Category

Virtual Meetings

The Post-Pandemic Road: Leaders Share their Perspectives

CondoVoter - Team - Electronic Condo Corporation Voting

Left to right: Angel-Marie Reiner; Darryl Fulton; Catharine R. Beatty; and Shawn Pulver.

It’s mid-summer hot in Ontario. After months and months of stops and starts, you can begin to feel a difference in people’s outlook and demeanours. Most Ontarians have received at least one vaccination and many have now double dosed. Businesses are slowly reopening following the Government of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen. There has been a collective sigh of relief that perhaps the worst is now behind us.

So, what does this mean for the condominium industry? Will condo corporations return to the status quo pre-pandemic and hold in-person AGMs and owners’ meetings? Will each corporation choose its own path forward? We reached out to several condominium industry leaders to gather their thoughts. We hope you enjoy their observations.

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In my opinion, as we slowly experience the easing of restrictions, invariably meetings will shift back to in person. Already many meetings are being held outside to meet with contractors and for exterior inspections to name a couple. Many board members naturally prefer in person and the same with property managers. The effectiveness of meeting in person versus virtually will have an organic effect on this change in the industry. For owners’ meetings, most feedback seems to be a vocal anticipation of being able to meet again and make those connections many of us in the industry are missing. Owners’ meetings are often as much about business as they are about the social and community aspect of the corporation. Residents with language, technological or other hindrances may have been adversely affected throughout the past two annual general meetings. I do expect that people want to go back to in-person meetings to have that personal touch and interaction. Not to be forgotten, virtual meetings are quick to set up, easy to hold, allow for good communication and eliminate attendance challenges. Many corporations likely experienced a nice feeling of knowing that their quorum numbers were met well ahead of the meeting. 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 that would be associated. Small corporations will likely fall back to meeting in person for cost reasons mainly. Some may opt for virtual just to ensure quorum. For board meetings, I anticipate 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. It has been a difficult road but, amongst other efficiencies that have been ferreted out in this pandemic, the virtual meeting is here to stay … but in a more useful, helpful way rather than the now vanishing forced obligation it has been.


Darryl Fulton
Regional Condominium Manager

Goldview Property Management

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I opened our Condominium Management Division in 2019; I was surprised at how dated technology was, how heavily “papered” the industry was/is. I heard from my peers in the industry who seemed to fear change, saying, ‘we have just always done it that way.’  

Can you imagine if we lived in a society where the above statement was acceptable and we didn’t grow professionally and, for that matter, personally?

I knew there had to be better ways. Before COVID-19, I could not understand why board meetings were being held in person, particularly those after hours. The mere suggestion of holding a meeting virtually was not well received.  

Board members are volunteers; many of the members work during the day, why after a full day of work, would they want to drive to our office or another location, take the meeting, and then drive home? Would it not be nicer to be home when the meeting is done, save the drive time? Plus, it would be a better solution for our property managers to save drive time and promote balance.  

We tried in 2019 to introduce virtual meetings with little success. Then the pandemic changed our lives. Virtual meetings became the norm and not the exception to the rule.    

It took time to get used to these meetings, to get a rhythm going, there were many “Bob, we can’t see you”, “Susan, you are on mute”, “Everyone, please mute as the background notice is distracting.”  

After an adoption period, our boards now prefer the virtual experience from virtual meetings, e-voting and automated payment processing.  Further the response from virtual AGMs was overwhelmingly positive. Even with the thoughts that we may be able to have AGMs in person, in the future, we have booked most of our corporations for virtual AGMs because they are more efficient and who doesn’t love efficiency!

 
Angel-Marie Reiner
President 

Onyx Condo Management

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There is no doubt that the ability to hold virtual meetings has been a saviour for the condominium industry throughout the pandemic. It has allowed unit owners to continue to stay informed about key operational and financial aspects of their corporation. As the restrictions are lifted, boards of directors will need to make decisions on whether to continue with these virtual meetings.

