Transitioning to hybrid condo/HOA meetings post-pandemic

Date Published : Nov-11-2021

Written By : Kim Brown

Many states required condo/HOA boards to host in-person meetings before Covid-19. Virtual options were not permitted because it would have been more challenging for residents to participate or observe the decision-making process.

The statutory requirements prohibited boards from making decisions outside of an in-person meeting to ensure transparency and fairness, but the laws did not anticipate how a pandemic would make meetings a high-risk activity.

As the world learned more and officials urged us to take measures that would slow the spread of the contagious virus, associations were forced to pivot and explore alternatives to meet and conduct business while prioritizing the health and safety of their communities.

  

Condos and HOAs know that virtual meetings work

Resolutions and executive orders were adopted to allow members to meet remotely. It was a new experience, and not everyone was optimistic about online meetings. But this method was surprisingly effective, and many condos and HOAs actually saw a dramatic increase in attendance.  

Some temporary laws regarding virtual meetings are expiring or have already been terminated. But condos and HOAs can pass a bylaw to make virtual meetings a permanent option (provided they are permitted in your state or province).   

The “trend” of hosting meetings really isn’t a trend anymore. Associations are expected to continue with electronic meetings because:

  • They are convenient and more owners are likely to participate
  • They eliminate the need to find a large physical location to conduct a meeting (which means associations spend less money)
  • Associations are more likely to reach quorum
  • They provide flexibility. Owners can attend using their phones, tablets, or computers
  • Everyone has a front-row seat and can see information through their screens
  • It’s easier to moderate meetings
  • It’s easier to end meetings on time

In fact, Condo Control has seen a 100% success rate reaching quorum in 2021 with our virtual meeting platform.  

  

Hybrid meetings

While many boards and owners prefer virtual meetings, that’s not the case for everyone. Some people simply don’t like change. Others may prefer having the opportunity to interact with community members. That’s where hybrid meetings come in. A hybrid meeting allows owners to decide whether they’d prefer to attend the meeting in person or online.

Hybrid meetings do require more planning. Organizers have to figure out approximately how many people will be attending in person, how to add up electronic and physical votes, the process for taking questions from people in the room and people attending virtually, etc. But simple meeting software helps to ensure the experience is positive for everyone. Associations that are new to hybrid meetings may also consider hiring a moderator to guide them through the process.

Condos/HOAs may need owners to indicate how they intend to participate. This way, the people in charge of organizing can secure a venue that will comfortably accommodate the number of people that plan to attend in person.

    

Talk to your attorney first

If your association has never hosted a virtual or hybrid meeting, schedule a meeting with your attorney before you do anything else. They can help ensure you don’t put the board or the association at risk.

  

Hosting a hybrid meeting

When hosting a hybrid meeting, it’s critical to give attendees all of the information they need to participate. That includes providing the physical location of the meeting and instructions on how to attend virtually. Below are some more useful steps:  

  • Provide proper notice of the meeting. Send an email or physical notice with a link and access instructions
  • Govern by the same procedures and rules that apply to in-person meetings
  • Use a platform that makes it easy for members to join, participate, and view whatever in-person attendees can see
  • Record minutes during the meeting. These minutes must be added to the association’s records and may also need to be distributed to the membership
  • Ensure that only authorized participants can access the meeting. Hosts must be able to verify the identities of participants before allowing them in
  • Owners should have the ability to listen to the meeting, follow the agenda, and speak, if appropriate. Encourage participants to turn their cameras on – this tends to foster a greater sense of community

  

Voting

In addition to attending, boards need to ensure owners can participate in elections and vote on community issues. If permitted by their state and governing rules, associations can use an online voting platform like Condo Control’s virtual meeting feature to conduct an election or vote on other items.

  

What you’ll need to host a productive hybrid meeting

Hybrid meetings will require all of the technology that virtual meetings need.

Boards will need to have the following items in order to conduct a successful hybrid meeting:

  • High-speed internet for an uninterrupted, reliable connection
  • A secure virtual meeting software platform
  • A functional laptop
  • An HDMI cord (a longer cord is preferred)
  • A large TV, monitor, or projector
  • External computer speakers
  • External USB microphone
  • External USB camera. This is optional, but it’s easier to use this than the laptop camera because it can capture more and offers virtual attendees a better view

  

Check your tech

It’s often the technology that intimidates condo/HOA members the most. But don’t worry. If you plan early and test your equipment ahead of time, your meeting should be a smooth experience. If the board is concerned about technical issues, the association could hire someone to take care of the technical stuff.

  

Establishing video

Log in to the meeting platform and place the laptop in a position where the camera can capture all board members. An external USB camera could be used for better quality video, but it’s not essential.

Next, plug one end of the HDMI cord into the laptop and the other end into the monitor, TV, or projector that will be used during the meeting. The laptop screen should appear on the bigger screen. The screen should be big enough so that in-person attendees can see it.

  

Establishing audio

Audio must be clear and loud. Virtual attendees and in-person participants must be able to hear the person speaking. If you connected a laptop to a TV, the audio may automatically be projected from the TV. However, the association may need to invest in external speakers so that the audio can be projected into the room.

To achieve the best audio for virtual participants, consider purchasing an omnidirectional microphone that members can use to be heard.

  

Test everything twice

Once video and audio are up and running, do a test meeting with another board member or the community manager. Make sure to test the equipment multiple times before the meeting to make sure everything is working properly.

  

Conclusion

Hybrid meetings are expected to become more popular as condos and HOAs resume normal operations. Associations that tried virtual meetings for the first time were pleasantly surprised by how much easier and successful they were. Owners have the option to attend from the comfort of their homes, and they can even cast ballots using their computers or phones. Associations are also more likely to reach quorum when they give owners the option to attend in person or virtually.

Nevertheless, some communities enjoy in-person meetings. Smaller or older communities may have members who are asking for the traditional meeting format to be restored. Instead of having to choose one over the other, why not combine the two and reap the benefits of both options.       

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