DLTA Spotlight: Virtual Meeting Guide
Written by Operations Specialist Rachel Marx
District Local Technical Assistance, or “DLTA” funds, are state grants distributed among the state’s 13 Regional Planning Agencies (RPAs)—including MAPC—to provide cities and towns with money and technical staff to work on projects related to regional collaboration, economic development, zoning, and protecting the environment.
Each month, MAPC will highlight a project made possible by DLTA funding.
When the pandemic began in early 2020, the tried-and-true ways we've always hosted public meetings suddenly weren't safe anymore. As people across disciplines looked for ways to connect virtually and Zoom became a household name, the MAPC community engagement team got right to work, figuring out how they could support municipalities in hosting engaging public meetings online.
The team soon realized that others could benefit from what they were learning about hosting everything from small-scale project meetings to Town Meetings online. Using DLTA funding, MAPC staff wrote and published “Shared Practices for Engagement in Virtual Meetings.” The online guide covers what to do before, during, and after online meetings, with a focus on MAPC’s preferred platform, Zoom.
Most municipal staff don’t host the number of meetings that MAPC does: this guide helped them benefit from MAPC’s trial and error without having to make the same mistakes or redo in-depth research.
There are six sections to the guide, each of which have step-by-step instructions and explanations for each part of the meeting.
- Preparing Your Virtual Meeting
- Setting Up Your Virtual Meeting
- Facilitating Your Meeting
- Responding to Specific Technical Issues
- After Your Virtual Meeting
- Additional Recommendations
The guide also covers how to prevent Zoom bombing, an issue that turned many early users away from the platform. It includes the specific settings that make it easier for bad actors to disrupt meetings, how to disable them, how to ensure that Zoom bombers can’t return if they’ve been kicked out, and how to respond to a Zoom bombing should one occur.
Municipal staff have found the “Zoom Setting Overview” especially helpful: it includes specific settings to improve facilitation, security, and participant experience.
As we continue to respond to the pandemic and move into recovery, the MAPC team is beginning to consider the future of remote meetings and to think about what a successful hybrid format might look like. Look out for future reflections and guides on creating dynamic meetings that incorporate the accessibility of online meetings while giving space for in-person engagement.
Want to stay updated on best practices for Community Engagement Practices? Sign up for the CE newsletter here. Have questions or want support for your next virtual meeting? Reach out the Community Engagement team at firstname.lastname@example.org.