In my previous blog, I addressed the question of Pre-planning for an online Annual General Meeting (AGM) of your condominium corporation. The blog contained a series of questions that must be considered before venturing into cyberspace with your unit owners. Today I will discuss tips for a successful online meeting. Most items apply to audio-only or audio and video methods.
First, let us consider a meeting via audio only. This type of gathering can be a conference call using the telephone only. Various services exists that allow the users to link as many people as needed on the same call. Participants are usually given a toll-free number to call and then they must enter a code to join the conference. The main consideration is that everyone must be able to hear everyone else at the same time. In Manitoba, the Condominium Act states that:
“119 (1) A condominium corporation may, by by-law, provide for attendance at a general meeting of unit owners by telephone or any other communication system that allows concurrent participation.”
If the system you use fails to allow for concurrent participation, the meeting may be considered invalid and decision made at such a meeting null and void.
Secondly, there is the audio and video meeting. Platforms including Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, and others provide for both audio and video. While video is not necessary, the audio portion is required.
- When to hold your meeting. Depending on your condo’s demographics you may wish to hold the AGM in the evening to accommodate any members who work during the day.
- Start on time – There is nothing more frustrating for participants who are prompt, to have to wait for latecomers. Unless you must wait to establish quorum, beginning at the appointed time demonstrates respect for people’s time.
- The presider, the secretary, the members, and all other persons participating in the meeting must speak clearly. If the audio from the person who has obtained the floor is clear, if for any reason, the audio is unclear, the member may be required to type in the chat what she wishes to say.
- It is recommended to record the video and audio together with the chat log. In case of conflict the video prevails.
- If you are recording the meeting, inform the participants in advance. The recording will be used to confirm attendance, verify voting in case of controversy, prepare minutes of the meeting.
- Have a timed agenda – knowing the sequence of events and the allotted time for each item will keep the meeting focused and on track. There is nothing than having a map to guide your journey.
- Have a set of simple yet effective rules of conduct for the meeting. Have them read by the secretary at the beginning of the meeting. The host/President should adhere to these rules and hold attendees to follow them. (E.g. one person speaks at a time; be recognized by the Chair before speaking; respectful of others point of view; move to the microphone to speak)
- Have motions pre-written and shared on screen for all to see. If the meeting is by telephone, ensure that everyone receives a copy of the motions to be presented include with the Notice of Meeting package.
- The Host/President should have a script. An AGM is a serious business meeting of all shareholders. It is not the time to “wing it”. A script will keep the leader on track, professional, prepared with the words to say.
- Voting. Without the possibility of electronic voting, every owner will need to identify themselves by name and unit number and indicate that they are “in favour, against or abstaining”. If done by audio only, the secretary might have to read each unit owners’ name from a list and each owner called upon to signify their vote. WARNING: This will take time and may go against any requirement for a secret ballot (vote). You will need to determine how this will be handled for your group.
- Voting. Under the topic of voting, you must also consider how you will account for percentage votes. Many condo corporations are set up in such a way that different owners may hold a different share in the corporation. When they vote this percentage must be considered in a vote (e.g. Owner A has a .5 percent share while owner B has a 0.75 percent share and so on.)
- Adjournment. End the meeting on time. It is fine for people to hang around and mingle after the business end of the gathering. Do not go overtime unless you have the assembly’s permission.
- The minutes of the meeting are be prepared in the same manner as they would be done in physical meetings.
- As mentioned in my previous blog, many things can go wrong during an online meeting. The leaders should anticipate the main issues and have a generic plan to handle the unforeseen. (e.g. what to do in the event of a power outage, poor audio connections, connections cutting out, inability to mute a ranting participant, participants lacking enough computer skills to participate fully).
My next blog will tackle the matter of electronic voting.
Stay Well! Be Safe! Stay Home!