One of the major positive aspects of virtual meetings is their inclusiveness. As the auditor, we attend the annual general meetings for our condominium corporation clients to present the financial statements. Prior to the pandemic, some in-person meetings for buildings with over 400 units would only have 10 people in attendance. Now, when held as a virtual meeting, that same building may have over 100 people in attendance.  Virtual meetings allow many people to participate who would otherwise be unable to attend. For example, parents with young children, individuals with disabilities when a meeting is offsite and owners that do not live in their units. This increased attendance has tremendous value to a board, as it allows them the opportunity to communicate directly with more unit owners, address their concerns and share ideas to improve the management of the corporation.

From our perspective, we believe that our presentation of the audited financial statements has been greatly improved through virtual meetings. At in-person meetings, we have found that few unit owners have the financial statements with them; however, at virtual meetings, the financial statements are displayed on screen, so unit owners can follow along as we review them. This has allowed us to more effectively educate and inform the unit owners, and we have received positive feedback on the experience over the past year. 

These are just two of the positive aspects of virtual meetings, but there are many more.  For this reason, we believe that virtual meetings will continue for many corporations, in particular, the larger buildings or those that need to hold meetings offsite. The benefits of holding virtual meetings will be hard for many of the boards to ignore post-pandemic.

Catharine R. Beatty, CPA, CA
Client Service Manager

Rapkin Wein LLP

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It is clear that virtual condo meetings are here to stay for the long term. The pandemic has forced service providers in many industries (including legal) to look at other ways to provide strong services, by relying more on technology and innovation. The days of paper proxies and paper ballots are clearly numbered. As someone who has litigated election-related disputes, I can see first-hand the benefits of having electronic votes that avoid the possibility of human error, and provide owners with the opportunity to change their vote at any time. I have seen far too many situations where owners attend a meeting where the outcome of an election has already been predetermined before any candidate has even spoken. Owners may have wanted to change their vote after hearing from certain candidates, but it was too late. I am thrilled when I see condo voting and condo elections back in line with the current technological environment. 

Shawn Pulver
Founder and principal

Pulver on Condos

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Passing Bylaws the Virtual Way

CondoVoter - Team - Electronic Condo Corporation Voting

Condominium corporations are complex legal entities governed by the Condominium Act as well as their Declaration, bylaws and rules. Some bylaws, such as a bylaw to add electronic voting and virtual meetings, require a majority vote from only those residents present at the AGM or owners’ meeting (present can be in person, virtually, electronically or by proxy). Other bylaws, such as a Standard Unit bylaw, require a majority vote in favour from all voting units in the condominium. In this case study, we explore the process one corporation is undertaking to approve three different bylaws.

Overview

One year ago, a Standard Unit bylaw (SUB) was to be introduced by a Toronto area condominium corporation to residents at their AGM. While the appetite for a new SUB gained traction among residents, voting did not meet the threshold of a majority in favour from all voting units. And so the meeting was adjourned to reconvene at a later time. This process of adjournment/reconvening continued for a number of meetings.

At the reconvened meeting held in April 2021, two other bylaws were introduced: 1) Directors’ Qualifications, and 2) Telecommunications bulk metering bylaw combined with a Section 97 Substantial Vote change. Again, there was insufficient participation to reach quorum and the meeting was adjourned to allow more time for owners to review the bylaws and information about the Substantial Change vote for their next vote.

Virtual Adjourned Meeting Process

The steps involved to adjourn meetings and to reconvene at a later date can be cumbersome. The process requires the same timeframe as for AGMs: 35 days’ preliminary notice to owners and 15 days for the notice of meeting.

Tuan Tran is a Regional Manager with City Sites Property Management Inc. Tuan retained CondoVoter on behalf of the condo corporation to provide virtual meeting and e-voting services. It was Tuan’s first time working with CondoVoter who had been recommended by managers from his team. The first step was to reach out to owners by email to send the preliminary notice of the meeting. The next step was an email to the owners sent approximately 17 days before the meeting date with the notice of meeting package which also contained a unique encrypted link to the electronic ballot for owners to cast their vote in advance of the meeting. “This part of the early process went very well,” explains Tuan. “Logistics can be challenging, especially reaching offsite owners, where we have had to coordinate hard copy delivery. We saw benefits right after the first preliminary notice email notice that was sent to owners.”

