Meeting Masters A Team Effort Moves Meetings Along Smoothly

Meeting Masters

 Disorganized and poorly-run board meetings are time-wasters that can make even  the most ardent board member cringe at the thought of an upcoming session. On  the flip side, a well-run board meeting can be a productive hour or two or  three that benefits the entire building. Here are a few tips from the  professionals for getting the most out of your meetings.  

 Preparing for the Meeting

 No one should be heading into a monthly board meeting unprepared and uninformed.  The days when the board meeting served as the primary method of disseminating  information are long gone; today rapid communication like email, smart phones  and BlackBerry devices can keep board members, residents and managers  up-to-date monthly, weekly, daily or even by the hour. So preparation for the  next meeting can begin almost as soon as the first one ends.  

 “When I work with managers and board members—during their training, I tell them that the most important thing is to clearly  identify what the meeting agenda is,” says Marc Mallet, the director of field operations for Atlantic & Pacific Management in Bay Harbor Islands. “The best preparation is to have a precise agenda and clearly identify the agenda  items and stick to the meeting plan.”  

 Others would agree that preparation is the keystone to having a successful and  stress-free meeting.  

 “First things, first, you have to be prepared, it’s like the boy scouts,” says Paul Licata, director of business development for Seacrest Services Inc.  in West Palm Beach. “For example, if you are going to be discussing a particular project that’s coming up, make sure you have all of your backup documentation: proposals,  reports, budgets and financials. We have a corporate policy that states board  packages shall include a copy of the agenda, latest financials, previous  meeting minutes, a detailed manager’s report and all documentation that the board will discuss or vote on. All of  this will be included in a comprehensive package and delivered to each member  of the board a minimum of three days prior to a properly-noticed board meeting.  This ensures all involved in the decision-making process are in a position to  make educated decisions in a timely manner.”  

 Stay on Point

 It can be difficult keeping to the task at hand during the course of a board  meeting where high passion and lively discussion often take center stage. But  there are ways to keep meetings from dragging on interminably.  

 “It’s important to set specific rules up front. We normally have people sign in if  they want to speak on a topic and give them a time limit,” says Steven J. Weil, PhD, EA, LCAM, the president of Royale Management  Services, Inc. in Fort Lauderdale. “Depending on the size of the association, the time limit is usually two to three  minutes. The secret is for the board not to address the comment while it is  going on. You have to stay away from turning a comment into a discussion.”  

 Another culprit of meetings veering off course is a lack of an agenda, which can  present a big problem. “Agendas should be clear and specific as possible,” adds Licata. “However there are differences in requirements and flexibility between HOA’s and condominiums that all managers should be aware of.”  

 Additionally, according to Mallet, “The meeting chairman should at the start of the meeting advise the attendees  that the board plans to follow the agenda items as planned for. This is key and  should be clearly announced at the beginning of the meeting.”  

 Mallet also encourages, “The chair can set the tone for the meeting by telling attendees that they should  refrain from asking questions or making statements until the end of the  meeting, just before the meeting is adjourned.” At that time,” he says, “the attendees should be given two minutes each for asking a question or making a  statement.”  

 Robert’s Rules

 There is no requirement that Robert’s Rules of Order, the prescribed guide for parliamentary procedure used by most  government and corporate entities, are followed at a board meeting unless it’s specified in the condominium documents, but most condominium documents leave  the rules of order to the board president.  

 “It’s not necessary for every board to use Robert’s Rules of Order—the reason for it is that it gives you a framework,” says Weil. “There’s nothing wrong with a board coming up with their own simplified rules like we’re each going to speak or raise your hand. They have to be able to determine  what their rules are and work with them. When you have a three or four-member  board that respects each other and has the ability to discuss and rely on each  other—to throw in formal rules just complicates the process. For an association that  has a board that works well together there’s no reason to formalize the process.”  

 Mallet wholeheartedly agrees, “Most associations in Florida use Robert's Rules of Order and I advise them to  adhere to them. I always urge boards to follow the rules and they should also  have a good understanding of them. They should, however, use them only as a  framework. Boards have to have some flexibility in running the meeting because  sometimes they may take a turn or two that the board may want to address at a  later time. Robert's Rules are a fantastic guide in planning and running  meetings. The rules make meetings run efficiently.”  

 Who’s in Charge?

 Meetings are the place when board members and unit owners expect to share their  views or bring up matters relevant to the building. This can be a problem when  everyone has something to say and an inexperienced facilitator who is  unacquainted with keeping order is chairing the meeting.  

 “The president of the association is always in charge but that doesn’t mean that he or she is the best person to chair the meeting,” says Weil. “So you have to choose somebody that has a commanding presence that understands  that they have to take control of a situation, and in some cases, defer to a  manager. In other cases, we recommend that boards choose another chair for the  meeting. If the treasurer or the secretary that’s the great speaker and communicator make him or her the chair. There is no hard  and fast rule that says that the president, who may be a wonderful  administrator, may be great at understanding the mechanics of the association.  He or she just may not be great or comfortable at running a meeting with that  public speaking role. Like with many things, you have to choose the person  among your group who is best for it. There are associations where we have been  asked to chair it because of problems of not keeping agendas on track and such,  but the real truth is if a member of the board has the best ability then that’s the best choice.”  

 Confusion can arise over what role the property manager plays at a board  meeting. So it’s best everyone knows what’s expected of them.   

 Marie N. Auger is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The South  Florida Cooperator. Staff Writer Christy Smith-Sloman contributed to this  article.