Guest Post: Dawn of the Virtual Meeting
Written by: Noah Maislin, CEO, Minutes Solutionswww.minutessolutions.com
Effectively operating a condominium is a juggling act at the best of times. In a few short weeks, COVID-19 has utterly upended our world: keeping all the balls in the air is now trickier than ever. The Ontario government recognized that property management companies are essential to the health and safety of condominiums by allowing the firms to stay open for business during this global pandemic. But how do you ensure a community runs smoothly in the new reality of social distancing and self-isolation when a best practice of good condominium management is holding regular meetings with quorum? Without hashing it all out in person, how does a board and its management team collaborate to pick contractors for repairs, ensure completion of urgent work, set timelines, monitor finances, develop budgets, protect the health and safety of residents and staff, pinpoint priorities, address resident concerns, and so much more? Condominium life doesn’t get put on hold during a worldwide health crisis: if anything, clear communication and nimble decision-making become paramount when the global situation and business landscape can change hour by hour. Add to the mix the spring AGM season and the challenges may seem insurmountable. Enter virtual meetings: in this emergency, the infrastructure that developed in recent decades has stepped into the breach. When stakeholders can’t be in the same room, connecting remotely is an excellent alternative that still enables all parties to engage and collaborate -- even face-to-face -- without missing a beat. Typically, the Ontario condominium legislation permits digital or electronic board meetings (e.g., by video or teleconference) as long as all directors consent and are able to communicate at the same time. However, the legislation was recently amended (as of April 24, 2020) to allow board meetings to be called and held virtually, even if not all directors consent. It also allows for AGMs to be held virtually, regardless of what the corporation’s by-law permits. From the tens of thousands of hours of in-person and virtual meetings Minutes Solutions has serviced, we have come away with some insights about remote communication:
- The Difference Between Videoconferencing and Teleconferencing: Most organizations that are accustomed to working with their teams in-person prefer videoconferencing over audio-only calls. Video isn’t difficult to use and it more easily facilitates social learning and focus even while working remotely. It can also be preferable for tallying votes when a motion is presented at a meeting and for keeping track of who says what. But make no mistake, making decisions and taking action by teleconference are still preferable over not acting at all merely because an in-person meeting isn’t possible.
- The Top Platforms -- Zoom vs. Google Meet vs. GoToWebinar: All three platforms can support dozens of attendees at a time, enable screen sharing, and offer good connectivity. All that’s needed are a decent Internet connection and a functional device. Zoom is easy-to-use, intuitive, and simple to schedule. Google Meet is a smooth transition for users of other Google products. GoToWebinar is the best tool for polls, voting, and obtaining attendee reporting/analytics (better for AGMs, not board meetings).
- Your Recording Secretary Can Still Attend Your Meeting Virtually: As always, proper documentation creates continuity for a corporation as it navigates all the decisions and tasks involved in managing a condominium. Your minute taker can log-in or dial-in to take minutes live, or can complete the minutes offline from a recording. All the above videoconferencing options can also record your meeting; if you go this route, make sure your team consents to your policies for recorded meetings and understands the privacy considerations.
While it’s true there can be an initial learning curve in adapting to new technology, the pandemic has highlighted the convenience and efficiency of virtual meetings, not just when social distancing is required. When calmer times return, remote, live communication will complement in-person meetings, and may even replace them in some situations. Virtual solutions expand the business landscape by offering further options for following best practices in condominium management and for tackling new challenges creatively and collaboratively.