Next steps included explaining meeting preparation and training for management and the board. “We really appreciated the pre-training, which included how to deal with specific elements such as raising hands, muting and other features within the platform. It was very useful.”

One specific area that CondoVoter addressed for the board was how would owners voice any concerns. “The virtual moderator took care of addressing all these concerns in meeting – working with the chair of the meeting in asking for motions and second motions,” said Tuan. “The virtual moderator also took professional control of the Q&A at the end of the meeting employing chat, virtual hands, mute/unmute. In my experience, virtual meetings allow management and boards to have more control. Meetings get less out of hand or aggressive.” Tuan adds, “These are all good features to have!”

Because of the introduction of two new bylaws and the Substantial Change vote it was important to include panellists on the agenda and add them to the Q&A. “It was crucial to have their input especially in light of the new bylaws and this was very successful.”

Finally, as a value-added service, CondoVoter offered a professional minute-taker. “One less headache to deal with for us!”

Results

Adjourned meetings have been known to take one or two years to get the necessary majority of voting units to vote to pass a bylaw.

Tuan is extremely pleased to report their corporation’s Standard Unit bylaw passed successfully! “Electronic voting was easy to track,” he adds. “We didn’t have to start over or wait for more residents to vote. We were made aware of the number of votes after each adjournment and the live feed was great.” He also appreciated the weekly reminders to vote that CondoVoter sent to owners. “This helped us get the majority vote to pass the SUB. No doubt!”

From e-Voting to Virtual Meetings … an Easy Transition

CondoVoter - Team - Electronic Condo Corporation Voting - Toronto

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?

team - CondoVoter - Electronic Condo Corporation Voting - Toronto

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.”

Welcome to the CV Team: Paras Anand, Meeting Coordinator

team - CondoVoter - Electronic Condo Corporation Voting - Toronto

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.

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.”

 

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

The Future of Virtual Meetings

A Q&A with Rod Escayola, Gowling WLG

An experienced condominium lawyer and an elected director on the board of his condo corporation in Ottawa, Rod Escayola is well-versed in the Condominium Act, condo law, meetings and AGMs. In fact, he was an early adopter of virtual meetings not only for his corporation but also for the law firm where he is a partner, Gowling WLG. We asked Rod to give us his thoughts on the value of virtual meetings one year on, and to discuss the benefits of continuing on the virtual meeting path once the pandemic is over.

Overview

Q: Rod, you are both legal counsel and a meeting chair. Have virtual meetings offered any advantages to you?
A: There are many advantages to holding virtual meetings. I have found virtual meetings to be as good a forum as in-person meetings. Better, if done properly – in a transparent and inclusive manner. Owners need to feel included in the ‘process’. Meetings must be a ‘two-way street’ with no one feeling left out.

A virtual meeting is more conducive to a business meeting, which is what an AGM or an owners’ meeting really is about. There are far fewer interruptions during virtual meetings or less attempts to derail the meeting’s agenda. The comments I have heard are that virtual meetings are more efficient and easier to follow for owners.

Q: Do you think AGMs have benefited from the ability to share materials on screen?
A: This is a distinct benefit. The chair can show documents onscreen while owners follow along. It is also much easier to catch up in the event you lose track. Having documents on screen makes answering questions a lot easier. Everyone can “be on the same page” so to speak.

The Virtual AGM and Owners’ Meetings

Q: The province has supported virtual meetings and electronic voting for condominium corporations while in-person meetings are on hold, and has extended the deadline to December 31 for this transitional period. What should a condo corporation look for when choosing a virtual meeting and eVoting platform
A: This is an excellent question. The virtual meeting platform needs to afford reliability along with all of the other “checks and balances”. A virtual meeting platform must allow for real time meaningful participation. It must provide transparency. Owners must be able to see how many hands are being raised and they must feel reassured that those wishing to speak or ask questions are able to do so. There are tons of ways to be transparent and, most importantly, to show that you are transparent.

