For members of the board, an HOA board meeting can be exhausting.  Not only do you have to prepare what you’ll be presenting to the rest of the board, plus go over the agenda, previous meeting minutes and any other prepared statements, you then have the meeting itself to look forward to (or dread).

A three to four-hour marathon session is not uncommon for many Utah HOA and Condo boards of directors. Small wonder that the number of volunteers to join the board is dwindling.

How Long Should An HOA or Condo Board Meeting Last?

Rather than thinking in terms of material the meeting covers, consider how long you can expect a group of people to be able to stay focused and make informed, logical decisions.

Many management professionals advocate for shorter meetings, and consensus shows that meetings of just 60-90 minutes are the most effective and productive. And science backs those numbers up. The Atlantic published that workers are more productive when they work for 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break.

According to Lumen Learning, “The span of time that the average person can focus on complex decision-making tasks without losing their clarity of thought is no longer than 50 minutes, though this can be extended somewhat with refreshment breaks. Board meetings that regularly last longer than two hours can be an indication of problems.”

Meeting King takes it a step farther with a chart that shows how quickly people’s attention can deteriorate in a meeting:

Length of meeting % of people paying attention
0-15 minutes     91%
15-30 minutes     84%
30-45 minutes     73%
45+ minutes     64%

 

The good news is, you don’t have to settle for marathon meetings. The mythical 1-hour board meeting is completely achievable! If you’ve dreamed of shorter, more effective board meetings, follow our playbook strategy to help you make your dream a reality.

 

Before the Meeting

Reviewing Your Policy

Check the governing documents of your community association first to see the policies that govern board meeting conduct. Some policies are very comprehensive, while others may simply specify rules on quorum and parliamentary procedure. If your documents do not outline expectations on conduct, procedure or homeowner engagement, you should consider adding the creation of such to the agenda for a future board meeting.

Preparing the Agenda

The Agenda is perhaps the most important tool in your arsenal for keeping board meeting times under control. Rather than just listing off the standard Roberts Rules order for the agenda, each item that needs to be discussed should be briefly outlined in a Board member information package and distributed to the Board at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.

A good tip is to invite board members and homeowners to submit requests in writing that they would like to have discussed at a board meeting. Set a deadline for submissions and inform the requestor if their discussion item is being included in the agenda for this (or a future) meeting. Even if every request does not make it into the agenda for the next board meeting, you can avoid surprise discussions and meeting hijackers with this simple policy. In fact, if your governing documents do not already specify the rules of engagement, this is a good policy to include when you create yours.

Each item up for discussion should have a suggested time in minutes for that item to be discussed. Not only does this give attendees an expectation of how long each item of order should take, it gives the board president conducting the meeting an enforcement tool for when discussions are taking too long or going off the rails.

Providing Notice

By Utah law, notice of the meeting needs to be provided to all unit owners via email at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting, if they have requested it. We recommend you give owners notice of the meetings, regardless of them requesting it, to promote a culture of transparency in your community. Some communities even send text message reminders to all owners on the day of meetings.

Along with your emailed meeting notice, it’s helpful to include a copy of the agenda and a short reminder of your rules of engagement. For example, if owners are asked to submit requests to address the board in writing first, or if you only allow 5 minutes speaking time per owner, or if recording devices are limited to a specific location or set of rules. Establishing the expectations up front can help prevent meeting meltdowns from frustrated homeowners.

The Board President’s Toolbox

The board president is the person responsible for conducting the meeting. You’re not the boss, as all members of the board have an equal vote, but you are the person whose job it is to keep the meeting moving in an organized and productive manner.

To facilitate that, we recommend you invest in a few items:

  • A Gavel – It seems silly, but being able to bang a gavel when things are getting out of hand is a universally recognized symbol, and often far more effective than yelling.
  • A Timer – Having the visual representation of the time elapsed in the meeting helps you keep things on track, and gives you a physical tool to use when granting extra time to a discussion.
  • A copy of the CC&Rs and Bylaws – As the meeting keeper, the president often winds up playing the role of referee as well. It helps to have a copy of the rulebook when you need it.

During the Meeting

Start on Time

It’s hard to keep a meeting to a minimal timeline if you frequently start 10 or more minutes late. If you’ll be serving snacks or tying the meeting to another event, be sure to provide a buffer before the meeting is scheduled to start for those items.

Have board members sign in on a sign in sheet as they arrive (and make sure they sign out if they need to leave early). This makes it easier on the board secretary for the next meeting’s minutes.

