5 ways board members can manage association meeting challenges
Association meetings serve as a cornerstone for community engagement, decision-making, and the community's overall well-being. They provide a platform for residents and board members to come together, discuss pertinent matters, and chart the course for the community's future. However, like with any organizational process, association meetings can present challenges that, if left unaddressed, can hinder the association's effectiveness and resident satisfaction. Recognizing and resolving these challenges is not just essential; it's a crucial responsibility of your board.
Keep reading to learn how to handle 5 association meeting challenges as they arise.
Challenge #1. A lack of meeting participation
One common challenge that many community associations face is a lack of engagement from residents. Residents' engagement and participation in association meetings is vital. Input from residents provides diverse perspectives and insights into community needs, resulting in more well-rounded decisions. Engagement and participation also ensures transparency in decision-making processes, boosting residents' confidence in the board's actions.
There are a number of strategies to address a lack of engagement and participation. One way is by creating an agenda that includes issues relevant to residents' concerns and sharing it with residents in advance of the meetings. Addressing matters impacting their daily lives may motivate more residents to attend. Your board may also try dedicating a portion of each meeting to an open forum discussion where residents are encouraged to voice their opinions, ask questions, and express concerns. Having this opportunity may help them better understand the value of their participation and the impact their input can have on an association's decisions.
Challenge #2. A lack of meeting control
Loss of control during an association meeting can translate into discussions and interactions becoming disorderly, unfocused, and unproductive. This is usually due to a lack of organization, moderation, or preparation. Without proper planning, association meetings can quickly devolve into chaos, with participants getting angry, interrupting each other and straying off-topic. This ultimately undermines the efficiency, focus, and overall productivity of the meeting, diverting attention from essential agenda items.
To help ensure your meeting stays on track, develop a well-structured agenda that outlines the specific topics to be covered, ensuring that each agenda item has a strict time limit, setting clear expectations. If off-topic discussions arise during the meeting, acknowledge residents' concerns while reiterating the importance of addressing the current agenda item. Remind participants of time constraints while politely and respectfully steering discussions back to the agenda. If the topic requires in-depth discussion, suggest addressing it outside the meeting.
A solid property management company can provide your board with direction to help keep your meetings on track.
"It’s important to chart your course in advance,” said Ivy Montero, vice president at FirstService Residential. “An association meeting without a goal is like a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly in a sea of ideas. A well-crafted agenda to keep the meeting on course and the conversation on track is key to maintaining control of the meeting."
Looking for more tips to help keep your meetings on track? Read: 7 Steps to a Successful HOA Annual Meeting
Challenge #3. Poor attendance
Attendance at meetings is crucial to decision-making. Therefore, recognizing the underlying reasons behind poor attendance is essential to address these challenges effectively. Low or poor attendance can occur for many reasons, including a lack of interest, limited awareness, or an inconvenient meeting time or location. This lack of attendance can lead a small subset of residents to make decisions that do not accurately reflect the needs of the community as a whole.
“A lack of engagement and input from members can result in a meeting where issues remain unresolved or insufficient progress is made,” according to Edwin Lugo, vice president at FirstService Residential. “This can ultimately hamper your board's ability to effectively govern the community."
Communicate, communicate, communicate! Ask yourself, does the invitation include enough information about the topics to be discussed? Are you sharing the meeting details enough in advance to give residents ample time to plan their attendance? Informing residents well before the meeting and including as much detail as possible will enable them to mark their calendars, allocate time, and prepare to attend and participate. Residents lead busy lives, and communicating as much information as possible in advance allows them to plan their schedules accordingly. You might also consider the following participation-boosting measures:
- Flexible meeting times: Consider varying meeting times to accommodate residents' schedules. Offering both daytime and evening meetings can increase participation.
- Virtual participation: Embrace technology by offering online meeting options. Virtual participation can attract residents who might struggle to attend in person. Florida law allows association members to attend board meetings virtually.
- Incentives and recognition: Consider providing incentives for residents who consistently attend meetings, such as small rewards or recognition. This can foster appreciation and motivation.
- Central location: Select a meeting location that's convenient and accessible for most residents, minimizing travel barriers.
Do you have a plan to help make your board meetings run smoothly and efficiently? Read: Board Meetings: 5 Rules to Live By
Challenge #4. Long and Unproductive Meetings
Lengthy and unproductive meetings can hinder progress, dampen resident enthusiasm, and undermine the association's effectiveness. Residents may also lose interest if a meeting runs too long, and may be discouraged from attending again in the future. As a result, valuable input may be missed.
As previously highlighted, simple practices like the ones listed below can help ensure your association meetings remain organized and effective:
- Clear agendas: Develop a concise agenda outlining specific topics and timeframes for each discussion item. This helps attendees anticipate what will be covered and prevents aimless wandering in discussions.
- Time limits: Set time limits for each agenda item and stick to them rigorously. Encourage presenters to be succinct; use a timer to ensure discussions remain on track.
- Preparation: Provide meeting materials, including reports and documents, in advance. This allows residents to review the information beforehand, streamlining discussions.
- Prioritize topics: Arrange agenda items in order of importance, addressing critical matters first to ensure essential decisions are made within a reasonable timeframe.
Challenge #5. A lack of transparency
Transparency within your association can go a long way to building residents’ trust. In contrast, a lack of transparency may invite confusion and dissent. This includes, for example, limited question-and-answer opportunities during a meeting or a vague meeting agenda lacking details, which may leave residents feeling left in the dark and uninformed.
Openness and transparency in meetings are integral to fostering a trusting relationship between a condo or community association and its residents. Open communication, clear agendas and interactive Q&A sessions can help overcome a lack of transparency. This assures residents that decisions are made openly and with their best interests in mind, enhancing their confidence in the community’s association.
Association meetings are crucial for your condo or community association. They forge connections between residents and board members, enabling the exploration of essential topics and shaping the community's trajectory. However, just as with any complex process, challenges can arise at these meetings that, if neglected, can impede the association's success.
By acknowledging and proactively tackling and embracing strategies to manage meeting challenges, your board demonstrates a commitment to effective governance.