5 Creative Strategies that Our Clients Have Used to Run Smooth Q & A Sessions

By Anthony Ing
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Question & Answer periods during AGMs present a valuable opportunity once a year for owners to engage in dialogue with property management and the board. It goes without saying that keeping Question & Answer period on track is vital for running a smooth AGM.

However, too often, we’ve heard anecdotes of Q & A sessions getting out of hand and owners monopolizing the microphone.

At Condonexus, we prepare carefully for Q & A sessions with our property managers using standard techniques, such as hand raises and microphone management, to ensure that individual owners do not monopolize the Q & A session.

We’ve also seen some creative techniques used by property managers and boards to ensure that Q & A sessions run smoothly. This blog article is dedicated to these hidden gem strategies.

We present 5 of the most creative techniques we have seen our clients use to manage their Q & A sessions.

1. Launch a Survey Weeks Before the AGM

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One of our downtown condo clients released a survey to their owners and residents weeks ahead of their AGM. Among the questions asked were “Are there any deficiencies in the common areas you would like to report?” and “Do you have any other feedback?’.

This was brilliant for three reasons:

  • 1. Residents/owners felt like they had a channel to engage with the condo
  • 2. Management was able to respond to certain issues such that they were no longer outstanding by the time the meeting rolled around
  • 3. Management and the board were able to get a strong pulse on what was bothering residents/owners ahead of the AGM

While the condo received a record number of proxies using Condonexus, the meeting was attended by less owners compared to previous years.

Management believes owners saw the survey as an effective substitute method for providing their feedback, in lieu of waiting for the AGM to ask their questions.

Management and the board were also able to understand key issues affecting its stakeholders and plan how to address them.

Releasing a survey ahead of the meeting made for a more comfortable Q & A session and more satisfied owners.

2. Really Show That You Are Actively Listening to Each Owner

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As you are aware, being a good listener goes a long way towards building trust with your audience. A chairperson at one of our hosted virtual AGMs went a step further to show that they were a good listener by picking up his note pad and taking notes after every question.

While minutes are recorded at meetings and most property managers review them after the meeting to follow up on action items, owners may not be aware of this. When the chairperson was able to show that he was actively listening to the owners through note taking, the conversation turned into one of cooperation. As an added benefit of taking notes, the board and management did not need to wait for the meeting minutes to take action on questions that were posed at the meeting.

3. Meet with High-Touch Owners One-on-One Before the Meeting

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Every service industry is met with some clients that are more high touch than others, and the property management industry is no different. In the property management industry, these are owners that may have a larger set of needs or demands, and in some cases, can bring a laundry list of questions to the AGM. Sometimes you may also hear disproportionately more negative comments from these owners.

If you anticipate that feedback from an owner may cross the line from constructive to negativity, it may be best for both parties to isolate the situation and handle it one-on-one before the meeting. Managing these owners one-on-one may prevent the meeting from getting sidetracked.

By meeting one-on-one, you may be able to develop a deeper understanding of the owner. It may enable you to see where the owner is coming from and to put yourself in their shoes to better understand their goals and motivation. Meeting without other stakeholders in the room can also take the pressure off and make them feel more comfortable, potentially leading to more clear and calm conversations.

Managing stakeholders can sometimes be easier said than done, and every owner responds differently. As always, practice judgement when using this strategy.

4. Take Time to Review Your Financial Statements

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Financial statements can be a puzzling document to most individuals, and this includes property managers. Financial statements are commonly filled with jargon and are usually compiled using esoteric conventions that often require an accounting degree to fully understand.

Despite how enigmatic financial statements may seem to some, we cannot understate how important it is to review the financial statements before the meeting. The Q & A session for the audited financial statements normally comes at the beginning of the meeting, and it presents a great opportunity for management to build trust and credibility with an audience that may be meeting them for the first time.

In one case, a board member of a condo we hosted a meeting for reviewed the audited financial statements carefully before the meeting. In doing so, he was able to identify potential line items that could draw the attention of owners.

At the meeting, a question arose about how Fire & Safety had gone over budget. Since the board member had 1) reviewed the financials before the meeting, 2) identified the over budget Fire & Safety line item, and 3) reviewed the corresponding general ledger to identify specific expenses that contributed to the over budget, he was able to clearly and confidently convey why the expense was over budget. Actions like this can provide comfort to owners in knowing that their finances are being carefully and professionally managed.

5. Review the Board’s Report as a Team

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The majority of the AGMs we host have a Report from the Board of Directors as part of the agenda. Often times, questions asked during the Q&A session emanate from points brought up during the President’s report. That is why we believe it is always important for the entire team – all directors & management – to review the Board’s Report together. After all, if the questions from your owners will be generally directed towards the entire team, the entire team should have an opportunity review the Board’s Report before it is read aloud.

By reviewing the Board’s Report together, every team member will be able to bring their own perspectives and thoughts to the table. The ultimate goal is to align on a clear and concise script, and prevent any confusion or misunderstandings from arising from your owners.

Key questions to ask yourselves when reviewing the Board’s Report include:

  • • Are there any key items that have not been included in the report that should be included?
  • • Are there any items that are of low materiality and can be omitted?
  • • Will any part of the report lead to a misunderstanding by the owners?
  • • What questions may arise after owners hear your message?
  • • Are there any controversial topics that may be more suitable for another forum?