How can boards run more efficient meetings?
In the condominium world, meetings take place several times a year — often monthly, but sometimes more frequently if there are contentious or pressing items that require a decision. Most board members have probably attended meetings slated to last one hour and have watched, with a sinking feeling, the clock tick past the three- or four-hour mark, with no decision or next steps in sight.
Sometimes, run-on meetings merit the time it takes to prudently discuss each topic, ensuring that everyone can share their piece and hopefully come to an agreement. However, other times, lengthy meetings are strictly the result of poor organization or an inattentive or inexperienced chair.
Inefficient meetings can be costly if the corporation is paying an hourly rate for minute-takers and meeting room rentals. On top of that, there is the opportunity cost of participants’ time. Most condo board members are volunteers and often busy people: the longer the meeting, the less time they can allocate to other matters, whether personal or professional.
If organized and executed correctly, condo meetings can be effectively conducted to achieve everything on the agenda. Missteps often come down to the conduct of the board, disorganization and the inability to zero in on the salient topics.
This is where guidelines on facilitating organized meetings can help tremendously. Here are a few things to consider:
Send the meeting package in advance
Distribute the meeting package ahead of time so board members can prepare for what is to be reviewed, discussed or approved. Include the agenda and/or management report, financial statements, previous minutes and quotes from potential vendors.
A well-outlined agenda will go a long way toward cutting down meeting times by setting a regimented course. Topics of discussion and amendments may arise from previous minutes; however, reviewing items in advance of the meeting allows board members to quickly discuss potential changes and promptly issue approvals.
Communicate before the meeting
Send a list of approvals by email before meetings to save time when the board gathers. If everyone agrees to the approvals in advance, they can be confirmed via resolution at the meeting and adopted into the minutes. This will significantly limit conversation about motions and topics on which most board members already agree.
Also reconfirm the meeting with members and guests 24 hours before its start time to reduce the potential to fall short of quorum. It’s common for a board member’s availability to change right before a meeting and he or she may overlook the need to notify the rest of the board. It’s good practice to schedule board meetings at the start of the year, for the following 12 months, as this helps to reduce scrambling and rescheduling.
Define start and end times
Everybody’s time is valuable. Although discussions may go longer than anticipated, putting a conscious timeline on the meeting encourages participants to respect the clock. Announce when there are 30 minutes left on the schedule to remind participants that a limited amount of time remains to complete any outstanding agenda items.
Appoint a strong chair
The chairperson is essentially the quarterback of a meeting and should possess the ability to mediate conflict and prevent dialogue from getting off course. A good chair will effectively manage the agenda, take control when necessary and steer the meeting away from potential tangents.
Sometimes subsidiary topics are relevant; however, it’s up to the chair to allocate time to discuss these additional items as opposed to opening the door to a free-for-all. Anything newly posited should be put on the agenda of a subsequent meeting so that these topics can be addressed in an organized manner.
After motions are passed, sometimes discussions continue due to a lack of clarity. A good chair will repeat and summarize motions to clear up confusion and to help the minute taker accurately record decisions.
Avoid table talk
It is human nature for people to socialize and talk about everyday topics such as the weather, family, sports, etc. However, for the sake of efficiency, these conversations should be saved for before or after the meeting.
Respect fellow board members
Opinions and ambitions often differ in a meeting — that is the beauty of a democracy. However, board members should respect the time and views of others and acknowledge the current tasks at hand.
Stay on track with minutes and action items
A good set of minutes will set boards up for success at their next meeting with clear action items that hold members accountable for any tasks they have been assigned.
If members forget what their tasks are for the next meeting, they can always consult the previous minutes to see what needs to be accomplished. Showing up to a meeting without having tasks completed, or even acknowledged, can cause the meeting to veer off course before it even begins.
Boards that follow these steps will achieve a more professional discourse at their meetings and control debates in a tactful and time-effective manner.