Remember when I told you “The Secret Tip that Will Transform Your Property Owners Association Annual Meeting?” Today, I’m giving you a tool that will help you put that tip into action.

First, let’s recap. In brief, the secret tip is to add a members forum to the meeting. The members forum allows people to say their piece. It’s a super democratic move on your part to give voice to members of your property owners group who don’t have a spot on the program, but also keep them from droning on for hours and hijacking the meeting. You can add a members forum in five short steps. I’ll let you read them here.

Maybe you read about the members forum and thought, “Awesome.  Hope I can do that someday.”  Well, the goal of today’s post is to help you do that sooner rather than later. The Open Forum Speaker Responsibilities and Sign-In Sheet is a printable resource that you can take to your next meeting. One page states the forum rules, and the other page is a sign-up sheet. If you sign the sheet, you’re agreeing to follow the rules. Plain and simple.    

 

Open Forum Speaker Responsibilities and Sign-In Sheet

5 Blog Posts to Help Remake Your Meetings in 2019No one will blame you if “learn more parliamentary procedure” isn’t on your list of 2019 resolutions. But let’s hope “have more productive meetings” made the cut. If it did, here are five posts that will get you started.

Four Things Most People Get Wrong about Abstentions

To count or not to count the non-voters – this is the question. Find out what to do when members decline to vote.

Four Myths about Robert’s Rules and Quorum – And Why the Truth Matters

Why should you care about how many people attend a meeting? Learn the fine points of quorum and how it affects action-taking for your group.

5 Essential Facts about Closing Debate

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to shorten your meetings, then check out this post on how to properly say, “Let’s stop talking and vote already.”

Easy Fix – Ways to Make an Agenda Work for You

Good news for 2019 – you don’t have to follow the traditional Robert’s Rules order of business if you don’t want to. Read this post for ways to customize an agenda to the needs of your group.

Shhh, It’s a Secret – What No One Tells You about Executive Session

Want to have a closed-door meeting? Here’s the low-down on what you can and can’t do in executive session.

The Secret Tip that Will Transform Your Property Owners Association Annual Meeting“I’m so excited about the property owners association annual meeting!” said no one ever.

Universal agreement on any topic is hard to come by these days, but I’m pretty sure we would get close if we took a poll on whether anyone thinks a property owners association annual meeting is a pleasant experience. Except for, maybe, the food… if you’re lucky. So what’s the secret to making the annual meeting somewhat enjoyable? Add a members forum.

A members forum is a dedicated spot on the agenda where property owners can talk about their concerns. In short, a forum targets the two main reasons that annual meetings are pure misery:  They last for what seems like an eternity, and they require listening to countless disgruntled property owners that can’t won’t stop talking.

Here’s how to put an end to all that nonsense:

Step One: Add a Line to the Agenda that Says, “Members Forum”

When you make your agenda for the meeting, the very last line should say, “Members Forum.”  This line item comes after everything else – after the election results are announced, and most importantly, after the official business meeting is adjourned.

The beauty of the members forum is that it happens after the meeting is officially over. The business is done, no quorum is needed, and no one has to stay and listen unless they want to.

Step Two: Create a Speakers Log

A speakers log is a sign-up list with the following columns: name, signature, address (or lot number), and topic. It works like this: As property owners check in for the meeting, they add their name to the list if they have something they want to say publicly to the board, staff, property management company, or anyone else. This gets you a nice, tidy list of those who want to voice something in the members forum.

At the top of the sign-up list, state basic rules: Wait your turn, stay on topic, try not to yell or call people names, and don’t talk too long. Usually I include a few extras, too, such as a two-to-three minute time limit and a reminder that the forum is a one-way conversation. Owners shouldn’t expect a dialogue. It’s a forum, not a Q&A session.

Step Three: Adjourn the Meeting

I made this point above, but I’ll say it again: Adjourn before you start the forum. Doing so gives owners an opportunity to leave if they just can’t bear another minute. It also prevents the meeting from unraveling if someone uses the forum to propose a “great idea” or gripe about the results of a vote.

Step Four: Set Up the Physical Space Strategically

I find a forum works best when a microphone is placed at the front of the room, facing the platform, not the members. This set-up requires an owner to feel strongly enough about her views to stand in front of the entire group and express them. It naturally dissuades the person who just wants to complain from the back corner.

But facing the microphone towards the platform, where presumably the board and staff are sitting, means views are expressed to those who have the power to actually fix problems. This tends to be much more productive than allowing owners to address the group, which often just riles everyone up. (Trust me, there are better ways to rally the group.)

Step Five: Find a Neutral Facilitator

Finally, find a person that can stand at the front and facilitate the forum in a neutral manner. Go for someone authoritative, but impartial on this one – not a staff member, not a board member. Consider a professional parliamentarian hired to provide this and other meeting leadership services for your group. But whoever it is, their job should be simple: Recognize members in the order listed on the speakers log, keep track of the time each person speaks, and enforce the rules and time limit consistently.

Need an annual meeting success strategy? By putting essential property owners’ business up front and postponing all the bonus “I’ve got somethin’ great to share” talk till the end, a members forum serves as a winning solution.