Category

Electronic Voting

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.

After the Pandemic: How Will You Meet?

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

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.”

Interview with Diane Rouleau, RCM of Freure PM

“We hit all our points!”

“We’ve completed all our virtual AGMs now for the year,” said Diane Rouleau, RCM, OLCM and Assistant Property Manager with Freure Property Management Ltd. Diane, a 10-year+ RCM, along with the Property Manager, manage six properties for Freure in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. A seventh property will be added from the developer in June. “Because we take on properties to manage directly from the developers, the whole condominium ownership is an education process for new owners and tenants.”

They began the search for a virtual meeting provider later in 2020 and, after conducting interviews, selected CondoVoter. “Our corporations each created a ‘virtual meetings and electronic voting bylaw’ and these were passed by a majority of units,” she explains. The bylaw will continue to allow the corporations to conduct their AGMs and electronic voting virtually.

When reflecting on all the recently completed virtual meetings Diane said, “It’s been awesome! The moderators were fantastic. All CondoVoter staff have been lovely to deal with. They’re well-versed and keep our meetings on track. Even our seasoned directors love them [virtual meetings].”

In recent months, CondoVoter tweaked several of its features and added new ones to its services. One of Diane’s favourite features has been the Management Portal. “I get to see which units have pre-voted and when I’ve hit quorum. Once I know this, I can breathe easy. It’s a relief.”

She also allows that meeting pre-registration is a great help. “We’ve been able to achieve 75% participation with virtual meetings. Sometimes we’ve only made 25% participation with in-person meetings.”

Diane has been pleased with the ease of use with virtual meetings that help make owner attendance and participation easier. “Some owners I know, especially those who work shifts, have even been able to log-in to attend the AGMs from their place of employment.” To date, Diane has not come across an issue with their older demographic owners not being able to attend virtual meetings. “Last year perhaps only two out of 64 owners at one corporation didn’t have computer access. All our owners are quite tech-savvy.”

She explains a number of other benefits, especially for managers. “As a property manager I find virtual meetings to be a ‘safer environment’. I still recall in horror an in-person meeting when police had to be called,” she adds with a huge sigh. “With virtual meetings there seems to be more control over speakers and less opportunity for expressing anger or negativity.”

“I’ve also found that while in-person meetings have sometimes run up to 2.5 hours, we can complete all the obligations of an AGM in one hour. There are fewer questions from the floor. Shorter meetings, being more efficient, are also great when working from home.”

Lengthy in-person meetings, at least for now, seem like a distant memory. “With the security of CondoVoter as our third-party provider, they keep us on track and we can hit all the agenda points we need to.”

 

Virtual Meetings Mean Real Business for Condo Corporations

“When the pandemic started, many owners were all nervous about conducting meetings virtually. Now they feel confident and happy, and that’s in huge part thanks to CondoVoter,” stated Fred Mucci, Regional Director, FirstService Residential after the conclusion of a recent virtual meeting.

Fred reckons he has chaired 20+ virtual meetings with CondoVoter providing hosting duties. “I have not had a bad experience. Anything we’ve asked of CondoVoter has been provided. The host is always friendly. The orientation sessions are helpful. CondoVoter staff walk participants through the steps including how to conduct a show of hands. Then the manager takes over control of the business meeting itself. Knowing the support is there takes the pressure off the chairperson.”

Condominium corporations conduct meetings with owners and residents as a regular part of the condominium’s operations. “In-person annual general meetings and special meetings have always been such an important aspect of condominium affairs,” adds Fred. “People gear up towards them and that’s great. But a virtual meeting allows the real business of a corporation to take place with fewer interruptions.”

Fred likes to emphasize the efficiency of virtual meetings.

“We can actually run a business meeting in one hour or less and achieve all the goals we set out. Advance voting also contributes to the meeting’s efficiency. We are reaching quorum almost every meeting. I think just one meeting did not reach quorum.”

With telephone voting included in CondoVoter’s services, there’s an added benefit that helps to reach quorum. “Telephone voting is ‘invisible’ because it’s conducted behind the scenes. We rely on CondoVoter for this function. I’m loving it.”

Most of the properties that Fred supervises are townhomes. A small number of owners have been reluctant to attend saying it doesn’t feel like a meeting. “There’s no opportunity for chit chat,” he laughs. “But there’s less anxiety for others. Plus, due to the technology aspect of virtual meetings, the actual meeting becomes the centre of attention and less emphasis on the social function.”

