By: David A. Closson, Esq.
At one time or another, most board members have experienced (or suffered through) lengthy and unproductive board meetings. Such meetings serve to deplete morale and leave board members wondering why they volunteered for such service. On the other hand, productive meetings can serve to spur creativity, increase participation from both board members and homeowners, and create energy. Although there are many reasons for unproductive meetings, the following tips can help to make your board meetings more productive.
- Come Prepared. Board members should receive board packets prior to each meeting. These are typically prepared by the community manager but they should also be used by self-managed communities. The packet typically includes an agenda listing the issues for discussion at the upcoming meeting, minutes from the last meeting, financial statements/information, and documentation concerning other discussion items on the agenda. Board members should read and review these materials in advance of the meeting. Being prepared moves the meeting forward and allows more time to focus on the material issues.
- Have an Agenda. Every board should utilize an agenda. An agenda will set the stage for the meeting. Routine items may include items such as: Call to Order, Approval of Minutes, Manager’s Report, Financial Report, Committee Reports, New Business, Old Business, Homeowner Forum, and Adjournment. Each item should have an assigned time to keep the meeting on pace. In addition, agendas should be available to homeowners to keep them informed so they may attend meetings at which topics of interest to them will be discussed.
- Maintain Control and Follow Procedures. In the event there are controversial or contentious issues to be discussed at a meeting, such discussions can derail and dominate a meeting. The presiding officer should make sure to divert the focus of the meeting and discussion to the matter at hand and not let tangential discussions take over the meeting. Allowing homeowners to grandstand or speak for prolonged periods of time on single issues of concern can serve to grind a meeting to a halt. In the event homeowners wish to speak at the board meeting, an opportunity should be provided during the homeowner forum and prior to the vote on a board motion. However, such discussions should be managed by the presiding officer of the meeting. Homeowners should be recognized and allowed to speak for some designated period of time. Such procedures should be orderly and consistent with the association’s Conduct of Meetings Policy. Having, and reviewing, the association’s Conduct of Meeting Policy at the meeting can help the meeting move forward in an orderly fashion.
- Have a Parking Lot. Often an important but unscheduled issue is brought up at the meeting. Such issues can serve to needlessly delay and derail the meeting. This is especially true if the board members have not previously considered the issue and/or if additional information is needed to appropriately consider the issue. In such instance, summarize the issue and place it in a “parking lot” for discussion at the next meeting. This will allow board members to give some preliminary thought to the matter and for relevant information to be circulated and reviewed in the next board packet for discussion at the next meeting.
- Take Good Minutes. What good is a meeting if there is not good documentation of the issues considered or the actions taken? Make sure good minutes are taken to document the general nature of the discussion, the motion and the vote. Review the minutes from the prior meeting in advance of each meeting to make sure “parking lot” items from the previous meeting are addressed and to refresh your memory on prior matters that may still have pending components or unfinished action items. Such information can be invaluable to future boards so that they are not needlessly spending time “recreating the wheel” or gathering information that has already been obtained, organized and analyzed. If certain matters are reoccurring, review those prior meeting minutes as they may provide context for current discussions or critical information for pending action items.
Although each board will be somewhat unique in how it handles and conducts its meetings, having productive meetings will serve to reduce board member burnout. It will also portray a level of professionalism to the homeowners which can serve to instill confidence in their board and encourage homeowner participation in association affairs. By utilizing the practice tips above you can get the most out of your meetings. Should you have questions concerning your meetings, please do not hesitate to contact one of our attorneys at 303.432.9999.