Many months now into the pandemic, some associations have stopped conducting board meetings. That is a mistake on many levels, but also completely unnecessary. Boards do not need to govern in secret, avoiding the Open Meeting Act. Many inexpensive platforms are widely available to help HOAs conduct open and virtual meetings.
There are many platforms, and Zoom, Ringcentral, Webex, GoToMeeting, and TeamViewer are some which I have used. Most have a free limited service version and a reasonable monthly subscription with more and enhanced features.
Here are some things to consider for HOA virtual board meetings:
- Don’t assume this is only useful during the pandemic. HOAs may find that the option of virtual attendance in the future may increase communication and member participation. Plan on keeping the technology after live meetings are okay again.
- Pay attention to the setup. I attended a meeting recently where the organizer forgot to give themself full control over attendees with the ability to mute or even disconnect someone when necessary. One homeowner was long-winded and habitually talked over others in meetings. Every time the organizer muted the attendee, the attendee unmuted themselves, repeatedly disrupting the meeting.
- Think about the sound. One problem with mixed live/virtual meetings is that multiple unmuted microphones at the same time will create feedback or very distracting echoes. Also, a single laptop, tablet, or smartphone may not have an adequate microphone to pick up all the board deliberations. A short-term solution is to make sure that the physically present directors cooperate to make sure only one microphone is on at a time. This will slow the pace of the deliberation, but that is not always a bad thing. A long-term solution is to purchase a separate conferencing microphone/speaker to provide a single source for the audio component of those in the meeting room. Many manufacturers have such devices, including Owl Labs, Dell, Jabra, Polycom, and others, and are priced from less than $200 to just under $1,000 for models which include cameras.
- Think twice about recording meetings. Most meeting platforms have an option to record sessions. However, the important facts from the meeting should be sufficiently recorded in the written minutes of the meeting. The commentary and deliberation itself may best not be recorded, because sometimes recording can intimidate and even squelch participation by those afraid to “say the wrong thing.”
- The meeting rules still apply. Whether someone is participating from their den or in the clubhouse, the HOA’s meeting rules should be enforced. Disorderly virtual meetings are a nightmare.
- Alert virtual participants that poorly functioning devices or poor internet connections may make it hard for some users to be heard or seen and may be prone to freezing. Announce before the meeting that poor connections will not hold up the rest of the meeting.
- Necessary documents such as the agenda and any other documents for members to see should be properly uploaded in advance. Screen sharing is a good backup.
- Have a roster handy to ensure that only members log in.
- Stay on topic and keep the meeting moving.
Have great virtual board meetings and consider keeping this connection along with live attendance when we all have the choice again.
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to Kelly@rodllp.com. Past columns at www.HOAHomefront.com. All rights reserved®.