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Virtual Municipal Meetings: What to Expect and How to Prepare for Success

As a result of COVID-19, most municipalities have transitioned to virtual municipal meetings. If you haven’t participated in one yet, we have an inside look at what you can expect and some tips to help you prepare for a successful meeting!

We talked to our engineers and planners about the meetings they recently attended and here’s what they had to say:

Advantages

On the upside, most of the meetings organized and well run. Everyone is either muted or asked to mute themselves unless it’s their turn to speak, which for the most part works! It seems like the municipalities themselves are putting in a little extra work ahead of time, but it does appear to pay off. The meetings are efficient and even a little shorter.

In some municipalities, residents have to contact the Township to get the meeting link, making it a two-step process that may even lead to a lower number of participants.

Disadvantages

You always have moments where someone starts talking and they’re muted, but that’s a quick fix.

Also, some people feel that nothing replaces face-to-face interaction, but from what we’ve seen municipalities are doing their best and meetings have been very successful.

The only real downside is that people in the community may be more likely to share harsh opinions and comments because they’re not standing up in a room full of people. They’re hiding behind their computer screen. While this is a disadvantage, all of the municipalities we’ve seen have handled comments and questions well. Most of the time, residents place their question or comment in the chat box and it’s either read by an official or they are unmuted and allowed to speak.

How to Prepare for Virtual Municipal Meetings

Here are three things do to prepare for a successful virtual municipal meeting:

  • Contact the municipality to understand what control you have over your plans and project renderings. In some cases, you are sharing your screen and have full control to zoom in when needed. Other times, you will submit your materials ahead of time and they’ll share the images. If that’s the case, you may need to edit your graphics before the meeting.
  • Schedule a meeting with your project team ahead of time. Have an agenda and clear understand of what each person will cover. That way you will be organized and not talk over each other.
  • Remember, while you may be at home, you are on camera and you are representing your firm. A t-shirt and baseball hat might not be the best choice. Most developers, attorneys, and other consultants are still wearing button-down shirts and ties. Some are even wearing jackets. Make sure your appearance and background are professional. These meetings can still be long and you may not agree with comments. However, try to refrain from eating dinner on camera and rolling your eyes! Here are even more tips to make your virtual meeting more professional.

Municipal meetings tend to have a reputation for being long and often contentious. As we move ahead, it will be interesting to see if virtual municipal meetings stick around post-COVID.

Need more tips, contact our experts.

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