Public meetings are meant to be a useful forum, designed to gauge public opinions on critical community issues and ensure voices from all backgrounds are heard. Unfortunately, many Americans are uninterested and unwilling to dedicate the time it takes to get involved in local politics. This hesitance from community members to become involved in council meetings makes it very difficult to understand the true perspectives of the community and creates challenges in managing meetings and increasing public turnout.
In order to achieve better turnout at local public meetings, and increase the satisfaction of the general public with their communities, it is important to inform constituents of exactly how to get involved and make it as easy and accessible as possible for them to do so.
Read on for details on how your local government can encourage community-members to get more involved in local issues, improve public turnout, and maximize effectiveness of local public meetings in your community. Plus, learn how to properly store meeting data, collect tangible data, and make it accessible to the public.
Why is Public Meeting Turnout Important to Local Governments?
Public council meetings play a major role in shaping public policy and understanding which key issues matter most to the community. If participation and public interest in these meetings are low, then many voices and opinions within the community will go unheard and overlooked. Increasing turnout and participation at council meetings will allow for more community perspectives to be reached, helping local governments to better understand which issues matter to the public when allocating budgets and prioritizing upcoming government projects.
Tips for Running Better Local Events
Public meetings are essential to hear community voices and prioritize upcoming public efforts. Here are some tips for running more successful local meetings and events and increasing turnout:
1. Digitally record public council meetings and store them in the cloud
Recording local public meetings with video and readable text options is a great way to store public records, and make them available to the public after the fact. With government software, meeting recordings and text are automatically stored and backed-up in the cloud and can be made accessible via your website with just a few clicks.
2. Make it easy to track down meeting records and recordings
Ensure that tracking down records pertaining to council meetings and other public meetings on your government website is simple (as required for open records laws and an ADA compliant government website.) When people are unable to attend meetings for one reason or another, they will still be able to stay informed on the latest local issues on their own time. It also makes things simple for government officials that need to check records and local updates quickly, removing the step of formally requesting documents or official notes from past meetings.
3. Promote meetings and events on your government website and social media
Utilize technology as much as you can when it comes to reaching out to the public. Promoting public meetings and events on your website and social media is completely free and can reach people in the community. Post about local events and council meetings, even sharing discussion topics ahead of time. The important information about the meetings, such as when and where they are happening, becomes more shareable when it can be quickly spread through social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, NextDoor, and Twitter. Updating the public through online promotion will increase meeting turnout and encourage more engagement between constituents and the local government.
Learn more about how to master local government social media with our resource.
4. Allow people to tune in virtually
Live-streaming from your government website and social media can improve attendance of public meetings. Sometimes people are unable to attend in-person, but are still willing to participate in virtual public meetings. Give people the option.
GovPilot’s government management software makes it easy to stream meetings directly from your government website. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook also offer flexible and convenient options for streaming meetings virtually, and will increase public turnout and ensure more constituents are up to date on the latest happenings in your community.
5. Encourage constituents of all backgrounds to attend
People who most regularly attend council meetings tend to have the most available free-time. Many members of the community, including younger demographics and people in the workforce, are unable to voice their opinions at the meetings due to lack of time-availability. It is vital to encourage people of various backgrounds and ages to voice their views at these meetings. They very well may not have the same views on critical issues as those who regularly attend meetings, and are therefore not being accurately represented in the community if they remain uninvolved.
More attendance from people of various backgrounds and demographics will allow government employees and elected officials to make progress in a way that truly represents the philosophies of the community-members.
Consider voices that often are left unheard by the local government such as war veterans, and encourage their attendance at meetings to gain valuable perspectives.
6. Have a pre-planned agenda
Keeping the meetings organized and running in a timely manner is important to making the attendees feel like their time is valued. Having a predetermined agenda for each meeting will keep government officials and constituents on track while also likely allowing more time for community members to give feedback towards the end. Eliminating downtime in these meetings will make them more effective, because moving on from topics swiftly will present a more put-together workflow.
Pro Tip: Upload your meeting agenda to your website and social media in advance of the meeting to allow community-members to ponder over the issues and gather their thoughts in advance.
How Government Technology Can Help Improve Public Meetings
GovTech is meant to streamline processes across the board. Here’s how it can help with managing meetings more effectively:
- Automatic cloud storage: When you livestream with GovPilot, meeting recordings are automatically stored and backed-up in the cloud via the clerk’s department platform.
- Simplified accessibility for government officials and constituents: Government officials that manage meetings can make them accessible from your website in just a few clicks. Constituents and public employees alike will be able to access current and past public meetings with a few simple clicks on your government website.
- Real-time data collection: public meetings are your locality’s opportunity to collect meaningful data from the public and their opinions on how things are going. That data can be pulled into various customizable dashboards across departments to visualize how you’re stacking up against various key performance indicators. Using this data will be critical when it comes to allocating future budgets and prioritizing upcoming government endeavors.
- Encourage constituents to use a complaint management platform: with GovPilot’s Report-a-Concern software, community-members can make note of problems in your community straight from their cell phone. Administrative officials organizing meeting notes should make serious consideration towards the recurring complaints, and ensure that they make their way into public meeting agendas to discuss in more detail.
- Consider GovPilot's guide for citizen concern reporting.
- Take action on the top issues: hearing about which issues matter most in your community doesn’t mean much if you’re not able to take action. Government software can streamline permitting and licensing workflows, assignment of projects to public works officials, and beyond. By automating mindless tasks and scheduling processes, your municipal or county government will be able to take action more quickly on the problems identified in public meetings.
- Consider creating a Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP, and sharing objectives with citizens so they understand where government funds are being allocated. The CIP aids in coordinating budgets, schedules, locations, and other logistic aspects for upcoming infrastructure projects in a community.
How Governments Can Manage Public Meetings Successfully
Government technology makes managing council meetings and increasing public turnout simple. Improved promotion through the use of online platforms is the first step to raise awareness and improve attendance at local council meetings.
It is beneficial for localities to implement overlooked tactics that improve public participation, such as easily recording virtual or in-person meetings and storing them on the cloud for constituents to engage with on their own time. Connect with constituents over social media and advertise the council meetings to ensure all demographics in your community feel reached and encouraged to attend.
To learn more about how government software can help with public meetings and beyond, book a free demo.
Public Meeting FAQs
Why Are Public Meetings Important?
Public meetings are a way for constituents to directly communicate with their officials, face-to-face (or over a video call.) These public meetings harbor a more active and positive relationship between constituents and localities, because the constituents can be assured their opinions are being heard and addressed.
How Can Local Governments Increase Meeting Turnout?
Increasing meeting turnout can be achieved when local governments increase attendance accessibility by providing virtual options for constituents to attend meetings. Marketing the meetings and events by advertising on social media is another way to connect with constituents, increase public awareness, and encourage their participation.
Why is Diversity Critical for Success in Local Public Meetings?
Diversity of the attendees at public meetings guarantees that varied life experiences and opinions are brought forward and addressed in the discussions. The issues that different demographics face will also be diverse; this allows different perspectives to be shared, making space for everyone to bring awareness to the issues within the community that matter to them.
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