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Advisory Body Meetings amid Coronavirus FAQ

Last updated 3-24-2020

Advisory Body Meetings amid Coronavirus FAQ

Are you and advisory body staffperson or chairpersons? This guide was created for you! These 8 tips will help you navigate aspects to consider for your next advisory body meeting in light of the recent COVID-19 health emergency. Here are the top things you need to know!

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Woman working on tablet and phone at home.

1. First, know the law

If your group advises City Council (or a higher authority like the state), then you need to adhere to Public Meetings Law. For telephonic or electronic meetings, you must provide a public call in number. Holding a physical space for the meeting is not required, but depending on the meeting and demand, be prepared to provide a physical space to broadcast the for a limited number of people with disabilities or people without internet connection.

2. Can it wait?

These are stressful times for many amidst layoffs, childcare, and community aid. Please consider cancelling or postponing your meeting to a time when members and the public can best engage in the content. If this is not possible, can the group shorten the agenda to include only the most urgent items? For items that don't need action, could a memo or newsletter be circulated instead?

3. Public Testimony

If you must conduct your meeting, try soliciting public testimony to be submitted in writing ahead of time. A well structured phone or web-based comment period will help things go smoothly. Prompt people to sign up first (if possible) and call on speakers one at a time in a pre-determined order. Please remember to keep in mind that people who are 65 and older, and low-income populations tend to have less access to internet and technology than the general population.

4. Try an equity lens

Who are you advantaging and who are you disadvantaging? During this public health emergency, our communities are adapting to care for school-aged children a new life routines. Not everyone has a quiet environment, or the technology set up at home to fully participate in a meeting through phone or online meetings.

5. Adapt

If your advisory body has determined it must meet, we recommend remote meeting tools to protect the health safety of vulnerable communities who need to avoid in-person public meetings.

Be ready for issues You may find that your first try is a bit bumpy with a new process and technology, so be prepared with a back-up plan of what to do if it doesn’t work the way you planned.Click here for a practice meeting guide to get you ready.

Skype The City’s Bureau of Technology Services approves and provides training resources to support Skype for Business. Skype includes a dial-in number, screen sharing, and video conferencing, as well as live instant- messaging. For tools and resources to set up Skype meetings and conference lines, visit the BTS webpage here: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bts/69251

Zoom is a video conferencing option that may include fees and provides the same services at Skype. Zoom also includes additional services such as live captioning, tape recordings, and transcription services which are a good choice if you’d like to make your meeting more accessible to people with disabilities.

6. Be a super facilitator

As facilitator, you will need to pay attention to new aspects of a meeting that you didn’t have to before. Without visual social cues, you should manage the agenda items by giving frequent reminders of what you will be covering, and where in the process of the agenda you are at. Ask members to announce their names each time before speaking and encourage people to avoid interrupting one another. You should keep a list of all attendees as they hop on the call. If interruptions and sharing the time become an issue, try calling on people one by one using the list of attendees you’ve recorded.

7. Etiquette

When holding the meeting, all members should try to find a quiet space away from people and pets. Coffee shops and restaurants should be avoided due to background sounds. If a quiet place in the home is not available, try other spaces like in cars or RVs. It’s a good idea to put the phone on mute when you are not speaking and remind others to do the same. Be aware that sounds like chewing can be amplified.

8. Lastly, maintain your mental wellness

Click here to read tips from our Mental Health Program Specialist, Tyesha McCool-Riley: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/civic/article/757318

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*This document is not legal advice. For legal questions regarding your advisory body and Public Meetings Law, please contact the attorney assigned to your group.

**For health information, Multnomah County is the lead on public health in our community, please check their website regularly.