Recent exposure to virtual meetings offer a new way for boards to conduct business and interact with owners.
During COVID, virtual meetings were the only way for condo boards to conduct business. Despite their advantages, this approach is not deserving of a best practice.
When meeting in-person, there are a range of behaviours or poor practices that become accepted. Meetings conducted over dinner, munching during discussions, and directors arriving late or leaving early have become commonplace in some communities. These actions are unprofessional and not acceptable in a typical working environment. Managers asked to review or summarize material directors were expected to have digested prior to the meeting, failing to adhere to an agenda, and extended discussion of items for which a clear decision cannot be made all contribute to unproductive time which make meetings longer than necessary.
Much of this, when it occurs, is the fault of the President who chairs board meetings and fails to adhere to more productive and accepted practices.
Virtual meetings are easy, low cost, and in some ways more productive than face-to-face meetings. The virtual format eliminates many poor practices but at a cost. Meetings are accessible from anywhere with a reasonable internet connection. They offer greater flexibility for timing of meetings since nobody needs to travel. Materials are more easily distributed in advance. Finally, meetings are more efficient in that participants must speak one at a time and are less able to interrupt others.
There are disadvantages to the virtual meeting format. Some choose to take incoming calls during a meeting. Attendees are easily distracted by background activities near them or on screen. All this activity makes individuals less focused on the meeting and its purpose. Visible cues get hidden making for poorer communication and decision making. It can be more difficult for owners at an annual general meeting to articulate their concerns or, at times, have their concerns heard at all because someone else controls their microphone.
Face-to-face meetings provide the eye contact and body language we rely on when discussing, debating, collaborating and arguing prior to making decisions. In-person exchanges are superior to anything virtual when it comes to efficiency, productivity and better decisions.
Virtual meetings serve a purpose when face-to-face meetings are not possible. They are a poor substitute.