Board meetings don’t always go as planned. From neighborhood squabbles to long-winded speeches, there are a lot of things that can derail an otherwise successful meeting. Additionally, diving into a meeting without a clear plan and focused goals makes it hard to be productive. Fortunately, there are concrete steps that the Board of Trustees can take to ensure that board meetings run smoothly and successfully while still covering all the necessary information. Here’s how to revitalize board meetings to maximize the productivity of every single one.
Set a Clear Agenda
The backbone of any meeting is the agenda. Issues that arise during the month should not only be addressed during the meeting, but also fully fleshed out prior to the meeting and then shared with participants ahead of time. These issues could be anything from a building maintenance problem, a new construction plan, or specific homeowner complaints and suggestions. Board members, as well as any management company involved in running the Association, should meet before the meeting to go over any additional concerns they feel should be brought up during the meeting itself.
Establishing a clear agenda is a great strategy for holding a productive, timely meeting. Without an agenda, a meeting can feel aimless and disorganized. Setting topics beforehand can keep people focused and on track when it’s time to come together.
Another way to keep meetings productive is to set time limits for each agenda item. Set a time limit for each topic and be sure to move on to the next when time runs out. When making these time limits, keep in mind that certain subjects might prompt more discussion than others and that other subjects might lead off into irrelevant tangents. Nevertheless, stick to the allotted time limits set before the meeting. If there is more to discuss after the prearranged time has passed, make a point that you will return to that topic during the next meeting. Through the meeting, be sure to keep track of attendance, minutes, and any decision that is made.
Keep it Professional and Unbiased
While it’s okay to maintain a somewhat informal atmosphere at these meetings, it’s crucial to remain as focused as possible on the proceedings. Although meetings are a time to get together with fellow Association members, they should not be treated as purely social affairs. Spending too much time socializing will only detract from the time the board has set aside to discuss important Association matters, undermining the overall effectiveness of the meeting.
It’s also just as important to keep any biases from getting in the way of effectively dealing with the issues at hand. Although everyone has personal issues and other eccentricities, everyone should come to the board meeting with the good of the entire Association at the forefront of their minds.
For example, say that a board member proposes a discussion of the Association’s pet policy — a policy that this particular board member has repeatedly scolded you for violating. While it’s okay to voice your concerns or unique opinion on this issue, it should always be done in an emotionally controlled and civil way. Trying to goad that board member into an argument will only cause problems for everyone at the meeting.
Those running the meeting should be sure to address everyone’s questions and concerns fairly and equally, respecting everyone involved as the group discusses the issue and strives toward a solution. Hold back any rash emotional impulses and strong personal opinions — an objective decision requires complete calm and clarity.
The Board of Trustees doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Residents can attend open meetings, or any meeting where the board is not discussing rule violations, employment matters, or litigation, so cultivating an attitude of openness will help residents feel connected to their community and confident that the board is acting in their best interest. When residents feel empowered and knowledgeable, the likelihood of internal problems and legal issues decreases.
However, although residents are certainly permitted to attend any open meetings, it’s important to remember that it’s up to the board members to clearly articulate the rules and agenda, including when residents are allowed to speak, which matters residents should be focused on discussing, and the specific content of the meeting agenda. Articulating a clear policy as to what residents need to do to add items to the meeting agenda as well as designating time during the meeting for an “open forum” discussion among all meeting participants can ensure that residents feel like they’re being heard.
Keeping the whole community — and not just those attending Association meetings — informed about what happened in the meeting is another powerful way to foster transparency and trust. Bulletin boards, postings on the Association website or newsletter, and mailings are great ways to keep everyone aware of the Association’s operations. An engaged community is far more likely to follow rules, achieve Association goals, and otherwise make the Community Association a welcoming place to live.
Meetings don’t have to be a waste of time. In fact, they’re vital to helping an Association hash out issues, align toward a common purpose, and continue to build the infrastructure of the community. With the right structure and attitude, board meetings can be extremely valuable to the entire Association. By setting an agenda and reasonable time limits for each item, keeping diligent records of all meeting activity, and acting transparently, any Board of Trustees has the power to hold productive meetings — the bedrock for an efficient and happy community.