Monthly Archives

July 2021

From e-Voting to Virtual Meetings … an Easy Transition

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The road from Albania to Canada has brought Violla Kapllani to manage The Spire condominium highrise in downtown Toronto. Violla has worked for Y.L. Hendler Ltd. since 2013, starting as an administrator and, not long after, a property manager. In 2015 she obtained her RCM. This same year she was recognized with ACMO’s inaugural Genesis Award for ‘a condominium manager who is new to the profession and has displayed exceptional service.’

Now eight years working as a condominium professional and Violla enjoys industry participation and attends events as often as she can. “We learned about CondoVoter at an ACMO luncheon a couple of years ago,” explains Violla. “At 359 units, it was sometimes difficult for us to achieve quorum, which requires 90 owners to meet the 25% threshold. The board of directors approved the electronic voting by-law on September 2018 and it was passed at the 2018 AGM. In 2019, the board of The Spire began using CondoVoter for electronic voting.”

As a property manager, Violla has experienced many benefits of e-Voting not only for herself but for owners too.

“Owners are able to cast their votes ahead of time, which saves so much time at the meeting, not to mention money saved too.”

E-Voting gives all owners the opportunity to vote, whereas in-person meetings were not always easy for everyone to attend. “I saw a difference right away with more owners who came forward to e-Vote. Thanks to e-Voting, we are now well above quorum for our AGMs and other owners’ meetings.” She is also appreciative of the email reminders that CondoVoter sends to owners on behalf of the board. “This one step saves me so much time in preparation and money for printing.”

Violla agrees owners see benefits as well.

“Owners have a better opportunity to participate, which makes them happier. Many owners have told me they like e-Voting because it is convenient and saves time.”

In 2020, when COVID-19 prevented in-person meetings, the board of The Spire switched easily to virtual meetings. The first virtual meeting (held in August 2020) was an adjourned AGM to pass three bylaws that did not pass at the 2019 AGM, followed by a special owners’ meeting. The board of directors hired CondoVoter again for the November 2020 virtual AGM. Since e-Voting was already in place and widely used by owners, Violla reckons a proxy ballot has been used just once. “In my experience, most proxy ballots were invalid anyway due to mistakes in filling them out.”

In addition to virtual meetings, CondoVoter provides various value-added meeting services to The Spire. “Our AGM packages are sent through CondoVoter,” explains Violla. “I previously would get these printed. With virtual meetings I don’t need to order chairs or choose a venue either,” she adds with a laugh.

At their November AGM, Violla noticed more offsite owners participated than at in-person meetings. She feels virtual meetings gives everyone a chance to participate in their community. “Plus, meetings are generally shorter. We don’t have to wait for quorum. We no longer have scrutineers who retire to another room to count ballots and miss parts of the meeting. CondoVoter counts ballots for us electronically.”

All in all, the virtual meeting experience for the board and owners has been extremely positive. “One of the best things we did is hire CondoVoter. We have been impressed every time we complete a meeting.”

Are Hybrids the Future?

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As more and more people are fully vaccinated and businesses begin to reopen, there has been lots of discussion among board members and condo managers about “hybrid” meetings and what this entails. So, what exactly is a hybrid meeting? The simple answer is “a virtual meeting and an in-person meeting.”

First of all, let’s be practical here. Although smaller gatherings will be permitted, will condominium corporations want to get into expensive meetings and complicated procedures. Combining two types of meetings is not an easy task and the question should be asked – what do you want to achieve?

Objectives
1. You want to achieve quorum
2. You want to get the greatest participation from your owners
3. You want your owners to vote
4. You want to give the greatest accessibility to your owners
5. You want to run an efficient and cost-effective meeting
6. You don’t want to solicit proxies if you don’t have to
7. You don’t want that rush at the registration desk
8. You don’t want complicated and lengthy voting tabulation

Once you determine what your objectives are, ask yourself the following questions:

Audio Visual requirements
• Will the chair, auditor and any presenters be virtual or physically at the meeting?
• If they are not in person, will there be a screen and sound system for in-person attendees to see and hear the presenters?
• How will virtual attendees see in person participation? Is a laptop computer with a camera sufficient for individuals to use if they are participating in person? What about physical distancing?

