Virtual meetings have recently become an extremely popular and necessary topic of discussion within condominium, homeowner, and townhome community associations. Because in-person board meetings are such familiar territory, breaking with tradition and holding a virtual meeting will require advance preparation. To effectively and efficiently address community business, meeting facilitators must be organized and participants (board members and owners) should be aware of expectations.
The following list includes ten best practices to help board members, property managers, and community association leaders limit distractions. These considerations should also help ensure that virtual meeting attendees are engaged even when they cannot be physically present.
1. Select user-friendly software – Virtual meetings can be hosted from several different software platforms including Go-To Meeting, Skype, and Zoom. Prior to scheduling the virtual meeting, consider the different software options available and choose the one that best fits your association’s needs. There are many apps that are offered at little to no cost that allow the flexibility for participants to attend from their computer or phone.
2. Trouble-shoot – Prior to your meeting, test the software so you can work out any technical difficulties. Doing so will save time during the actual meeting and allow you to assist members who may run into similar difficulties.
3. Create an agenda – Let your attendees know what to expect by creating an agenda that will serve as a roadmap for the meeting. This will help replicate the structure and pacing that has been established at previous in-person meetings.
4. Be aware of your surroundings – While you may enjoy the idea of conducting a meeting from the comfort of your own home, consider your location and its appearance before beginning the meeting. It is important to ensure that there is nothing distracting in the background which might take away from the meeting itself.
5. Be courteous of time – Do not be afraid to set and enforce a time limit. If a meeting goes on too long, it’s easy for attendees to lose focus and start multitasking. Time constraints are a good way to keep discussions on track and encourage everyone to stay present until all the items on the agenda have been addressed.
6. Don’t invite too many cooks to the kitchen – Virtual meeting software allows the meeting facilitator to designate multiple hosts. However, it’s probably best to assign one host per meeting. This will allow one person, and one person alone, to have the power to mute/unmute individuals for the purpose of limiting distractions and maintaining order.
7. Acknowledge those present – If time allows and if they wish to do so, allow attendees to introduce themselves. Experience has shown that individuals are more likely to contribute when their presence has been acknowledged and they have had the opportunity to meet everyone else in virtual attendance.
8. Use software tools to your advantage – Video conferencing software allows attendees to control a number of things in the background that might, otherwise, cause distractions. One of the most helpful tools at your disposal is the ability to manage background noise. As an attendee, you can help avoid microphone feedback, barking dogs, or echoing by muting yourself when you are not speaking.
9. Update rules for meetings – It is likely that your association has rules for in-person meetings. However, it may be necessary for the board of directors to pass new rules and regulations that take into account the need for virtual meetings. For instance, it may be necessary for board members to determine how to address roll call, proxy delivery, and other voting procedures prior to calling a virtual meeting. The association’s legal counsel can provide guidance regarding the governing documents and state laws that address the use of technology in community association meetings.
10. Offer several ways for attendees to join meetings – While you may wish to encourage everyone to use the video component of the virtual meeting, it is still important to offer attendees the option of attending the meeting via an audio dial-in only option. This may encourage additional participation from participants where video attendance is not an option or preferred.
Incorporating meeting rules, encouraging civility, and maintaining an agenda will allow board members and owners to continue to address association issues. With some practice and adjustments, it may even feel just as natural (and more convenient) to convene in a virtual, remote setting.
If your your association has questions about how board meetings and/or how to handle remote technology, do not hesitate to contact our law firm. Please call 855-537-0500 or visit www.ksnlaw.com.
Since 1983, KSN has been a legal resource for condominium, homeowner, and townhome associations. We have four office locations, serving hundreds of clients and thousands of communities throughout Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Our attorneys are also licensed in Arizona, Florida, and Missouri.
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