With the sudden shift of our workforce into remote working situations due to the COVID-19 crisis, many public sector organizations have been left scrambling on how they can continue to facilitate remote meetings but still maintain a level of transparency.
While temporary measures might mean that a meeting or two can be cancelled, forward thinking organizations are now also in preparation mode for the weeks to come. Surely, many of you have been discussing this scenario with your colleagues, to find answers to the questions of how you are going to accommodate remote meetings.
Our team has been having many of these conversations with our Customers and potential Customers in recent days. From those conversations we wanted to compile some best practice ideas for you.
Let’s look at some of the questions that you are likely asking yourselves right now:
How are we going to disseminate information quickly for adhoc and task force meetings?
- Many of our Customers leverage the browser participant portal and/or eSCRIBE Meetings apps to distribute electronic meeting information. This process becomes crucial as participants are not able to come into the office for hard copies.
- Making information available to public stakeholders can be as simple as publishing it to your website using Internet Publishing.
How are we going to connect everyone for audio/video to this meeting?
- While this part isn’t necessarily using eSCRIBE to connect all of your meeting participants, we see it as giving you an option to leverage best in class solutions together to accomplish your remote meetings.
- First, you’ll have to choose a video conferencing tool of your preference. The most common tools that our team has found in order of capability and ease of use considerations would be: Zoom, MS Teams, and GoToMeeting/Webinar.
- Once you have selected your tool, you’ll have to make sure that all meeting participants have the necessary webcam, microphone, and speaker equipment at their locations. Remember that quality of internet connection will also play a big part in your attendee’s ability to participate in remote meetings.
- It is important to underscore that this might be a big learning curve for some people and our team strongly suggests advance planning for setup, configuration and testing of the video conferencing tools for your meeting participants.
- While these tools are not part of the eSCRIBE solution, our team is here to help you where we can.
How are going to facilitate discussion so that people don’t speak over each other?
- This can be facilitated in a very informal manor, where everyone’s audio lines are open. While this might work for smaller team meetings, unfortunately for larger groups it can easily result in people talking over each other.
- One best practice that our team follows, is that everyone places themselves on mute, until they want to speak. This really helps reduce background noise and distractions.
- For more formal meetings, the meeting admin can choose to have participants leverage the request to speak function of the eSCRIBE Meetings Pro apps (or browser portal). When someone wants to speak, they can submit a request and when it is that person’s time to speak, the meeting admin could then unmute their lines.
How are going to be transparent and efficient when conducting votes?
- While verbal roll call votes could be conducted over audio lines, the most efficient best practice would be to leverage the Vote Manager & Request to Speak module to effectively manage Request to Speak (RTS) during member debate, and to allow remote participants to enter their votes using their eSCRIBE Meetings Pro apps (or browser portal).
- Vote Manager & Request to Speak supports numerous voting requirements, including recorded votes of all types, ballots and elections, including by secret ballot, even multiple-choice, making it useful in other staff and management meetings.
How are going to be transparent to our public citizens?
- Under normal circumstances, many public sector meetings allow members of the public to attend in person or watch the proceedings of the meeting from their own home via webcast. If no-one is in the meeting room, however, then how do you broadcast remote participants to the general public? Now that meeting participants are in their own homes, organizations are challenged with how to maintain transparency for the public when everyone is joining the meeting remotely.
- Our team has produced 3 scenarios, with varying levels of engagement from our team to assist you. In all scenarios, meeting participants will leverage a chosen video conferencing tool to connect to the meeting. eSCRIBE recommends that we plan to have our partners and experts in production and webcasting, iSi LIVE, be involved for a brief initial consultation to help you get things in place.
- For Customers already leveraging eSCRIBE’s Webcasting service, a staff member would be in the meeting room to join the video conference meeting from the presentation computer. The presentation computer will need to have both video and audio plugged into the encoder (most already do this), and then switch the encoder’s input to point to the presentation computer. In this scenario, the meeting admin will conduct the meeting in eSCRIBE as they do today, with the video conferencing screen being webcast for public consumption. This option involves zero eSCRIBE intervention.
- Prior to the meeting, the meeting admin invites an eSCRIBE/iSi LIVE team member to the video conference meeting. At the start of the meeting, they will be able to assist with any last-minute video/audio quality issues with participants. At the start of the meeting, the eSCRIBE/iSi LIVE team member will switch the video conference stream over to the webcast server for streaming and recording purposes. At the end of the meeting, they will conclude the meeting. During this option, the webcasting is bypassing the organizations typical encoder so no staff are needed in the meeting room, and the eSCRIBE/iSi LIVE team member will be online for the meeting to assist if A/V issues arise.
- Offering a fully managed solution, organizations can take advantage of eSCRIBE’s Webcasting Managed service. Once the video conference has started, our team will take each individual stream as well as graphics to produce the meeting, such that screen changes are fluid and the overall production value is elevated for public consumption.
Stay tuned in the next few weeks as eSCRIBE launches Public Comments! This will allow your public to comment on individual agenda items; a nice option for those that can’t join the meeting in person.