Meeting Moment – March 2011

Typically, the smaller the meeting, the less formality is needed.  But sometimes a dose of formal meeting management can help, particularly when many homeowners want to speak or a hot topic is being discussed.

Parliamentary Tip:  A board meeting is not a press conference.  Be prepared to increase the formality of the meeting when necessary to keep it under control.  Remember that the purpose of formality is to give everyone entitled to speak a fair and equal opportunity to do so, at the appropriate time.

State Law mandates that homeowners be permitted to speak at a board meeting.  However, it does not say that “the board president must answer every homeowner question right then and there”.  

When running a meeting, whoever chairs the meeting (it doesn’t HAVE to be the president) is to make sure the objectives of the meeting are met, and to protect the rights of the minority while ensuring the decision of the majority prevails.  To succeed, the chair sometimes may need to change meeting management tactics and increase formality, to enable everyone to be heard yet keep the meeting moving.

If the meeting chair keeps answering all the questions when an issue is hotly contested, or if many homeowners want to speak, or worse, starts arguing with owners — suddenly that board meeting turns into a “press conference” rather than a business meeting.  

To regain control of such a meeting, the chair can announce it’s appropriate to begin following more formal meeting procedure – ideally with humor, never defensively.  Take a moment to remind everyone of:

  • the purpose of the meeting
  • the status and time left on the agenda
  • in a particularly difficult situation, the conduct of meeting policy you will begin following strictly
  • most importantly, when homeowners will be able to speak and receive answers about other issues not on the agenda at this time.  That’s because meeting procedure should never be used to silence homeowners, but rather to redirect their questions to the appropriate time and place

Finally, thank homeowners respectfully for their input, tell them the board values hearing from them and will consider their comments.  Then move on with the agenda.