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Condovoter

From e-Voting to Virtual Meetings … an Easy Transition

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?

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.

You can focus on managing the meetings

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.”

Welcome to the CV Team: Paras Anand, Meeting Coordinator

Q: You’re the new Meeting Coordinator at CV. What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?
A: I must say we have a great team where everyone appreciates and complements each other. I aim to work proactively and cooperatively work with each one of them to make CV more successful. My goal is to efficiently and effectively coordinate Virtual Meetings by providing all the technical support/assistance to our clients and team members.

Q:  What business skills or talents do you need to be a great meeting coordinator?
A: I would say a Meeting Coordinator must know how to work well under pressure and should be able to respond quickly and calmly to last minute changes. It is a tough job to manage six to seven meetings virtually at the same time.

Additionally, I believe to manage the meetings efficiently, excellent planning and time management skills are very important. One has to be in constant touch with all the moderators throughout.

Last, but not the least, in my opinion a meeting coordinator must have strong people skills and should be able to get along with a wide variety of personalities.

Q: What client concerns have you been able to address since you started (or in your previous role?)
A: It has not been an easy job and definitely not virtually as this is entirely a new world which people are not used to. Initially when the government allowed condominiums to hold their meetings virtually, there was a flood of meetings where I was, in addition to coordinating the meetings, also moderating them.

I remember a meeting where about ten unit owners (mostly elderly) were not able to get into their virtual Annual General Meeting. I was getting back to back calls while moderating a meeting. I very calmly helped each one and made sure that all of them were able to get into the meeting. Even the property manager was facing technical issues. Later, after the meeting my efforts were highly appreciated by all the board members, unit owners and by the property manager as well.

Q: Finish this thought – One thing I believe I do really well is …
A: Manage time.

Q: What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?
A: The pandemic has made me realize that I’m good at multi-tasking. I have definitely learned that my drive to succeed is not affected by obstacles, I have used this as an opportunity to help me grow, network and learn a lot about the virtual world. I have updated myself by learning a lot of technical things which really help me coordinate the virtual meetings, which I strongly believe are here to stay. This has helped me get a long way in making these meetings a success. With each day I learn something new and keep updating myself with the new technology.

I strongly believe that a lot of things can be done without paper, for example paper proxies, our work notes etc. We can definitely use our laptops/desktops/phones etc. thereby saving paper and contributing a little to save the environment.

Also, I have learned to try and find one positive thing a day – everyone has the ability to shine and preserve through this time. It’s a matter of believing in yourself and keeping the end in mind.

Q:  What’s your favourite part about being a meeting coordinator for virtual meetings?
A: I love that I have a direct means to create a new experience for people and facilitate a happy environment. Seeing everyone connecting virtually does boost my morale. Executing the meeting in itself is a great feeling, knowing that you helped a group of unit owners hold their meetings while sitting at home is exciting.

New 2021 Pricing

We have Exciting News to Share!

The team at CondoVoter is excited to announce we have updated our pricing list for all our meeting services. You can choose from the following service options: online voting only; virtual meeting only and our exceptional bundle pricing with meeting. Our new pricing schedule allows CondoVoter to continue to offer affordable, best-in-class virtual meeting and voting services to the condominium, HOA and strata industries.

Click on the link below to see our pricing list and compare. We encourage you to read our Guarantee. We feel it’s the most comprehensive in the industry. It confirms our commitment to deliver the highest quality service to our clients and deliver remarkable benefits and customer experience for managers, boards and unit owners.

https://condovoter.com/pricing/

CondoVoter Guarantee

Part of our commitment to you is the CondoVoter Guarantee. CondoVoter guarantees to you that;

1. Quorum Guarantee: We guarantee that you will meet quorum for your upcoming meeting by using our services. If a quorum is not met, we will host your meetings at no extra charge until you achieve quorum. 99% of our meetings achieve quorum in advance of the scheduled date.*

2. Service Guarantee: We guarantee that you will receive best-in-class services. We work closely with leading legal, privacy, and solution experts to ensure that our service to you meets legislative requirements as well as privacy and industry best practices.

3. Price Guarantee: We guarantee the lowest market rates for comparable services and solutions. Our service fees align with industry averages and include additional services like the ability to vote by phone or vote in advance of your meeting. If you can provide us a quote from another provider for the same service, we will match that price and offer an additional 5% discount.

