Have you ever asked yourself after an Association board meeting “what went wrong?” The flow of the meeting was off, the meeting went on way too long and the atmosphere was unwelcoming for the owners who came to observe. With some careful preparation and attention to some simple tips, you can leave your next board meeting with the feeling that everything was right on track. Although we go into much greater detail when we hold our annual Board training seminars for our clients, this blog post provides some helpful tips to run your next board meeting.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
An Association board meeting is not the time to “wing it.” In order for your meeting to run smoothly you must take the time to plan a well thought out agenda. This will allow the other directors time to prepare for the topics to be discussed, in addition to help manage the time spent on each topic.
Board packages are important as well. Board packages should be distributed at least five days in advance and should include the agenda, minutes from the previous board meeting in draft form, financial information, committee reports, and any other items to be considered at the board meeting. The board package should be well organized and easy to follow.
Remember to give proper notice of the meeting. Under Virginia law, notice of the time, date and place of each meeting of the board of directors shall be published where it is reasonably calculated to be available to a majority of the lot owners.
Location, Location, Location
A private home is not the appropriate venue for a board of directors meeting, and should be avoided, if possible. A board meeting should be held in a professional and neutral environment such as the Association clubhouse, management company conference room, or other space that is conducive to conducting a business meeting. It should be held at a location where all owners feel comfortable and welcome and should be large enough to accommodate any owners who wish to attend, as Association meetings are subject to Virginia’s open meeting requirement and must be open to all owners.
Don’t Get Bogged Down By Parliamentary Procedure
Often an Association’s bylaws will dictate the use of Robert’s Rules of Order. If this is the case, the board should follow the appropriate parliamentary procedure, but try not to get too bogged down by formalities. Some good rules of thumb are: stick to the agenda, discuss one agenda item at a time, allow each board member to speak, speak only when recognized by the chair, address questions and comments to the chair, and decide issues through motions, seconds and votes. The meeting should run at a steady pace and finish on time.
Homeowner Forum and Speaker Cards
Under Virginia law, members in attendance must be given an opportunity to address the Board at each board meeting. However, this does not mean it has to be a free-for-all. One way to take some of the emotion out of the homeowner forum is through the use of speaker cards. Distribute index cards to owners in attendance prior to the meeting and have them write down their question or comment on the card. Then have the Association secretary or other board member read the card instead of the owner. This approach allows the question or comment to be presented in a neutral manner and sometimes can cause strong emotions to dissipate.
Virginia law permits boards to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters, consult with the association’s attorney, discuss and consider contracts, pending or probable litigation, and to discuss violations. Materials for executive session should be kept segregated in a separate part of the board package. It is best to hold your executive session prior to or after the board meeting so that you do not keep any owners in attendance waiting. Remember that legal issues discussed during executive session are protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Most of the keys to an effective board meeting happen before the board meeting. Do not underestimate the importance of preparation. Hold the meeting in a neutral location and keep the meeting professional. Use speaker cards and don’t get bogged down in parliamentary procedure. If you follow these simple steps you will find your board meetings becoming more productive and your board more successful.
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