As governments look to cut costs, here are some practical ideas to get you thinking about how to make meetings more efficient. Obviously, most governments have to abide by different laws (such as different Open Meeting laws, Freedom of Information Act, etc). Take these tips and apply them to your next meeting. Let us know how it turns out. If you have any other feedback, leave them in the comments section below!
1.) Make meeting packets available digitally
Figure out what you’re planning to cover during the meeting and compile the information/documents electronically. Instead of printing, email information to the meeting attendees ahead of time. If the files are too large to email, try hosting them on a file sharing solution like Google Docs, your website, or on your intranet. If you’re dealing with a large amount of information, attendees can use a computer’s search capabilities to quickly find the information they’re looking for in the documents. This also allows attendees to make notes on or share info with other attendees during or after the meeting.
If it’s a public meeting, citizens, elected officials, and staff can download and view their own copy from your website. Note: If attendees want a printout, you can still provide one but the number of copies should be reduced.
2.) Evaluate the agenda ahead of time
- What do you hope to accomplish from the meeting?
- Is all the information relevant to everyone? If not, then ask if it’s important enough to discuss during the meeting or afterwards. Sometimes a discussion outside of the meeting with the appropriate parties can prove to be more efficient and direct.
- Have you considered your audience? Will there be someone sitting through the entire meeting just to partake in one agenda item towards end of your meeting? If so, consider moving that item to the beginning of the meeting.
- How long do you anticipate talking about an item? Are there time constraints?
3.) Record the meeting on video
If you record the meeting on video, you can create bookmarked timestamps for new agenda items. The Clerk could have a much easier time completing the Minutes after the meeting.
Archiving videos online gives your board and council members the flexibility to easily review past meetings. This could help eliminate the same discussions that you had in a previous meeting. Attendees can clearly recall what has already been discussed and it’s easier than reading through lengthy or irrelevant information.
Disclaimer: I work for an IT company that (among other things) specializes in products that assist w/ transparency, government, and technology (to include multi-camera digital video recording, hosting and web presentation of public and private content). The company works with the public and government sectors in multiple ways to provide Gov 2.0 and related technology solutions.