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The ANNUAL MEETING - Prepare like it's the Super Bowl!

Prepare! Assume nothing!! Veterans of past meetings will attest to the importance of these basic concepts. It is essential that the manager take the bull by the horns to assemble the team, create the game plan, lead, and execute the plan.

The manager is the "Quarterback" (preferably New England 's Tom Brady - - sorry Peyton - - because of his unquestioned leadership under pressure and unparalleled success in big games) of this process and should craft the "game plan" to take advantage of team strengths. The ideal team will field a multi-faceted "attack" that includes solid administrative talent, quick thinkers, numerous people-persons, and decisive decision makers. Good hands and quick feet are valuable skills in this important contest...er, important meeting. Always overstaff. You never know when someone may sustain a meeting-ending injury, like the dreaded "turf toe"!

Ok. Enough with the corny football comparisons.

PLANNING AND COMMON SENSE

View this as your opportunity to shine and planning is key. As with most projects, preparations for this important event should begin months in advance. Create a timeline to accomplish each task of the plan and stick to it. One of best resources to help you get started is the Association's Annual Meeting file from last year. Take time to review the pre- and post-meeting checklists to see what was planned for and also the draft meeting minutes to determine if important issues identified at the last meeting have been resolved or if something may come back to haunt you this year!

Start a new Pre-Annual Meeting Checklist and an expandable file for this year's meeting preparation. It's all about preparation…and anticipation!

It can be difficult to find a venue on short notice, so make sure you reserve a venue well in advance. It's good to have at least three possible dates in mind when you're trying to reserve the venue. Make sure to get the right size of venue. It's better to get a venue bigger than you think you'll need vs. one that's too small. Go out and look at the place. Are there enough chairs, tables, etc? The room should accommodate your preferred set up such as appropriate placement of sign-in and head tables. Understand how to gain access to the facility on the day of the meeting and with plenty of time to accomplish the set-up tasks, including the use of the house PA system, projectors, screens, etc.

Make sure you know whom you're dealing with. Do Developers or Builder Members need to be notified? Will you have problems getting back proxies or absentee ballots that may be vital to achieve quorum?

Have planning/coordination meetings to smooth out the process and to review tasks, assignments, meeting materials, logistics, etc.

AGENDA PREPARATION

Officers are NOT elected at Annual Meetings... Directors are. Make sure your agenda is correct (e.g. Election of Directors)

Remember to acknowledge committee members and community helpers. For example, prepare certificates of recognition for committee members. Give a special award or at least words of thanks to someone who is always willing to help out and lend a hand for the community.

Schedule appropriate speakers to address contentious issues (e.g. invite Animal Care to speak for communities with excessive barking dog complaints).

Structure the agenda so that you have time to tabulate the ballots on any voting issues. Have the Community Update discussion take place during the ballot count. Support staff can focus on the ballot count while this scripted portion of the agenda is taking place.

On the agenda, Q&A segment should be listed as "Member Comments".

If amendments to the governing documents are up for consideration and vote, the amendment language should be reviewed to determine if the Annual Meeting is the proper forum. It may be that a "Special Meeting" is required for that purpose and could be accomplished before the Annual Meeting call- to-order.

Determine if the governing documents require a cut-off "Record Date" to lock in the Member list and/or receipt of proxies or absentee ballots. Set the date a couple of days to a week in advance of the actual meeting date. This will provide the time necessary to prepare and properly handle these important materials.

PREPARING FOR "ZERO HOUR"

Determine if you'll need an attorney to be present at the meeting. (e.g. if there are any proposed governing document amendments).

Monitor and update the timeline of who is responsible for what and by when.

Develop a script for speaking at the meeting.

Determine who is going to facilitate and lead the meeting. The Association President typically presides at Member meetings, although a hybrid format is often used. Does the Board President intend to run it with the manager at his/her right hand?

Do your homework on hot issues. Make sure you know the status of open issues and be prepared to answer the questions that will likely arise. Keep your head up, maintain your composure, and field all questions and comments with a spirit of openness. Speak frankly and never answer "yes" when the answer is "no".

