Technology is too cheap today to not move your public meetings beyond just having a few chairs set up for the public to show up at a pre-determined place. You want more people involved with your organization, your process – and I hear all the time about how we need more “millennials” at our meetings – but people are busy and talented, smart people are even busier, so why expect them to show up in person when its so easy to attend virtually. And no matter how accessible your public facility is, making the meeting available online is even more accessible and should be the standard.
Conference calling is cheap (see Zoom.us) and live streaming is often free (Youtube Live or Facebook Live). If you want to truly have open meetings, you need to do the following:
- Allow people to visit in person, and actually make things open to the public for a substantial period of time
- Stream your events live, with video and audio, and treat virtual audience members with the same importance as people in person
- Put one person in charge and accountable for making sure they understand how to understand the technology and can turn it on for use at the meeting
- Make a recording of your virtual event available to stream immediately after the meeting ends, along with meeting minutes ( but don’t wait for meeting minutes to make the recording available)
Sometimes the public doesn’t show up for your meetings in person, and you don’t shut them down, so you can’t stop taking the virtual public seriously if nobody shows up one (or multiple) times. Once you’ve done this, there is no longer any excuse for people that can’t attend.
There are a ton of ways to achieve this, of course, but plenty of options for free or cheap.
- Set up a conference call with Zoom.us and put a speaker phone in the middle of the room (We’re using the Jabra bluetoon speaker phone and its surprisingly great). Bonus points for having a computer, ipad or mobile phone in front of each speaker so that you have each person’s face on the stream. Make sure to have the person in charge of Technology for your meeting push record and post the video right after the meeting to either Youtube or Vimeo.
- Buy a decent USB camera (not a cheap webcam) for a couple hundred dollars and hook it up to a PC to stream the event live on Youtube or Facebook. Make sure to have the person in charge of Technology available to read any questions that come in during the stream so that they can be addressed during the meeting.
- Literally anything else that gets you a step closer to doing this live. Using someone’s iPhone to stream live is better than what you are doing now.
Once you take steps towards making your meeting available to everyone, regardless of where they are, you can say your meetings are actually open.