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Tackle your next annual meeting with ease

Annual meetings are typically the most attended board meeting of the entire year. Likely it’s because this gathering gives homeowners the best bird’s eye view of community happenings – past, present and future. It’s also a time that the community elects new officers to the board and an opportunity for the association to discuss other not-so-good news, such as dues increases.
Whether your association is faced with presenting positive or potentially controversial announcements, you can probably expect a few homeowners to raise their questions and concerns during this forum, making it difficult to keep your meeting on track. To help, here are a few things you can do to limit distractions or interruptions and keep the meeting rolling full steam ahead.

Communicate big changes ahead of time

While it’s tempting to keep important announcements close to the vest, it can actually benefit you to share news in advance and get ahead of potential questions from concerned homeowners. When communicating changes to your residents, be specific, and include a brief statement and succinct reasons for the change. You may also want to consider including an FAQ section within your communication. Simply planning to share the change as an agenda item may not be enough and could raise more homeowner questions. Early transparency can reduce the number of homeowners that are caught off guard and can afford you the opportunity to diffuse concerns before the meeting.

Use the sandwich method

If you have to deliver bad news, then you should consider the sandwich method. No, we don’t mean ham and cheese! This approach is often referred to as a “sandwich,” because the bad news is layered between the good news. You start and end your message with a positive statement. This will allow your meeting to begin and end on a good note and can help cushion the blow for delivering difficult news.

Limit questions to a timeframe

Audience participation shows engagement and should be encouraged. In the spirit of keeping the meeting on track and running smoothly, you should allocate an ample amount of time for each section of your agenda. Plan each section of your agenda to allow for questions. If a particular topic sparks extra discussion, you may need to rein it back in. Here are a few simple statements to politely limit questions and help you move on:
  • “These are all great questions, but we only have time for one more and then we need to move on to the next topic.”
  • “In order to respect your time and that of your neighbors, we will need to move on with the discussion. We will be happy to answer any additional questions one-on-one with you following the meeting.”

Plan a meet and greet

Whether you’re anticipating push back from your homeowner base and need a discussion forum, or simply want to give homeowners a chance to get to know new board members, a meet & greet session with residents and the board could be a plus. This more informal setting, which can be scheduled before or after the annual meeting, will provide homeowners the opportunity to ask individual questions they may not have been comfortable raising amongst a larger group. It also provides residents a chance to get better acquainted with new board members and voice their concerns as it relates to the community.

Encourage your committees to participate

Volunteer committees often act as advocates for the homeowners association. If you have someone who is particularly passionate about a specific topic, invite them to play a role in the meeting.  For example, a social chairperson may be happy to briefly share about the past year’s amazing events and what new community engagements are on the horizon. By providing a variety of speakers, especially those with energy, it will help to keep your audience engaged.
As a bonus, also consider introducing each of your committee chairs during the meeting and thanking them for their service. Encourage homeowners with specific questions to seek out these individuals following the meeting to obtain additional information about ways to get involved in the community.
Holding the attention of your audience and keeping your annual meeting flowing can be a challenge. However, with these simple tricks and the help of a good association manager, your next annual meeting will be a breeze.  
For more information about how FirstService Residential, the leading association management company in Texas, can help your community reach its full potential at annual meetings and throughout the year, please contact us today.
Friday January 20, 2017