For many people, meetings are a fact of life. Whether it’s an HOA board or member meeting in your homeowner’s association, a volunteer meeting at your child’s school or a department meeting at work, being adept at participating effectively and managing meetings is a useful skill.
Sometimes one or two participants will dominate the discussion, steer it off topic and interrupt others, causing long, uncomfortable or unproductive HOA board meetings. Whether you’re the meeting chair or a participant, there are techniques you can use to help engage others, limit intrusions and minimize distractions.
Table the discussion
If a conversation is getting particularly heated, the chair or a participant can move to table the discussion for a later date. This helps clear the air and allows for a calmer and more meaningful conversation at the next meeting. It also sends the signal that debates will be conducted rationally and with respect.
Take it offline
When a meeting attendee takes a topic off course, everyone’s time is wasted. A good tool for the chair to use—or for another attendee to suggest—to get the meeting back on track is to invite the member to continue the discussion privately. Saying, “Let’s take this offline so we can talk more,” is an easy way to get back on the subject without alienating the sidetracked speaker.
Use the agenda
The agenda is a useful tool for keeping an HOA board meeting moving efficiently. When a chair begins a meeting by saying, “We have a full agenda today,” he or she sets the stage for productivity. Periodically referring to the agenda during the course of the meeting keeps all attendees focused on the discussion.
Call on members
To engage more reticent members of the group, and to balance the impact of more vocal participants, it’s helpful to call on members by name to ask for their opinions. “What do you think, Mary?” or “Do you have some input here, Steve?” ensures that all members are valued. And you don’t have be the chair to ask for others’ opinions.
Remember that getting input is great because the HOA board needs to hear from the membership, but it is best to keep the meeting on track! Homeowner’s association meetings are conducted by the board, but your manager can help you facilitate effective meetings.