A virtual meeting cannot just be a broadcast that people watch. It’s a participative exercise.

eVoting is both reliable and useful. You can cast your vote anytime in advance of the meeting, and over a longer period, for example, two weeks. With the ability to vote ahead comes another advantage – you can make changes, if necessary, to the vote you cast.

eVoting is here to stay.  Get comfortable with it and get the right service provider. It is insufficient, in my view, to have people vote by show of hand or by email.

I feel the following are the most valuable features to look for with respect to eVoting: i) Reliability. The corporation should feel confident that votes will be received from those owners entitled to vote; ii) Ability to verify documentation. It is important to have the ability to trace back to the source and to respond to a records request if required; and iii) Confidentiality. Owners should not know how another owner has voted.

Q: What about clients continuing with in-person meetings but using electronic voting and telephone voting?
A: You’re talking about hybrid meetings. This is a great option and I suspect this is how most meetings will be held in the future, with some owners attending in person but with all owners voting electronically. Voting electronically (even when in-person meetings return) is a great solution for those owners or directors with limited mobility, those looking after a parent or a child or those who are travelling.

Q: What do you think about telephone voting?
A: Telephone voting is a ‘roll back’ to a comfortable technology that everyone is familiar with. It has a certain comfort level, and is easy to use. It also addresses the most common concern we hear about those owners without email or without internet.  Telephone voting was the missing piece! No one is left behind.

Are Proxies a Thing of the Paper Past?

Q: What is your opinion on proxies? Are proxies required for a virtual meeting
A: My opinion on paper proxies is that they are a disaster! The government’s mandatory forms are not flexible nor user-friendly, simply because they are hard to complete. An eProxy fixes some of these challenges in the sense that they are easier to complete.

Some people seem to be fixated on paper proxies because it gives them some comfort, of holding onto something that’s tangible. Unfortunately, a paper proxy often allows others to control the vote, the outcomes and even the agenda of corporation meetings. Also, paper proxies don’t work well in the virtual world. They complicate things.

My feeling is that the paper proxy is on its way out.

I also wish proxies were limited to obtaining quorum or to locking in a vote – with the owner actually voting. I don’t agree with the concept of giving your vote to someone else. It makes no sense. One person, one vote.

Q: What is the difference between advance voting and eProxy voting?
A: Both of these voting options can be done by owners using their laptop or desktop computer – or by phone with some providers. As I mentioned, advance voting allows an owner to cast their own vote before the AGM or meeting and change their vote if required. While eProxies are easy to complete, I don’t see them as adding anything to electronic voting. They are kind of the old way of doing things. EVoting is easier.

The Future of Virtual Meetings

Q: A common concern in virtual environments is ensuring all demographics, specifically, individuals who may not be tech-savvy can participate. In your experience, have those groups been isolated or experienced challenges participating in virtual meetings and electronic ballots?
A: As with most new things, and virtual meetings is still a new technology, there are “old school” owners who, sadly, do not have email or internet. These owners often require help from someone to make it easy for them to participate in their condo’s virtual AGM. Telephone voting is an appropriate solution for many of these owners. Additionally, I feel that sometimes ‘old school’ owners might also benefit from a little ‘tough love’. Let’s help those who truly don’t have the means to embrace the technology but let’s nudge those who have it, but are just resisting change out of habit or comfort. The future is pretty amazing. Hop along!

Q: Do you think your clients will continue with virtual meetings after the pandemic?
A: It is my hope that most will continue with virtual meetings or, at the very least, hybrid meetings going forward. There are tons of benefits to virtual meetings, including that they are less costly in most cases. They allow the professionals including lawyers and accountants, who often have 3–4 meetings scheduled in an evening, to show up. I expect some professionals to eventually charge more for in-person meetings simply due to the additional time they require. With all the virtual meeting and voting options available, no one should feel left behind.

 

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