Q&A: Are Committee Meetings Open to the Public?

  • By: Josh Palmer
  • January 27, 2023
Are Committee Meetings Open to the Public
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Depending on board bylaws, a committee meeting may or may not offer public access.

Committees play an important role in the formation and execution of business plans, ideas, and decisions. This article examines various elements related to successfully running committee meetings, such as how to host an effective committee meeting, whether non-board members can attend, key elements of an effective meeting, and Robert’s Rules of Order.

Are Committees Open to the Public?

Yes, some committees are open to the public. They’re called public meetings and are required to be open to the public at all times. In many entities, there’s a ‘public comment’ period. However, most members of the audience are not allowed to participate in the board’s deliberations without invitation. 

Open Meeting laws are also known as Sunshine Laws because they require the board to conduct its business in the open. Attendance doesn’t include the right to participate or comment. Open meeting laws vary from state to state, but the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, as it is commonly known, is found at the federal level.

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Elements of Effective Committee Meetings

When it comes to ensuring effective committee meetings, it’s important to understand the key elements of these meetings and Robert’s Rules of Order, the parliamentary procedure that governs most organizations with boards of directors.

Clear Agenda

When organizing an effective committee meeting, it’s important to create a clear agenda. A well-defined plan of action allows participants to come prepared with relevant information or questions and encourages productive discussion. 

An agenda should include the specific topics for discussion; any required pre-meeting preparation; the timeline for each topic; as well as any expected outcomes from the session. Having this structure in place ensures all participants are able to make meaningful contributions during the meeting. 

Additionally, setting a limit on discussions helps manage time effectively while also keeping everyone on task throughout the duration of the gathering. Overall, having a clear agenda serves as an essential foundation upon which successful committee meetings can be built.


An effective moderator plays an essential role when running committee meetings. Moderators should possess the necessary knowledge and skill to ensure that all discussions remain on track, organized, and productive. This includes providing a clear overview of the agenda prior to each meeting, maintaining order throughout by ensuring that no one person monopolizes discussion time, and encouraging participation from all members involved. 

Additionally, moderators should ensure that any decisions made or actions taken are documented accurately in meeting minutes, and help resolve any conflicts which may arise during the session. 

Ultimately, having an effective moderator allows committees to maximize their potential while also fostering trust and transparency between organizations and stakeholders alike.

Actionable Next Steps

After a meeting, all participants should receive a clear outline of actionable next steps in order to progress further. This can include developing an implementation plan or assigning tasks among members related to the discussed topics. 

Additionally, committees should strive to create follow-up documents, such as summaries outlining any decisions made and notes recapping new ideas generated by members during the session. By having these documents available after each meeting, stakeholders will have a better understanding of what needs to be done moving forward while also ensuring that everyone is on track with their assigned tasks.

Furthermore, committees should ensure they review previous action items prior to starting new discussions at subsequent sessions. Ultimately, providing participants with actionable next steps following each meeting keeps the momentum going, which allows organizations to meet their desired goals quickly and efficiently.

How OnBoard Powers Effective Committee Meetings

When determining how to host an effective council meeting, consider using comprehensive board management software to streamline the process. 

OnBoard makes creating, distributing, and organizing meeting information easy. With the software, you can  take minutes and notes, track tasks, and mark motions as the meeting progresses, among other core platform functionalities. 

To dive deeper, download our Meeting Minutes Template for examples on how the best boards write their minutes in an accurate and legal manner.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • Can Non-Board Members Attend Committee Meetings?

    Yes, non-board members are typically allowed to attend committee meetings. Depending on the type of organization, non-board members can be included in these discussions as it may help bring in fresh perspectives or ideas to benefit the overall discussion. 

    Additionally, inviting outside parties, such as partners, vendors, or advisors can provide valuable insight into potential solutions and further strengthen any decisions made by committees. Furthermore, their presence during the meeting can also indicate a higher level of transparency and trust in regard to decision-making processes.

  • What is it Called When a Committee Meeting is Open to the Public?

    When a committee meeting is open to the public, it’s typically referred to as a public meeting. The idea of open meetings emerged in response to citizens' growing concerns of secret government meetings.  Plus, it’s only fair that taxpayers who are affected by the decisions of their elected officials should be able to attend meetings where decisions are made.

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About The Author

Josh Palmer
Josh Palmer
Josh Palmer serves as OnBoard's Head of Content. An experienced content creator, his previous roles have spanned numerous industries including B2C and B2B home improvement, healthcare, and software-as-a-service (SaaS). An Indianapolis native and graduate of Indiana University, Palmer currently resides in Fishers, Ind.