It is essential for the manager to have a good understanding of the financials before going in to the meeting. This is true regardless of who will actually present the financial report to the attendees.

Walk the property before the meeting and get a visual on what is good, bad, and ugly.

Have additional planning/coordination meetings to smooth out the process, review tasks, assignments, meeting materials, and logistics, etc.

Always staff for the worst-case scenario. Make sure you have enough staff available for the meeting to help with sign-in, greeting/directing people, taking minutes, etc.

Staff should dress in business attire and wear a nametag.

Make sure you're prepared for the sign-in process.

  • Make sure the sign-in list doesn't overtly show delinquencies, but you may need to specially mark delinquent owners so that they are directed to a special processing area for sign-in.
  • Make sure the sign-in list is edited so that there is only one signature line per property.
  • Have enough sign-in areas and divide up the sign-in list by alphabet.
  • Have clear signage to direct attendees to appropriate area/line. Make sure you have enough table space and enough aisle space for attendees to move about.
  • Have plenty of pens and meeting materials/handouts on hand.
  • Consider handing out index cards to meeting attendees at sign-in so that they can submit their questions in writing during the meeting. Cards can be sorted by category for "Member Comments" discussion.
  • Keep ballots in a safe place to ensure only members who signed in (one per property) receive a ballot. Do NOT leave ballots on sign-in table for people to help themselves!

The manager and their assistant should each take with them to the meeting a copy of really important materials like the sign-in sheet just in case someone is delayed in traffic or other unexpected event. After the happy arrival of both the manager and the assistant at the venue, only one of the sign-in lists should be used.

Some other items you should bring to the meeting:

  • Association's Satisfaction Survey statistics if available. This information can be very useful in maintaining focus on what's important to the majority vs. the vocal minority.
  • Member Concern Forms, Architectural Submittal Forms.
  • Annual Meeting file from previous year.
  • Tally sheet or computer with Excel (or similar) spreadsheet for counting votes.

IT'S SHOW TIME

The manager, the assistant, and any support staff need to arrive at the meeting site no less than 30 minutes (45 minutes is better) before sign-in is scheduled to begin. There are always last minute details to take care of, things to set-up, etc.

When opening the meeting, be up-front about what the meeting is all about. It's a business meeting and it's meant to accomplish... The meeting is not to discuss personal agendas, and explain how and when is the appropriate time for such discussions (e.g. Manager can meet one-on-one with homeowners). Briefly explain the management company's responsibilities and reinforce that the Board is in charge. Review the agenda in detail at the start of the meeting. Set the stage.

Let the attendees know that the notes of the meeting highlights, questions & answers, and an action item list with be mailed to all members within x days so that everyone will know what was discussed at the meeting. And make sure you follow through on your promise!

Share statistics that reflect what's been done during the past year, review accomplishments and new goals.

Homeowners should count the ballots with management personnel overseeing the process. One homeowner calls out the vote and another homeowner records it on a tally sheet. Switch tasks and count the votes a second time. When homeowners are finished counting the votes, verify with them that the number that they wrote down is in fact the homeowners' results.

One person should be tasked with packing up at end of night so things don't get lost. (e.g. keep track of index cards, ballots)

AFTER THE MEETING

The manager should complete a Post Annual Checklist and submit it to the appropriate entity with the management firm within 48-hours of the Annual Meeting.

Update the Association records based on actions taken at the meeting (i.e., new Directors).

Mail notes of the meeting highlights, questions, comments, and an action item list to all Members within 10 days.

Organize all current year Annual Meeting documents and place them in the appropriate Associations Operating Files.

DEBRIEFING

Within days of the meeting debrief your team and discuss what worked well and not so well. Acknowledge members of staff that provided superior support and be candid about processes that need improvement.

Hand out the "game" ball and congratulate the team on another hard earned victory.

David Gauvin, PCAM®, AMS®, CMCA®, Association Times, November 2006