In the past year, many community associations have had to switch to virtual meetings in order to continue to host their board meetings and annual association meetings safely. While this transition hasn’t been easy, it has proven to be beneficial for homeowners, board members, and community associations managers. Virtual meetings not only tend to get more participation and engagement from homeowners than in-person meetings, they’re also more efficient and productive. Read on to learn the top reasons why moving your annual association and board meetings online can benefit your business:
More Participation and Engagement from Homeowners
Getting enough homeowners to attend annual association meetings has always been a challenge for community association managers. For homeowners with families who work full-time it can be difficult to carve out extra time in the evening, in addition others may travel frequently, rent out their property, are part-time owners or seasonal residents, or have non-traditional schedules — all of which can make it nearly impossible to participate in annual meetings.
Since virtual meetings can be accessed from anywhere on any device, they allow for more flexibility resulting in greater participation and engagement. They can also be recorded, making it easy to distribute and share with those who may not have been able to attend, further increasing engagement and transparency. Today’s virtual meeting technology can provide community associations with so much more than just a face-to-face conversation, association members can also screenshare reports, spreadsheets, or presentations live for extra transparency. Some virtual meeting platforms even allow participants to ask questions or chat with others to build connections and interest within the community.
Since implementing virtual meetings, Wendy Taylor of South Riding Proprietary has noticed an increase in participation, “We’ve had more participation now, regrettably, people don’t stay for the whole meeting, but at least they come on for their issues, and it’s easier for the board to be able to hear concerns and address them without somebody physically having to get into their car and drive to the site where we meet, which though it’s on site it’s a very big community.” With the increased flexibility virtual meetings provide, Taylor sees the opportunity for them to benefit not just homeowners and board members, but the entire business, “I think that [virtual meetings] will make the role of being a community manager in a portfolio setting more efficient. I think they will be able to serve their homeowner communities.”
Increased Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Satisfaction
Virtual board and annual association meetings follow many of the same procedures and processes as in-person meetings, but associations that move online find that they become more efficient with each virtual meeting. Ultimately, a virtual environment makes it easier to stay on track of key agenda items, swiftly share information, complete discussions, and eliminate distractions.
Similar to how virtual meetings provide homeowners and board members with more flexibility, they also make life easier on community associations managers and boost employee satisfaction. Mainly in part because they no longer have to drive all the way to their association just to attend meetings, which frees up their time to focus on higher level initiatives, such as enhancing their community association.
Jordan Levine of Pelican Property Management has witnessed firsthand the benefits virtual meetings provide, especially when it comes to efficiency and his employees’ wellbeing, “If a meeting is two hours, then a manager really is three hours at least and probably more if they are there physically because they’ve got to drive there and then you’re chit chatting and after the meeting you’re chit chatting and then you’ve got to drive home. When you get on a Zoom call, people are ready to go. I mean, you might say, ‘Hi.’ But really, within the first five minutes, you’re ready to rock and roll. I feel like we’re able to move through these meetings much more efficiently.”
Levine’s team has also found they are able to have more effective meetings virtually, thanks to Zoom’s screen sharing capability, “The screen share of Zoom is incredibly helpful. I find it even on our internal calls when I’m creating a budget, it’s so much easier to share my screen and it’s right in front of them rather than project my screen up behind me in our conference room when I don’t know if they’re paying attention and then they come back to their desk and they can’t remember what to do. I feel like the screen share ability works very well.”
Tips for Having a Successful Virtual Meeting
To make sure you’re getting the most out of your virtual meeting, it’s best to follow these best practices:
1.) Choose a Designated Moderator: This is the person who will run the meeting. He or she will be in charge of making sure the meeting sticks to the agenda, recording the meeting, and handling any questions or concerns from participants.
2.) Mute Participants After Starting: It’s best practice to mute all participants except the speaker after the start of the meeting. While this may seem harsh, it can actually be incredibly beneficial to all participants in that it eliminates interruptions or distractions, and also ensures that each person is heard. Not to mention, it helps mitigate any technical difficulties that could arise when there is too much audio data.
3.) Implement a Timing Structure: Every good meeting whether it’s in-person or online should have a clear agenda and within the agenda, each topic should have a designated time slot. Do you best to stick to the timing structure, so you can make sure all points are covered in the meeting and that there’s still room for discussion or questions.
4.) Use a Hand-Raising Feature: Most video conferencing systems have hand-raising or chat features that allow participants to interact and ask questions directly into the chat window. When everyone is muted this makes it easy for the moderator to collect and address questions throughout the meeting.
5.) Share Visuals: As mentioned earlier in the article, a major benefit of virtual meetings is the ability to screen share reports and presentations live. Be sure to take your time explaining any visuals and that you don’t skip ahead before everyone has a chance to fully grasp your slides.
6.) Make Time for Quality Discussions: With any meeting it’s important to leave time for questions and discussion. Homeowners and board members alike want to feel heard and that you value their opinion. Having space built into your virtual meeting — whether throughout the presentation or at the end can ensure everyone’s voice is heard.
Moving your in-person board and annual association meetings to online provides flexibility, safety, and a range of benefits for homeowners, board members, and your team. Virtual meetings not only increase engagement and satisfaction, they can also streamline your operations and give your team more time to focus on what matters. For more inspiration and strategies for hosting effective virtual meetings, take a look at our article, 7 Tips for Mastering Virtual Meetings.
Virtual meetings aren’t the only way to communicate and stay connected to your homeowners and board members — having a fully integrated community association management software can also enable you to move more of your communications and routine processes entirely online. Learn more about how the power of a single community association management solution can boost efficiency and provide outstanding experiences for your associations.
Beth Gilbert is the Sr. Director of the Community Association Market at AppFolio and its all-in-one association management software. Beth brings over 15 years of product experience to AppFolio and is currently responsible for developing the vision and strategy for the association market. She is passionate about building relationships with customers to learn about new ways to partner in the success of their businesses. You can read Beth’s articles in various association management publications and join her in webinars where she is often joined by industry experts to discuss a variety of topics.