Keep Your Co-op and Condo Board Meeting on Track with These Do’s and Don’ts

With COVID-19 limiting social interactions and keeping New Yorkers in their homes, some co-op and condo boards in New York have turned to online communication to keep their meetings and business moving forward as usual.

With many meetings moving to telecommunications platforms like Zoom or GoToMeeting, it’s more important than ever to have a fine-tuned system for keeping your meetings organized and on track.

There are steps you can take to ensure your upcoming meetings, whether they’re online or in person are effective and concise.

How do you take your co-op and condo board meetings to next level? Start with these 5 easy steps:

1. Create and distribute an agenda beforehand.

One of the best ways to keep your board on track is to plan ahead and have a specific agenda developed and distributed before you start the meeting. This is the number one item you’ll have throughout the meeting to refer back to and keep things on track.

If you’re holding your meetings online, you can offer the agenda to all attendees and show it on the screen periodically as a reference point.

Prior to beginning, review the agenda, the minutes from the previous meeting and go over any other need-to-know information with your building manager. To further facilitate the circulation of information, a detailed management report should be distributed at least two days prior to the scheduled Board meeting. The contents of that report should include a detailed summary of all agenda items to be discussed, in addition to previous meeting minutes.

A good agenda will contain the following information:

  • Important news pertaining to the board, shareholders or unit owners
  • A complete list of discussion topics
  • Times allotted for each topic
  • Who is presenting each topic, when applicable

If you’re sending digital copies of the agenda, be sure that it’s saved in a format that’s universally readable such as PDF.

If you’re feeling nervous about developing an effective agenda, your property manager can develop an effective agenda for you and relieve some of your pre-meeting jitters.

2. Stay focused and keep on topic.

Let’s be honest, very few people get overly excited about their building’s board meeting. Keeping meetings highly focused and on topic will prevent them from becoming a contentious marathon.

Aim to keep the meeting at about 45 to 60 minutes long. This will allow enough time to go over previous minutes and discuss new business without dredging up issues that were already covered and addressed.

“It’s important to maintain focus during meetings. Don’t try to go back and readdress old issues. I see a lot of buildings do that and it’s hard to massage that situation and get the board past it. Once a decision is made, the board should be looking forward to what’s next because there’s always more to address,” says Keith Werny, President of the City Line Division in New York at FirstService Residential.

Maintaining focus can be even more of a challenge if your condo or co-op board meetings have gone virtual. If possible, get everyone on video – they’re less likely to multitask or get distracted than on phone only.

The agenda mentioned earlier can always be referenced whenever you feel the meeting is getting off course. Use it as a map to keep all the board members following the same path to an efficient and productive meeting.

3. Keep it professional and courteous.

A home is one of the biggest and most personal investments you’ve made, and you likely joined your board because you care deeply how your building is run. It’s tempting to let your emotions get the best of you in condo board meetings, but remember, it’s not personal, it’s business.

Treat your position on the board as you would any job and keep personal motivations off the table. Before you bring something up in a meeting, ask yourself if this is something you would discuss during a professional meeting. If it’s not, then save the conversation for a time outside of the board meeting.

If you’re holding a board meeting online, it’s important to remind everyone that, just because they’re not in the same room that doesn’t mean everyone shouldn’t be treated with the same level of respect as they would be during an in-person

To that end, make sure that you and your board members understand the basic meeting structure and procedures involved. Again, maintaining a sense of order in your meetings can be a challenge if you’ve gone virtual. Consistency in how you conduct meetings is more important than ever.

4. Abide by a code of conduct.

You probably have a personal code of conduct that you use in your daily life. Whether it’s as simple as the Golden Rule or something more specific, most people have a set of ethics that they find important. A code of conduct pertains specifically to your board of directors, shareholders/unit owners and the residents of the building.

This code of conduct should be outlined in your governing documents and is designed to ensure a respectful environment. Your board’s code of conduct should include policies specific to meetings such as time limitations on speakers and who can attend and speak at meetings.

But it’s not enough to simply have the code of conduct, it’s important that the policies are followed and enforced during the meetings to keep things civil and productive.

If you don’t already have a code of conduct in place, you can work with your property manager to develop rules and then set some time aside in one of your meetings to vote on approval of the code of conduct. This will make all members think about the policies, discuss implementation and enforcement before accepting them.

Once the policies are approved, board members will have an official record of them and be able to point to them whenever they feel the code of conduct is note being followed.

5. Listen first, speak second.

“Listen, process, THEN speak,” advises Werny. “Oftentimes a lot of people will try to dominate the meeting, but it’s really important to pay attention and listen carefully.”

Frequently, board members and residents just want to be heard and acknowledged. Even if you don’t fully agree with what an individual has to say, you should actively listen to their concerns and opinions.

An effective way to make sure people feel heard is to use active listening techniques during condo board meetings. These techniques include:

  • Building trust and establishing rapport
  • Demonstrating concern
  • Paraphrasing to show understanding
  • Applying nonverbal cues such as nodding, eye contact and leaning forward
  • Using brief verbal affirmations like “I see,” “I know” or “thank you”
  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Posing specific questions to seek clarification
  • Disclosing similar experiences to show understanding

Show them you have their attention by responding with a summary of what they said. By listening and acknowledging rather than attempting to talk over others, you can diffuse a potentially tense situation. Additionally, the conversation may even spur an idea for a building improvement or opportunity.

Listening and speaking can get more complex during online meetings when not everyone can work off visual cues that a person is about to talk or attempting to join in the conversation. Using platform features such as “hand raising” or chat can help facilitate a more natural conversation and an opportunity for everyone to be heard.

Are you a new board member? In addition to familiarizing yourself with the above steps, download our guide to Onboarding New Board Members.

A healthy board meeting goes a long way in establishing your building’s reputation among residents and in the city at large. Partner with your New York property management company on the best practices above to help you avoid common roadblocks and hold more successful and productive board meetings whether they’re online or in person.