How to Host an Effective Council Meeting

  • By: Josh Palmer
  • June 20, 2023
Council Meeting
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Organizing an effective council meeting is essential to promoting efficient decision-making and the smooth operation of a city’s governing bodies. Keep in mind that setting up a well-structured meeting is important whether you serve as a member of a local government, city council, advisory council, or any other legislative group.

And while hosting a committee meeting that follows the principles of parliamentary procedure is no simple feat, it’s an essential skill every leader should strive to master.

What is a Council?

To begin, it is important to define a council before diving into the specifics of conducting a council meeting. Essentially, a council includes representatives who have been either elected or appointed, including the chairperson/president, vice chair, secretary, treasurer, advisory board representatives, and community representatives. 

These council members are accountable for developing critical public policies, such as those pertaining to disaster preparedness and public safety, as well as making well-informed judgments that affect their respective communities. City councils are also essential to the governing process because they provide a forum for key discussions, thoughtful deliberations, and the overall decision-making process.

Effective leadership and well-structured administrative systems are absolutely crucial for the prosperity of any organization. In the context of a city council, the city mayor and other high-ranking officials hold immense significance as they directly influence the council’s effectiveness. If these government officials are ineffective, a multitude of adverse outcomes can afflict the city, its residents, and various stakeholders in the following ways:

  • Insufficient representation of diverse public interests, such as in education policies and environmental challenges
  • Slower or delayed decision-making
  • Erosion of trust by the public and other stakeholders
  • Missed opportunities for positive change and innovation
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How to Host a Council Meeting

After understanding municipal councils and their role in city governance, let’s look into the sequential process of holding an effective council meeting. To increase effectiveness and output, many councils follow parliamentary procedures outlined in Robert’s Rules of Order. Following these straightforward steps will help you increase attendee effectiveness and participation, ultimately leading to more productive council meetings.

1. Call the Meeting to Order

Every government meeting should begin with the chairperson or the designated authority calling the meeting to order. For instance, the chairperson might say, “I’d like to officially open the meeting (name of council meeting) scheduled for (day) at ( time).” Calling the meeting to order serves as a formal commencement of the proceedings and sets the tone for the meeting.

2. Call Roll

Taking roll is crucial to recording attendance and ensuring all council members are present and accountable. It creates an accurate record and establishes the necessary quorum for decision-making. And if you’re wondering: Are committee meetings open to the public? Yes! Public participation is important for meeting transparency. Other participants in city council meetings may include:

  • Mayor
  • City council members
  • City manager/administrator
  • Advisory committee
  • City clerk
  • City attorney
  • City department heads
  • Local residents



3. Approve Agenda and Meeting Minutes

The agenda is a vital document that outlines the topics to be discussed during the council meeting, similar to the board committee charter. It should be prepared in advance and distributed to all council members. Upon convening the meeting, the agenda should be approved by a formal vote. Additionally, the minutes from the previous meeting should be reviewed, amended if necessary, and approved to maintain an accurate historical record.

4. Review and Document Council Reports

During council meetings, council members frequently deliver reports concerning their projects and initiatives. These reports hold significant value as they offer essential updates, valuable insights, and recommendations to the governing body. To uphold transparency and facilitate well-informed decision-making, it’s imperative to thoroughly examine and document these reports during council meetings.

5. Review Old and New Business

Council meetings also need to address any outstanding issues as well as new items on the agenda. Old business refers to previously discussed topics that require further action or follow-up, while new business pertains to fresh matters that must be addressed. Encourage open discussions among the council members, allowing them to share their perspectives, ask questions, and propose solutions. Maintaining a structured and focused discussion ensures everyone has an opportunity to contribute.

6. Adjourn the Meeting

After the council addresses all agenda items, it’s time to adjourn the meeting. Summarize the key decisions and action items, clarify any next steps, and ensure the meeting minutes accurately reflect the discussions and outcomes. Thank the council members for their participation and conclude the session on a positive n

OnBoard Powers Effective Council Meetings

Hosting a council meeting can be a complex task even for experienced chairs, but it becomes much more manageable with the right tools and resources. This is where board management software comes in. With OnBoard, you can streamline your council meetings and drive effective board governance.

OnBoard’s meeting management software provides a user-friendly platform for managing agendas, meeting minutes, and collaborative discussions. With features explicitly tailored for councils and government organizations, such as Public Postings, OnBoard ensures council meetings run smoothly, allowing you to focus on the important decisions at hand.

Some of the top-line benefits of using OnBoard for your council meetings include:

  • Streamlined agenda management and distribution
  • Secure and centralized document storage
  • Real-time collaboration and note-taking capabilities
  • Task management and follow-up capabilities
  • Support for regulatory compliance

To get started with OnBoard, download our Board Meeting Agenda Template.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • Are Council Meetings Open to the Public?

    Yes, council meetings are typically open to the public. Transparency is essential to democratic governance, and allowing public attendance and representation promotes accountability and engagement. However, specific regulations and procedures may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the council.

  • How Do You Write a Council Meeting Agenda?

    Writing a council meeting agenda involves careful consideration of the topics to be discussed and the order in which they should be addressed based on their importance. The agenda should be clear and concise and provide sufficient details for council members to effectively prepare for a council meeting. Including any necessary supporting materials or documents and allocating appropriate time for each agenda item is essential.

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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.