It’s no surprise that more residents attend your association’s annual meeting than any other. This is the one meeting of the year that provides the most insight: a recap of the community’s business and activities from the past year, a look at the association’s current financial standing and budget for the coming year, and a view into future plans. In addition – and perhaps most importantly – it’s when residents get to elect board members.
Although you need a large turnout in order to meet quorum, the high number of attendees at the annual meeting also means that there is a greater chance for your meeting to get off track. Whether the board is announcing good news or news that may be controversial – like an increase in assessment fees – it’s likely that attendees will have questions. Of course, your board should give residents the opportunity to have their voices heard, but you also have a responsibility to keep the meeting moving forward.
So what can you do to keep your annual meeting from getting derailed? Use the 5 techniques below to help you stay on track.
- Have an experienced person run the meeting. Because an annual meeting involves more people and more agenda items than other board meetings, it’s important to have the right person conducting it. A board member with limited experience running meetings may not have the confidence to rein in an unruly resident or to steer the meeting back in the right direction. Even if a board member always runs your other meetings, you may want to have your community manager conduct this one. Community managers usually have seen it all and have a wide range of experience keeping meetings on track.
- Communicate major changes in advance. Significant changes are almost always met with some level of concern. So it’s not a good idea to present such plans for the first time at your meeting. “You don’t want residents to feel blindsided by an announcement you make at your annual meeting,” says Gabriel Lazaro, property manager with FirstService Residential. “If you’re expecting to make any big changes, it’s best to send out a communication about it ahead of time so your board doesn’t get inundated with questions about it at the meeting.”
Being transparent and proactive in communicating with residents also enables you to get ahead of any potential backlash. “Make sure your communications are clear and explain the reasons for the change,” Lazaro says. “You may even want to include a Q&A to answer questions residents are likely to have.”
- Set aside a specific timeframe for resident participation. It’s important for homeowners to show an interest in the association, so your board should encourage participation. However, Lazaro says that without a set timeframe, “your meeting can quickly get out of control.” To prevent this from happening, include resident interaction in your agenda. You may want to allocate time for questions and discussion after each topic or reserve a time at the end of the meeting for it.
If the dialogue around a topic exceeds the allotted time, your board will need to end the discussion so you can stick to your agenda. Since that’s not always easy to do, here are some simple statements you can use to politely move the meeting along:
- “You’ve all raised some great questions! We have just enough time left for one more question before we move onto the next agenda item.”
- “We want to respect everyone’s time, so in order to stick to our agenda, we need to move on. Please feel free to find one of us after the meeting if you’d like to discuss this further.”
- “Sandwich” bad news between positive agenda items. It’s never pleasant to deliver news that residents won’t like, but sometimes you have no choice. Schedule good news items before and after bad news – like a sandwich. By starting and ending on a more positive note, you’ll soften the blow.
- Invite committee members to participate. Meetings can become boring if only one person is presenting all the information. “You can keep residents more engaged by inviting committee members to talk about activities and accomplishments they have been involved in,” Lazaro points out. “These volunteers are usually passionate about their work and are some of the best community advocates.”
For example, the chairperson of your social committee may appreciate an opportunity to recap the past year’s activities and events that are planned for the coming year. Or you may want to recognize each committee chair and express your gratitude for a job well done. Not only will your chairs appreciate the recognition, but the public acknowledgment may also encourage other residents to volunteer.
Annual meetings play a big part in the success of your community association and set the stage for the upcoming year. Use the tips we’ve provided to ensure that yours run smoothly so residents can feel positive about the future of their community.