If one or more board members is running late, start the meeting without them. It will reinforce the need for them to be on time at the next meeting. Unfortunately, this will not work if you do not have quorum, so you may need to delay the start of the meeting until enough members have arrived to make quorum. You can use that time to encourage everyone to review their meeting packets and ensure that they are ready to hit the ground running when the meeting begins.

Get the administrative stuff out of the way fast

If you look at Robert’s Rules for conducting a meeting, the order of the meeting goes like this:

  1. Call to Order {establishing quorum)
  2. Review of Agenda
  3. Approval of Previous Minutes
  4. Officer/Committee Reports
  5. Unfinished Business
  6. New Business
  7. Announcements
  8. Executive closed session (optional)
  9. Adjournment

As you can see, a lot of the administrative things that are just par for the course, like reviewing the agenda and approving the minutes from the previous meeting happen at the top. Even many of the committee reports are pretty standard, such as the treasurer’s report, which simply discusses the moneys that were spent the previous month –items that were already approved in a previous meeting.

Rather than asking board members to spend their limited attention span on these items, you can practically eliminate that time with a little bit of preparation. If the agenda, minutes and reports are included in a package sent to board members at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting, that means the board has had ample time to review the minutes and agenda. Rather than taking the time for the secretary to read the minutes, call for a vote of approval right away. In this way, steps one, two, and three should take no more than two minutes of meeting time, and step four can be limited to a brief 5 minutes for each questions or comments on the written reports, rather than asking the committee heads to give a lengthy verbal report. If further discussion is warranted, or a decision needs to be made based on a report, that moves over to the old and new business sections.

Stay Focused and Keep to the Agenda

Staying on topic is the key to conducting a timely meeting. Keep to the agenda. If an item comes up that warrants further research or discussion, don’t be afraid to assign it to a committee, or even to schedule a separate meeting for that one issue.

Consultants and Committees Are Your Friends

Any issue that takes more than a few minutes of discussion is probably improperly researched or lacking in information. It’s difficult to make a logical decision if you have questions that remain unanswered. When that happens, many boards will devolve into emotional arguments, or fall into circular discussion patterns. As the board president, it’s your responsibility to recognize when this is happening and take decisive action.

Tabling a discussion for later isn’t enough. You need to assign someone to go back and gather answers to the new questions. If you have a professional consultant who is available to you, use them! You community manager, attorney, and insurance agent are all there to help the board make good decisions. Otherwise, consider appointing an ad-hoc committee to explore the topic more and report back to the board later.

Give Owners Time to Weigh In

When it comes to unfinished and new business, before you put any decision to a final vote, open the floor for comments from unit owners attending the meeting. Not only is it the right thing to do to give community members a chance to weigh in on topics that are important to them, it’s the law.

Redirect Private Discussions to Executive Sessions

It’s never a good idea to call out specific homeowners publicly or to discuss pending legal matters in a public forum. If any topic of this nature comes up during the public portion of the meeting, divert that to a private executive session of just the board members, along with council or your management representative.

Maintain a task list

Through the course of the meeting, a lot of tasks will come up, whether it’s a point of information gathering or if it’s an action to be taken. Maintain a simple spreadsheet of tasks to be done, who it’s assigned to, and when it’s due. We recommend a sharing app like Google Sheets where all members of the board and your management team can access the sheet. This allows it to be updated quickly and in real time, and keeps issues discussed in board meetings from falling through the cracks. Your task list can also serve when identifying the Old Business items for your next board meeting agenda, saving time and energy from repeating the same discussions meeting after meeting.

After the Meeting

Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up

Make sure you that meeting follow up is timely and informative. Meeting minutes, task assignments, scheduling dates for the next planned meeting, and any announcements should be released quickly. We recommend no more than one week following a meeting for the release of this information.

Solicit Feedback

It’s hard to tell if you are doing a good job meeting the needs of the membership if you never ask for feedback. It’s a good practice to make a simple request for feedback on how the meeting was conducted, suggestions for the future, or topics member would like to discuss in the future.

Implementing these changes is a sure-fire way to conduct a meeting that stays on target and on time, while still serving the purpose of getting business done for your community. If you need expert assistance in turning meetings from tabloid newsworthy to functional and fast, look no further than HOA Strategies. Our managers are highly experienced in herding cats and helping to get board meetings under control. Contact us today for a free Strategic Evaluation!