Registration
• How will registration be handled? Online just for virtual attendance and in person as a separate registration list? If there are separate lists who will report on quorum and how?
• Will in person registration be online so there is one registration system?

Voting
• Which Voting Method:
1. Electronic voting only
2. Electronic voting and paper ballots
3. Electronic voting and proxies
4. Electronic voting, proxies and paper ballots

• How will you know to give out a paper ballot at the meeting if you are doing electronic voting where owners may already have voted electronically? Remember advance electronic voting will get you your quorum without the need for proxies.

• How will you know to accept a paper proxy at registration if you have electronic voting?

• How will you confirm if a proxy giver already voted in advance or if the proxy giver decides to vote in real time electronically during the meeting?

• Should you only allow electronic voting so there is only one voting system?

• Should you have in person real time voting from smart phones and have a laptop or iPad available – such as a polling station?

• Scrutineers – how will reporting on the vote be determined if you allow paper ballots, proxies and electronic voting?

I am sure that once you answer the above questions you will see that a “hybrid” meeting is a complex undertaking. It may be that condominium corporations just stick to virtual meetings for awhile and use electronic voting but put a visual screen and speakers in the party room for owners to come down and watch. Those owners can register for the virtual meeting online even if they attend in person and vote from their smartphone or computer prior to and at the meeting.
For the many condominium corporations that used electronic voting prior to the pandemic, having the in-person meeting and using electronic voting made the whole meeting process a lot easier than the past practices of proxies and paper ballots. Now having condominium corporations continue with virtual meetings and setting up a screen for those that want to view the meeting and may not have a computer, may be the most cost effective and less complicated way to go for now.
CondoVoter is developing online information sessions to outline the benefits of hybrid meetings and to answer questions just like these. Watch our social media and your email for upcoming dates.

After the Pandemic: How Will You Meet?

CondoVoter - Electronic Condo Corporation Voting - Toronto

With more and more people getting fully vaccinated and the economy slowly reopening, it’s time to think about how each of us will react to our post-pandemic lifestyles and work arrangements.

Will people take it slow and remain cautious? Or will they be eager to jump back to life as it was? From a condominium community perspective, will masking still be required on common elements? How will AGMs and owners’ meetings be conducted?

Recently, Denise Lash of Lash Condo Law, posted a poll on LinkedIn to ask how virtual meetings should be conducted as we inch ahead. She asked the question: “Going forward, which option do you prefer for your condo owner meetings?”

The poll garnered an excellent response with 3,500+ views, 78 votes and 15 comments. The results were: 78% prefer virtual meetings with e-voting; 15% prefer a hybrid meeting; 5% prefer in-person with e-voting; and 1% prefer in-person with paper ballots.

Thanks to all who took the time to vote and comment. Below are some of the LinkedIn responses she received.

From an auditor’s point of view it is quite simple, my preference is virtual meetings going forward. The meeting is safer from an owners’ health point of view, more efficient and allows us to present the audit in a more informative method by using the screen. The feedback over the last year has been very positive. Hybrid meetings would also be reasonable assuming the professionals could attend virtually. This will save professional fees for travel and time as well as the added benefit of less driving which of course is great for the environment.

Stephen Chesney, FCPA, FCA, Partner, Yale PGC LLP

I agree with Stephen.

We did a poll of owners after our last virtual AGM in February. Roughly 55% of owners preferred a virtual format. Some owners with small children told us that this was the first AGM they could attend and liked the idea of participating from home.
I’m not so sure of the feasibility of the hybrid model. May not be cost effective.

Joseph D., Senior Risk/Finance Leader

While virtual meetings are convenient, and being able to refer to documents on the screen is really helpful, I miss the feedback from the audience. In person, I have a sense if they are with me or confused. When I stare into the computer, I have no idea if anyone is understanding me. If the purpose of the meeting is to help people understand, then I suspect in-person will always be superior.

Sally Thompson, Managing Partner, Synergy Partners

The vast majority of the corporations we have, will have a hybrid meeting, however, all AGMs have been confirmed to be virtual.

I believe most of our meetings will move to virtual with e-voting, at the moment I believe there is excitement about seeing each other, that will pass and efficiency will be more important. During the pandemic we updated our management agreement with a clause to add virtual meetings and e-voting, while to some degree these statements were made for pandemic preparedness for the future, the motivating factor for adding, was efficiency for our team, board members and corporations.

