Even before COVID-19 restrictions forced us to find new ways of conducting business, many community association boards found it challenging to meet as often as necessary during the year. Being a member of a productive community association board can be time-consuming for those who have other jobs or volunteer commitments, and to have a healthy, thriving community requires active participation. Therefore, virtual conferencing offers a solution that many are starting to look at as an alternative to in-person meetings to respect the social distancing guidelines. Even when restrictions have lifted, this alternative will still be useful.
What Should a Virtual Association Meeting look Like?
It’s important to remember that even if a meeting is taking place virtually, it still needs to meet all of your communities’ expectations for a board meeting. Everyone should strive to ensure these meetings take place as similar to the in-person meetings as possible. This can include:
- Ensuring that notes are taken by the appropriate person, even if the call is recorded to ensure integrity.
- The board president should be the host, unless those duties are assigned to another member, and should strive to keep the conversation on topic as much as possible.
- Invites and attendance should be mandated, similar to an in-person meeting, and should be made available to all members.
- Be mindful of everyone’s time and ensure that meetings start and end on time to ensure meetings are efficient and effective.
- Discussions should be mediated by your community manager when opposing views come up that may cause disagreement.
Are there Disadvantages to Consider?
Most often, the detractors of virtual meetings point to the issue of participants being less engaged overall when not in-person, but many are finding this isn’t always the case. Social distancing guidelines have forced many to use virtual meeting software as a standard business practice, which has alleviated many of the common fears. There are also some issues with ensuring that online meetings meet the requirements of your board by-laws, and each association should consult with their management team or attorney to ensure that meeting virtually is acceptable.
What are the Benefits of Virtual Meetings?
- Built-in Recording: Many communities currently have someone on the board who takes meeting minutes, but this can occasionally lead to items missing or even forgotten. Virtual conference options often have recording capabilities so that you can effortlessly keep records.
- Reduced Burden to Board Members: Whether you are hosting meetings in your neighborhood or choose to meet somewhere offsite, often, these meetings can be a burden to members in terms of time and energy. Virtual meetings offer the ability for members to remain in their homes during meetings.
- Structured Meetings: Web conferencing options allow you to set a scheduled start and stop time, as well as the ability to include the agenda in the meeting invite. These features can lead to a better-structured meeting as participants can research topics of interest in advance.
- Screen Sharing: From financial disclosures to basic meeting minutes, often a board meeting can mean a ton of print paperwork for the members. Screen sharing offers a unique way to ensure all participants are looking at the same document. It can also cut down on distractions that occur during in-person meetings.
- Higher Attendance: As we’ve mentioned previously, meeting in person can often be a burden to those who have other obligations, but virtual meetings allow for those who may need to be home or in an office to attend without undue burden. If you are hosting an open meeting, virtual conferencing may allow and encourage many more residents to participate as they can attend from home comfortably.
What Platform Should We Use?
There are plenty of options for your association when it comes to both video or simply telephonic conferencing, and we suggest you evaluate what options are best for your community. Some of the more popular options include free services from Zoom, GoToMeeting, Slack, and Google Hangouts. However, paid services may offer more security and stability in service, and Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex offer various features you may find useful. Things you should be taking into account are the size of your meetings, budget, and the capabilities you want to use (screen sharing is a popular way to view meeting minutes). If you are unsure about what options are best for your board, we suggest talking to your community manager for details about what they suggest.
Video conferencing provides a well-established way to conduct business in your community while maintaining social distance and may even encourage more participation. While video conferencing technology does still have room for improvement, overall, the industry offers secure and stable options for all price ranges. Even as cities begin to relax social distancing and shelter in place orders, you may find that your community association board enjoys the benefits of virtual meetings and that they can provide value to you in the future.