He concedes the elderly demographic still miss the social aspect of meetings and always will. “After this is over and we are back to normal, we have one property that will go back to in-person meetings and that’s OK.”

Fred and his team have had some discussion about meetings going forward and definitely want to continue with virtual meetings “with one annual ‘Town Hall-style’ in-person meeting when it’s allowed, just so people can still meet together. It’s a bee in my bonnet.”

Virtual Meetings: One Year Later

“It’s the easiest format ever,” says Anne Beauchesne, OLCM and a property manager with Sanderson Management Inc., in Waterloo, Ontario, where she manages eight corporations. “Virtual meetings are better than in-person and, for a busy property manager, much faster.”

It’s one year since the coronavirus pandemic changed all our lives. It’s also one year since virtual meetings became the new normal for conducting board meetings and AGMs in the condominium sector. Due to government-imposed restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19, in-person meetings were effectively cancelled as property managers and their boards scrambled to find new ways to hold meetings for their condominium corporations.

“We had been looking at various platforms to host virtual meetings,” Anne explained. “CondoVoter was attractive to our budget.” Now, close to one year later and a smooth uptake Anne adds, “The team is fabulous and everyone there knows about meetings.”

“The team is fabulous and everyone there knows about meetings.”

As with anything new, there were some minor challenges especially with senior residents with no computers or email and little technical knowledge. But Anne says now many elderly residents are getting their kids and grandkids to help out so they are able to vote and attend the meeting virtually. In fact, Anne knows of 3-4 owners who are within their selective “bubble” and who virtually attend their corporation’s meetings and watch the proceedings on TV, rotating meetings from one condo to the other.

CondoVoter has been able to accommodate some unique needs for Anne and the condo corporations she manages. Things like last minute changes to dates, and switching over hosting duties to management to continue after the AGM or board meeting has concluded are just two ways CondoVoter has met Anne’s meeting needs. Anne appreciates the changes CondoVoter made to phone voting that now allow callers to take part in meetings and not just listen. “I’m very happy. I’m never going back to in-person,” laughs Anne.

Anne appreciates the changes CondoVoter made to phone voting that now allow callers to take part in meetings and not just listen.

Anne has one board that definitely won’t go back to in-person either. She says “I’m perfectly ok with that.” But she adds you have to know your properties and buildings. Each has different needs and demographics.

Anne has been pleased with the overall benefits of hosted virtual meetings. As a manager who chairs these meetings she adds “Virtual meetings are much easier for managers and guests such as auditors. There is no travel so it saves a significant amount of my time. From home I can log in and get information to the board meeting in real time. I can actually be better prepared.”

Personalized Presentations for Condo Management

CondoVoter and Lash Condo Law are teaming up to provide personalized virtual presentations for condominium management companies. It’s a one-hour virtual meeting that offers an overview of the virtual meeting and e-voting ‘new normal’ and the real-life benefits for condominium corporations.

For her part, Denise Lash discusses the difference between advance voting and proxies. Adam Arcuri continues with an overview of CondoVoter’s platform including its new features that provide greater access and efficiencies. You’ll also be introduced to the Partner Discounts Program.

In-depth topics will include:

  • quorum (how e-voting helps achieve this)
  • meeting attendance (did you know a proxy holder must be in attendance; advance voters are not required to be in attendance!)

Other important questions will be answered: Can I change my advance vote? How many steps are involved? Will it be easy for elderly residents? How do I register? What if some residents don’t have a computer or email?

CondoVoter platform … and more

CondoVoter is all about simplifying and streamlining the owners’ meeting experience … and increasing owner participation to achieve quorum. Adam will explain the benefits of an online owner’s portal, why integrated candidate profiles are useful, how ballots can be customized and how real-time voting updates are accomplished.

These are just some of the topics that will be covered. As condominium managers, you’ll walk away with a better knowledge to advise your boards. You’ll feel confident recommending new, highly efficient processes to your board and …  knowing that your virtual meetings can come off without a hitch.

Denise Lash is principal Lash Condo Law.
Adam Arcuri is president, CondoVoter.

To request a virtual presentation for your condo management team, contact info@condovoter.com

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