How to Host a Virtual City Council Meeting

  • By: Tara Astbury
  • April 24, 2023
people listening to a presenter

Virtual city council meetings are conducted remotely, usually via video-conferencing software or other online communication tools. These public meetings have become increasingly common in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many cities adopted virtual formats to limit the spread of the virus.

Virtual city council meetings have become essential for local governments. City council meeting procedures require precision and transparency in the democratic process. To streamline processes and support virtual meetings, many local governments leverage meeting management software.

What is a City Council Meeting?

A city council meeting is a formal gathering of elected officials, like the mayor or city clerk, who make up the governing body of a city or municipality. They are elected by the city’s residents and are responsible for representing the interests of their constituents and making decisions that benefit the city.

The number of council members can vary depending on the size and structure of the city. Council members meet to discuss and make decisions on matters affecting the community, such as:

  • Public safety
  • Infrastructure
  • Zoning
  • Budgeting 

These meetings are held in a designated meeting room or online and are open to the public. During the meeting, council members review and discuss proposed legislation, hear public comments, and vote on various issues. 

Why is the city council important?

The city council is an integral part of local government. Its role is to represent the community’s interests and make decisions affecting the city’s well-being and its residents. Other reasons why the city council is important include:

  1. The city council is responsible for making decisions about a variety of  issues, such as zoning regulations, building codes, and public safety. These decisions can significantly impact the quality of life for residents.
  2. The council provides a platform for community members to express their opinions and concerns. Council members can use this feedback to make informed decisions to benefit the community.
  3. The city council manages the city’s budget, ensuring it can provide necessary services to its residents and maintain infrastructure.
  4. The city council oversees the work of city officials and ensures they fulfill their responsibilities and hold city officials accountable for their actions.

What’s at stake if the city council meeting is subpar?

If a city council meeting is subpar, there can be several negative consequences for the community, including:

  • Lack of transparency can make it difficult for residents to understand the decisions being made by the council.
  • Lack of accountability can negatively affect the residents’ quality of life.
  • Reduced trust in the local government makes residents less interested in engaging with the council members.
  • Ineffective use of resources can impact the city’s budget and operations.

The city council needs to prioritize transparency, accountability, and the effective use of resources to serve the community effectively.

Why is it a good idea to move to a virtual meeting?

Virtual meetings allow for greater accessibility and participation, as residents can attend and participate in meetings from anywhere with an internet connection. Virtual meetings can benefit those who may have difficulty attending in-person meetings due to work, family, or other obligations.

In addition, they have the potential to be more efficient and streamlined than in-person meetings, as they can reduce travel time and other logistical hurdles. Virtual meetings can also be recorded and archived, making it easier for residents to access and review past meetings and decisions.

Benefits of a Virtual City Council Meeting

Virtual city council meetings offer various benefits, including:

  • Increased accessibility to residents with difficulty attending in-person meetings, leading to more diverse representation and more inclusive decision-making.
  • Improved efficiency as they eliminate the need for travel time and can be conducted more quickly, resulting in more productive meetings.
  • Less expensive to organize and conduct than in-person meetings. They eliminate the need for physical meeting spaces and other associated costs, such as travel expenses.
  • Enhanced safety as residents can engage in the democratic process without risking exposure to illness.
  • Increased participation as residents may attend the meeting if they can contribute from their homes.

Council members should conduct virtual meetings in a transparent, secure, and inclusive way.

How to Host a Virtual City Council Meeting

Hosting a virtual city council meeting involves several steps. Here’s a general outline of the process:

1. Distribute Meeting Invite

Send out invitations to council members and any necessary staff members with details about the meeting, including the date, time, and platform to be used. 

Also, communicate the meeting details to the public to ensure they have the information to participate.

2. Stick to the Meeting Agenda

Sticking to agenda items is crucial in a virtual city council meeting. Participants may have limited attention spans and can become easily distracted. 

Sticking to the meeting agenda can help ensure the meeting stays on track and all items are covered in the allotted time.

3. Encourage Public Participation

Encouraging public participation in virtual city council meetings is necessary to ensure transparency, inclusivity, civic engagement, and effective decision-making.

City council members and staff should create a welcoming and supportive environment that encourages residents to participate and engage in the democratic process.

4. Ask for Feedback

Asking for feedback after a virtual city council meeting is crucial. It can help identify improvement areas, increase public engagement, address concerns, and demonstrate a commitment to transparency and accountability. 

City council members should actively seek out and consider feedback to improve the virtual meeting experience and make the democratic process more accessible and effective for all residents.

5. Leverage Municipal Meeting Software

Leveraging municipal meeting software like eScribe can help improve the virtual city council meeting experience by providing enhanced meeting management, participant engagement, transparency, remote access and participation, and data analysis. 

It’s vital for city council members to carefully consider their software options and choose a solution that meets their specific needs and requirements.

eScribe Powers Effective City Councils

Technology proves critical in virtual city council meetings by providing tools and solutions to improve meeting management, accessibility, and engagement.

eScribe’s software equips city councils with key tools to streamline meeting management. The platform provides public access to meeting agendas, minutes, and video recordings to increase transparency and accountability in decision-making.

With eScribe software, councils can securely store key documents  and optimize meetings with live polls, chat, and more. 

But don’t just take it from us. Check out how the City of Greensboro improved meeting management with eScribe.