Siting a new facility is a difficult task, especially in the energy space. Whether the project is a renewable generation facility, a transmission project or one focused on energy storage, it is bound to touch on issues about which people feel passionate.
Hosting a public meeting is one of the most impactful ways to reach stakeholders and is often a regulatory requirement. The pandemic, however, has changed the landscape and pushed many of these meeting online. And, while in-person meetings have returned, virtual meetings have become a new standard—one with opportunities and challenges that must be managed.
A virtual public meeting or virtual open house is most definitely not a one-size-fits-all event. It must be tailored to the stakeholders you are trying to reach. At Mower, we are experts at helping developers execute both successful virtual public meetings and open houses. We understand what strategies work and can help you accurately present the facts and execute a winning plan. Here are a few helpful tips to execute the most successful event.
1. Choose the Right Platform and Focus Always on Accessibility
There are myriad of platforms that allow companies to host an online presentation, but there is no perfect option for every possible virtual public meeting.
For example, Teams and WebEx are great for business meetings, but not everyone has access to these programs. Zoom has a solid suite of tools for public presentations and is used by nearly every family with school-aged children, but many companies do not allow it to be installed due to security concerns. Google Meet does not require special software, but this solution lacks public meetings tools. Conference calls are accessible to everyone, but do not allow for visual presentations. And most options, with the exception of conference calls, require broadband internet access.
When choosing a platform, pick one that makes the most sense for your audiences. You should always defer to the platform that offers the greatest degree of access. If broadband availability is an issue, make sure there is an option for dialing in. If you plan to incorporate a question and answer session, make sure your platform can handle input in an orderly way.
If you cannot find the right platform, find a communications professional that can guide you through the process. They will also be aware of other programs and options that will meet your needs.
We prefer Zoom for most meetings, but often use specialty services that do not require participants to download a program or app.
2. Send the Right Invitations
Open house invitations are most effectively delivered through printed materials like mailers and newspaper advertisements. When drafting these invitations and notices, be sure to make instructions clear. URLs should be short. QR codes are nice but should not be relied on. Not many people use them. Phone numbers and email addresses should be listed for anyone who has trouble with the technology.
Again, accessibility is key and clarity in writing and presentation is vital. Your audience must be able to easily understand how to participate in the virtual event.
3. Staff the Event Appropriately
Be sure to have the right mix of partners and subject matter experts at your virtual meeting.
These members of your team may be on hand to deliver a presentation on their area of expertise. And, if you plan a question and answer period, they can step in and provide expertise on specific topics.
Just as with an in-person meeting, your subject matter experts provide an increased degree of credibility. Be sure to use them in the virtual setting as well.
4. Sweat the Small Stuff
Planning a virtual public meeting truly comes down to ensuring that the finer details are taken into consideration. Be sure to practice and sweat the small stuff.
All aspects—from what subject-matter experts wear to meeting setup to format to how questions are addressed—must be meticulously planned to ensure a positive outcome.
5. Don’t “Hope for the Best”
If this is new or you are concerned about pulling the meeting off, find a communications professional that can guide you through the process.
Mower has worked with clients throughout the Northeast and played a critical role in planning numerous successful virtual open houses and virtual public meetings. To learn more about our public meetings and public affairs work, call 315-413-4294.