Angel-Marie Reiner, Owner/Founder/President to Onyx Condo Management

For owners’ meetings, people are going to want to go back to meetings in person, having that personal interaction is key. Virtual meetings really do eliminate a lot of typical challenges for owners to attend meetings. I feel that some buildings/boards will want to have a hybridized meeting of some sort to assist better to achieve quorum. I foresee larger buildings being able to support the hybrid meeting platform with the extra costs. Small Corporations will likely fall back to meeting in person. For Board meetings, the virtual meeting will become another tool in the tool box to be able to have quick meetings set up or even become an alternating meeting style.

Darryl Fulton, Regional Condominium Manager, Goldview Property Management

I would prefer to have face to face meetings as they used to be prior to COVID-19. Such meeting have more impact and the personal interaction with the unit owners, board and management makes it more practical. I have chaired the condo board for 3 years and used to have monthly or by monthly unit owners information meetings. These meetings were a challenge for the board and management but a comfort for the unit owners as they felt that they are part of all the decision-making process.

Bashir Shaikh, Mainframe Technical Specialist (DBA), Great-West Life

You can focus on managing the meetings

CondoVoter - Team - Electronic Condo Corporation Voting - Toronto

In their own words
Interview with Diana Belshaw, president MTCC #1299

Diana Belshaw is an experienced condominium director and a 4-year president of the Board of Directors of MTCC #1299, a 181-unit condominium in the Distillery District of downtown Toronto. She and the Board made an early switch to virtual meetings in 2020 when the Ontario government announcement was made at the start of the pandemic.

“In some ways we were early guinea pigs,” she laughs, as the Board, aided by their corporation lawyer Denise Lash and management, soldiered ahead. “We consistently held virtual meetings. We did a lot of online engagement starting with Board meetings, bylaw meetings and, finally, our AGM,” she explains.

“We found it easy working with CondoVoter. They have a good combination of efficient vote tabulation and meeting management.”

Diana adds “We all can do Zoom. But this was different!” Diana is referring to the many pieces of documentation that are required for condo owners’ meetings and AGMs.

Having gained successful virtual meeting experience, Diana is keen to share her knowledge with others. As a condo Board president, she is particularly pleased with the ability to monitor and know in advance of a meeting how many people have voted. She concedes that there are still a few occasional paper proxies that are used for a handful of owners who remain uncomfortable with online voting while others are whizzes. “There are still some individuals who do not use online banking, and that’s one of the most secure online transactions. So, I suppose these people will not cast a vote online either.”

A huge part of Diana’s experience with electronic voting took place when the Board decided to review all its bylaws at once. “For our bylaw meeting we had 90% voter participation. And for the subsequent AGM, we achieved 80% participation. CondoVoter hosted each of these meetings and were able to produce [and prepare for virtual presentation] the required documents for us. They are very supportive partners.”

The corporation was sometimes on the edge of reaching quorum at in-person meetings, but thanks to a core of fairly active owners they always made it. Now, understandably, Diana’s favourite benefit of virtual meetings is advance voting. “There is more security knowing how votes are managed and it’s most helpful to know you have reached quorum prior to the meeting,” she says. “You aren’t juggling. You can now focus on managing the meeting.” Two other benefits to virtual meetings she has found to be important include: less likelihood for emotions from the floor, and more space and time for other business. “All these benefits occur because our virtual meetings are run efficiently, professionally and carefully.”

Looking back to when in-person meetings were the norm for condominiums, Diana has made this observation. “People are sometimes afraid that virtual meetings are less personal. But that’s just not true,” she states. “In my experience, there is just as much capacity for interaction and commentary.”

She and the Board all agree that they would like to continue with some combination of virtual and in-person meetings in the future.

“We have owners who travel, who have young families, who have busy lifestyles. A hybrid meeting [in-person and virtual] can accommodate all owners.”

We’ve come a long way from 2020, through a pandemic and now halfway through 2021. “Everyone’s online meeting fears have been put to rest,” says Diana. “Virtual meetings work well and they are convenient. I really see no downside.”

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