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Whether your association is new or has been around for a while, keeping a meeting running smoothly does not happen by accident. This writer has been in the unique position of having served on the board of her association, and is also an association manager. In both aspects, there are common factors which can affect HOA board meetings. Long, noisy and chaotic meetings cause misery for boards, managers and members alike. There are ways to reduce and even avoid the dilemmas that plague HOA board meetings.
Different types of meetings will have specialized items to be addressed, but no matter what kind of meeting is being held, here are five tips to optimize meeting efficiency.
Just like real estate is about “location, location, location” effective meetings must have (and stick to) an agenda. Repeat it three times if needed, but remember, “agenda, agenda, agenda.” To that end, take an extra few minutes when planning and be sure to arrange the agenda into simple items and identify which items will require a decision/vote.
Be aware of the items that may invoke passionate and long-winded discussion. This too, can be addressed via the agenda. For those who wish to speak, a time limit of two minutes is advised, and an advance directive at the beginning of the meeting to let attendees know that discussion is limited to new information on the topic.
When planning the meeting, be conscious of time on two levels. The time needed altogether for the meeting, and available time for the attendees. The agenda is a great tool for time management, and time goals should be stated at the outset.
While it’s great to think, “We’ll cover all the topics on the agenda to completion” the reality is, the most productive meetings will produce an action item list with tasks for future follow-up. Again, it’s about time. Some decisions require more time and information than is available at the time of the meeting, and it’s okay to note that; and table the item for further review.
This is an area that can have negative or positive impact on the meeting. If the meeting is scheduled for evening, be aware of travel times and potential traffic considerations for attendees getting to the venue. Give advanced thought room size, temperature and adequate seating. Overcrowded rooms can be detrimental to meeting productivity.
Another venue consideration is acoustics. Community meeting rooms with hard floors have a greater level of echo and sound bounce back. It can be managed with effective direction from the presiding officer, and limiting side conversations. Keep these considerations in mind when seeking and selecting locations for board meetings.
 Side Conversation
Don’t. Just, don’t. Whether in the gallery, or at the directors’ table, side communications are distracting and disruptive to a meeting. Even if it’s topic-related, if it’s not new information to be presented on the floor, it can wait until after the meeting. If you don’t have the floor, take it out the door.
No, not the food. (Although this writer would absolutely attend a meeting that serves pancakes.) Remember the adage, “No matter how flat you make it, a pancake has two sides.” Not everyone at a meeting will agree on how to address an issue, but it’s important to be respectful of others’ positions as members of the association. Homeowners feel passionately about their homes and neighborhood, and in that passion, can lose track of the board’s responsibility to the entire association, not just the individual. So, like a pancake, flip the situation and try to view the other side of a matter.
As the season for annual meetings comes into full swing, these tips will serve to help associations achieve meeting mastery. Now, let’s all take turns…merge out of the parking lot and head to get some pancakes with some side conversation.
By Joy Steele, CMCA
Community Manager, Trestle Community Management
Joy Steele, CMCA is a Community Manager at Trestle Community Management. A devoted community volunteer for over a decade, she has also served her Condo Association for 7+ years, both on the Board and on various committees. A member of the both the SPJ and the NSNC, Joy is a columnist and contributor to the South King Media group, and various online and print periodicals. She currently resides in Des Moines with her husband Dan and their two rescue dogs.