How to Hold Your Next Board Meeting by Video Conferencing

shutterstock_1694685136.jpgIt goes without saying that how we communicate has drastically switched from in-person contact to user-friendly digital platforms since the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread. Just as schools, local governments and essential businesses worldwide have made that shift, condo and co-op boards are no different when it comes to holding board meetings through video conferencing.
 
Thanks to online platforms, essential businesses of all kinds are continuing their work as usual during the ongoing pandemic and New York City condos and co-ops are no exception.
 
What makes board meetings by video conferencing unique is that they are just as efficient as in-person meetings. The thought of taking common practices online can be intimidating for many, but as woven.com puts it, a lot of companies have had to make the switch to virtual meetings to keep the business running. In their study, they saw video conferencing adoption rates increase by more than 90% over 3 weeks than in the last 2 years!
 
You're not alone in taking a huge leap. The time has come for board members to rethink the way they communicate with one another. Your role is still valuable and plays a part in how your online meetings should be structured. Here's how.
 

The Look: Board Meetings by Video Conferencing

It's not as complex as it seems. Remember, you're simply taking the traditional way of conducting board meetings to an online platform (and there are many to choose from). As a board member, you might be bursting with ideas of how to weather the uncertainty of today's circumstances, but upholding the traditional rules of order during your meetings and establishing firm agendas will help set the tone for your discussions.
 
Here's how it looks:
 
  • Start the meeting early. Start your conferencing platform 5-10 minutes earlier than the meeting so that people have time to download any software they may need or troubleshoot and audio or video issues before the meeting starts. This way, you can start with actual board business on time.
  • Designate a host and a technician. The board president, or designated host, is responsible for following the agenda and ensuring all discourse is civil. The technician, who can be a member of the board or another volunteer, makes sure that all shareholders’ or condo owners’ are able to access the meeting and ensures that the attendees can hear and see everything going on. They can also be in charge of collecting or responding to questions asked in chat.
  • Give everyone a turn. Allow everyone a chance to share their ideas before diving into the second round of opinions.
  • Explain how to ask questions and who to pose them to. If possible, have participants direct their questions to the president or host. However, communication may flow between all members regardless of title.
  • Assume positive intent. Being polite can go a long way, especially when the days feel as if they're running together. Practice a bit of patience and ask for clarification or an example to gain a better understanding.
  • Monitor the time. During these unprecedented times, time feels more fluid and things can change in a split second, but that doesn’t mean your board meetings should stretch on for hours. Make your words and time count.
  • Amend your governing documents. Looking ahead, no one can say for sure if this experience will happen again. Now may be a good time to discuss amending your governing documents to include online board or annual meetings as another form of communication. Read more about New York's recommendations for affected businesses and boards.

 
The Tools: Choosing the Right Virtual Meeting Platform

As board members, it’s important that you chose a conferencing software that works well for your board. With that said, not all web conferencing platforms are one-size-fits-all. Workload, number of residents and cost are all factors in choosing the platform that’s the best fit for you board.
 
While holding board meetings via video conferencing is a necessity now, due to social distancing guidelines, there are a number of reasons why your board may want to consider utilizing virtual meetings in the long term as well as the near future.
 

The Advantages: Planning for the Future of Online Board Meetings

  • Structure. Days before the web conference begins, a calendar invite is sent with an agenda of what to expect. The sooner board members can prepare talking points and potential resolutions, the easier the meeting will flow within the agreed time. 
  • Higher attendance. By getting early notice and having time to prepare, it's almost certain that attendance and engagement will happen as a direct result. Allowing board members and shareholders/unit owners to attend and participate from the comfort of their own homes increases the ease of attending these meetings.
  • Sustainability. Conducting board meetings through video conferencing is a practice that will continue well beyond our current circumstances. By consistently using a web conferencing platform, your board recognizes this form of communication as a need rather than an option. Pandemic or not, web conferences are a great way to manage your duties collaboratively and efficiently, not to mention it's cost-effective, which is something most boards can get behind.
  • Screen sharing. For the time being, you may not be able to deliver documents personally, but screen sharing is just as practical and easy! Sharing presentations, budget reports and vendor information helps foster the in-person interactions you're used to experiencing.
  • Recording capabilities. In-platform recording and cloud storage features offer a way for board members to refer to the meeting for accurate notetaking or even transcriptions. Plus, it's much easier to locate online documents versus sifting through heaps of paper.
 

The Annual Meeting: Addressing a Few Unique Factors

Monthly board/shareholder meetings are one thing, but your co-op or condo’s annual meeting has several differences from the regular meetings that add another level of complexity to holding a board meeting by video conferencing. However, instead of cancelling or postponing your in-person annual meeting, these issues can all be resolved virtually.
 
  • Holding the meeting via phone or vide is allowed. Some bylaws may have provisions that the board meeting must take place, but there are several factors that can override that. The first, for co-ops, is NY Business Corporation Law, Section 602 which states shareholders can attend a meeting by means of a telephone or through live video streaming.

    Board meetings for condos are a little less clear from a legal perspective, but if your bylaws or the Condominium Act don’t cover it specifically, you can apply Section 602 to your condo board meeting as well.

    While social distancing guidelines are in effect, your board should have legal grounds to have a virtual board meeting regardless of bylaws.
     
  • Nominating board members prior to the annual meeting. To keep things running smoothly for board elections, ask shareholders/owners to submit their nominations prior to the board meeting since nominations taken from the “floor” during an online meeting will prove more difficult. You can include this request with your “Save the Date” notification of the annual meeting.

    You can even have a separate meeting before the annual meeting as a candidate forum for the nominated people to present their credentials and better inform shareholders/owners.
     
  • Collecting votes online can be fairly simple. A common concern with holding the annual meeting online is collecting votes in a safe way that allows all shareholders/owners to be represented. There are several ways to collect votes online that maintains an accurate and secure record of the votes.

    Your board can create secure email address designated solely for collecting votes or they can use a third-party voting platform such as Vote HOA Now or Honest Ballot.

    However you collect votes, make sure they are verified and deliver the results in a timely manner to the residents of your building.
 
Watch our webinar to learn more about how to run your annual meeting online.
 
It’s likely been very challenging to have nearly every aspect of your life, let alone the way you run your board meetings, change in a matter of days.
 
By adopting online board meetings, you're prioritizing your building's safety, managing time spent with colleagues and loved ones, and actively preparing for situations that may warrant online communication and strong leadership.
 
Please note that there is no one size fits all solution to virtual board meetings and there may be additional items that your board should consider when implementing board meetings. FirstService Residential is available to help your board navigate those issues.