*Quorum guarantee is only available for clients using advanced voting services.

Of course, we appreciate that you may have other questions or concerns about your community’s needs that are not outlined in our guarantees. We encourage you to reach out to us for more information or answer any questions you have.

The marketplace for virtual AGMs and electronic voting is constantly evolving. You can trust and count on our team to ensure your building leadership and community’s excellent experience.

Online Learning Workshop

It’s Great to Chair a Virtual Meeting!
Moving Beyond the Basics – Advanced Virtual Chair Certification, Part II

Virtual meetings are here to stay. And for those property managers or condo board directors who want to sharpen their meeting chair skills further, this CAI Canada workshop is for you.

Building on the skills you learned in the recent 2-part CAI Canada Virtual Workshop, this advanced workshop is for those who participated in the first sessions and those who have experience chairing virtual meetings.

With in-person meetings currently on pause, this is your chance to increase your knowledge and gain confidence in your role as a virtual chair.

What you’ll learn: Requisition meetings • Adjourned meetings • By-law meetings • Two AGMs in One – Catch up • Information meetings and Amendment to Declaration Discussion meetings

When: Thursday, June 10, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon

Cost (includes workshop, CAI Certificate of completion, sample scripts and checklists):
$25.00 CAI Canada Members (to get member pricing contact hello@caicanada.com)
Special offer: JOIN CAI CANADA today and get this WORKSHOP for FREE –https://caicanada.com/membership/
$75.00 for non-members

Your course leaders: Rod Escayola and Graeme MacPherson, Gowling WLG
Natalia Polis and Denise Lash, Lash Condo Law
Adam Arcuri, moderator, CondoVoter

Co-Sponsors: CondoVoter and CondoBusiness, REMINetwork.com
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Bonus! Learn more about Virtual Meetings.
Watch some of the discussion on the topic of virtual meetings and electronic voting from CondoAdviser’s webinar series:

Virtual AGMs & Electronic Voting – https://youtu.be/HgNEG0pdVPQn 
Notices for Virtual Meetings – https://youtu.be/8vDnnagIrZY
Proxies vs. Advance Electronic Voting – https://youtu.be/IbEcyl5QNdA
Registration for a Virtual Meeting & Electronic Voting – https://youtu.be/RLSpb3ufDGw
Hybrid Meetings – https://youtu.be/-qa7VSXjd4E
Controlling a Virtual Meeting – https://youtu.be/VVtOnhrPe0w
The Recording – https://youtu.be/KI6CmjW76SY

Product Update: Workflow & Tasks Lists to Make Your AGM Run Smoother

CondoVoter is excited to announce our most recent product update, which focuses on assisting property managers in scheduling and organizing your virtual meetings. We appreciate how much work goes into ensuring your virtual meeting runs smoothly. In this new virtual world, it can be easy to forget all the steps leading up to your next AGM.

As part of our April update, our CondoVoter Manager Portal now has workflow and tasks lists that assist you in the requirements leading up to your next AGM.

  • Confirm registration in advance – See who is planning on attending and whether they have placed an advance vote
  • Schedule auditors, lawyers and other presenters – Easily send an invitation and access link to your virtual meeting and confirm if they’ve accepted the invitation in advance
  • Insight into real-time updates on which units have voted and whether you have achieved quorum before your meeting begins
  • Tracking Owner Occupant Status and Units in Arrears

But that’s not all… Our product update also includes several improvements geared towards unit owners and candidates running in the election. Most notably, we are excited to announce the launch of our Candidate Portal.

Be informed: Speeches and videos let you know who, why a candidate is running

A common question we get asked is, “How am I expected to vote in advance if I don’t know who I am voting for?”

The Candidate Portal enables potential candidates to create a personalized bio about themselves, why they are running, and how they can assist the community. Included in these bios is the option to upload candidate speeches and videos! When unit owners view their ballots and place their vote, these dynamic profiles ensure that they are making an informed decision.

Want to find out more? Contact us to discuss how we can assist your community during your next AGM, Townhall or SGM.

Congratulations to 60 newly certified Virtual Chairs

Virtual meetings are now part of a condominium corporation’s new normal. But did you know there are some fine distinctions between chairing a virtual meeting compared to an in-person meeting? Capitalizing on a need to get managers and directors up to speed quickly, CAI Canada and other experts in the condominium industry, organized an eLearning Virtual Chair Certification program. Over two sessions in March, CAI Canada registered more than 60 participants for the virtual education sessions who learned the nuances of chairing online meetings and more.

