FAQ on The Ultimate Virtual Public Involvement Checklist Webinar

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Our first webinar of 2023 was a success!  

Dave Biggs hosted The Ultimate Virtual Public Involvement Checklist webinar to share details on our latest eBook release alongside Emily Margitan, one of the Customer Success Managers here at MetroQuest.  

MetroQuest partnered with AASHTO, AMPO, TXDOT and COMPASS to compile a list of 101 questions to consider throughout the planning, engagement and reporting phases of every project.  

In this webinar, we unveil key aspects of our new Checklist for Success and explore how asking the right questions can help your team deliver great virtual public involvement results on every project!  

Here are a few clips from our live Q&A…  


Dave: Emily, Our team is new to VPI. What training or support does MetroQuest provide for customers to help them get started?

Emily: Yeah, that’s a really good question. It’s something I’m quite involved in, in my role. And so, when new companies are onboarded at MetroQuest, we offer virtual training sessions essentially, and we can go through in detail with the software live with the team. Depending on how large the team is, sometimes it’s broken up into a couple of sessions and then we work really closely with those teams.

So often we might even have typically a kickoff call with senior leadership to really talk about what are their goals, what are they hoping to get out of MetroQuest. And then we do the actual training of the software, a demo, and we go through and often it’s very customized depending on the organization in terms of what they’re looking to get out of MetroQuest.

And then essentially I’m kind of their primary contact as they get started. I used to work in public engagement and design surveys, and so I love getting to work with teams closely on their surveys they’re working on. And so, you can kind of expect when you’re getting started that we will hold your hand along the way and help you get a sense of the software.

And then to our support team is fantastic. They are really good at answering questions and a bit of a sneak peek: We have a live chat feature that’s going to be coming up soon! I think our new customers are really going to love that because when you, you know, there’s little things, it’s sometimes writing a whole email out seems really formal, so you can easily quickly pop up the chat and kind of talk to your team in real time.


Dave: What do you think are the biggest barriers to participation? So, maybe I’ll weigh in on this because I’ve got an acronym for this because I’ve been asked this question so many times. My acronym is TACK: Time, Awareness, Connection, and Knowledge. People lack often the time. People are working two or three jobs, you know, their time is of the essence. Public meetings are completely out of the question for a lot of people. So, keeping it short.

Awareness: they might not even know that this project exists. They might not be connected to the agencies or follow them on Facebook and all that sort of thing. So just awareness raising is so important. Connection means: do they feel like the outcomes of this are going to impact their lives?

Do they feel connected to it like it’s they’ve got some skin in the game in terms of the outcomes, and then knowledge is do they feel comfortable weighing in? Some people feel like, well, I don’t have any experience with transportation, so I don’t know if my opinions are valid. A lot of people kind of discount their own ability to have a priority about something. And so, giving people the confidence to participate is so important.


Dave: What suggestions do you have regarding hybrid engagement? Hybrid engagement has been the topic of the post-pandemic, if we can call it post-pandemic, period. So very quickly from me… if you’re going to have face-to-face engagement with virtual public engagement, the things to keep in mind are if you’re going to ask questions face-to-face, make sure that they’re the similar or the same questions that you’re asking online so you can actually combine the answers together.

Oftentimes, with face-to-face engagement, you can go into more detail with people. You can really get the kind of a face-to-face experience and really get more information about the underlying concerns that people have about different options going forward. And so it’s an opportunity to really expand on what you might be hearing in volume online with some more nuance.

So really take advantage of that discussion time with people to be open to what is it about this that makes you afraid or concerned? What is it about this other option that attracts you and gets the nuance around it? Emily, anything to add about hybrid engagement?

Emily: I think you said that perfectly, Dave, and in my experience, often projects benefit in most cases from both because you’re going to have those stakeholders that are really, really invested in the project. Maybe there’s someone that lives right next door to where it’s happening and they’re going to want that forum to really get their opinions out and whether that’s, you know, around a table where you’re talking that can be really effective.

But then you’re going to have people that don’t want to spend their evening coming to a meeting and they want to just quickly do a survey online. So I think, yeah, in most cases, it’s really going to be beneficial in many different ways.


Dave: Dave, if a project is controversial, does VPI open the agency to even more resistance? I’ve got a short amount of time here. I’ve got more to say on this. But essentially, the short answer is virtual public engagement actually does the opposite. By making engagement more difficult, you’re essentially filtering out all the people who aren’t angry at you, who aren’t willing to give up 2 hours to shake their fist at you.

So, by making it really easy for people to participate, you’re actually expanding the range of people that participate to the people that are less motivated and typically less angry. Especially if you have a controversial project, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to participate so you can hear the full range of opinions and not just the people that are so fired up that they’ll go to any lengths to give you a piece of their mind, as it were.


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Checklist webinar now!

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