeting To Them

Even if a meeting isn’t attended in-person, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it possible for people to watch the proceedings. Thanks to the proliferation of technology, it’s possible to broadcast a meeting over the Internet. Not only that, but opening a forum for public commentary can allow people who may not be able to attend to still voice their opinions on the proceedings. This allows you to make sure the public is aware of what’s happening, and to collect the views of the citizens, without expecting people to clear their schedules to be in the same room as council members.

It isn’t enough to simply make access possible, though. You need to make sure the citizens can easily find when meetings are being broadcast, and that they can find the archives of past meetings in case they need more context for what is happening. All of the relevant information regarding the current issue needs to be on-hand, and it all needs to be simple to find. Putting the information on the city government’s homepage, social media accounts, and other locations are all positive steps forward to ensure everyone can be as informed as possible about what’s happening.

Encourage Participation, And Listen To The Citizens

Government is often slow to adapt when it comes to the latest technology. However, with communication moving at the speed of light, and shrinking our world on a daily basis, there’s no reason not to embrace it as a solution to the gap between the government and the citizens. Especially when most of these solutions can be implemented for relatively little cost (if not for free).

You don’t want your meetings to be the proverbial tree falling in the forest, though. You need to make sure you publicize your activities, and reach out to the public so they know where to go, and when to watch, to find out about the issues that matter to them. Check the metrics, and see how many people are watching. Listen to the criticism that’s made, and try to adjust to better suit the needs of the public. Make your meetings a conversation between the council and the citizens, and those citizens will make the effort to get more involved. Even if they’re doing it from a mobile device, rather than from the third row of the meeting room.