Virtual coaches were Rod Escayola and Graeme MacPherson, Gowling WLG; and Natalia Polis and Denise Lash, Lash Condo Law. Adam Arcuri, CondoVoter was the moderator and a co-sponsor of the event.

We asked one of the newly certified participants, Bishnu Aryal, RCM a property manager with TAG–The Active Group, to tell us about his experience.

Q: Bishnu, why was it important for you to take this two-day Virtual Chair Certification session?

A: Knowledge is power, and skills help solve problems. As condominium boards and managers cannot organize the meetings in person due to the pandemic, the only way to comply with the mandate of conducting meetings in a timely fashion is to do it virtually.

I decided to take this two-day Virtual Certification session because I want to know the skills and strategies from the professionals in the field and gather the knowledge in the shortest possible time.

Q: How many virtual meetings have you chaired in the last year?

A: Over the past several years I have chaired and attended several AGMs and board meetings in person. In 2020 and 2021, so far I have attended and/or chaired about 10–12 board/general meetings.

Q: What new skills did you learn?

A: The best part for me was refreshing the legal and procedural part of meetings. Also, learning various technical aspects of video conferencing was valuable, e.g., how to effectively use chat, polling options and Q&A options.

Q: How will you use your new Virtual Chair Certification?

A: New skills will help me effectively conduct meetings. It helps to gain trust and respect of boards of directors, clients and owners. I will also use this knowledge to share it with my colleagues and team to improve their virtual meeting experience.

Q: What would you say to other managers that are thinking about signing up for the course?

A: For me training is not an expense, it is an investment. I recommend managers and boards of directors to take the advantages of the certification conducted by respected legal minds in the industry. Meeting checklists and sample scripts are good additions to the manager’s toolbox.

Jessica Katz, Operations & Account Manager

Jessica Katz, Operations and Account Manager

 

Q: What are the three best skills that you bring to your job?

A: I would say the best skills I bring to my job are organization, great communication skills, and drive for growth and improvement.

Q: Finish this sentence – On Monday morning you will find me …

A: Getting in 10 minutes of yoga as a start to the day, and then cozy in a sweatsuit with a hot tea at my desk to begin the work week.

Q: What’s a typical work day like for you?

A: I start my work day at 9am. The start of the day is usually taking inventory – seeing what has come in since my last work day ended and prioritizing tasks. A typical work day includes handling client inquiries by phone and email, preparing notices to be sent out, and setting up new clients in the system. Throughout the day, there is also lots of communication and conversations among the team as we help each other out and talk through any difficulties we may have come across.

Q:  Do you have any business skills or talents that people don’t know about?

A: I am a very fast typist, which even my coworkers likely don’t know about since we have all been working from home. My average typing speed is about 110 words per minute!

Q: What’s your favourite part about your job at CondoVoter?

A: Hard to pick a favourite part. I love engaging with clients on a daily basis. It is great to be able to help our clients through the process, and have that direct connection with them as an Account Manager. I love being part of an incredible company that values my input and feedback to promote growth of the organization and increase efficiency in all aspects. I feel very comfortable to bring my suggestions and ideas forward, and there is an open dialogue about how each of us can help CondoVoter to grow and be a part of that growth. I love being part of a great team that thrives on support and communication. There is always someone available to help when needed, talk through new processes or challenges, or simply just answer any questions that might come up. CondoVoter is a great place to work, and the Account Manager position is so multi-faceted and keeps me very engaged.

Partner Up: We’re Showing Our Support

A shifting condominium climate requires business colleagues that care about your ongoing success as condominium managers and management company executives. That’s why the CondoVoter team is excited to announce our new Partnership Program. We created this program to show our support to clients during rapidly changing times within the industry.

The goal of our Partner Program is to develop new – and strengthen existing –communication channels while providing consistent service combined with excellent quality. In working alongside property management teams, we intend to remain agile and prepare to adapt to new requirements by leveraging emerging technology.

Partners included in this program will have access to:

  • partner discounts
  • white-label solutions
  • educational sessions and team meetings
  • early access to new features
  • annual bundled packages
    • virtual board meetings + minute taking
    • townhalls
    • AGM

This is an early bird opportunity that you should not miss. Contact info@condovoter.com for more details and to sign up.

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