Virtual Meetings in the Real World

There was a time not so long ago that association meetings were fairly routine. We knew how to bring people together...

The Copeland Group
January 15, 2021

There was a time not so long ago that association meetings were fairly routine. We knew how to bring people together, conduct business, and collect ballots or proxies. Then the pandemic arrived. While association business needs are much the same, getting things done is different. People must meet without actually getting together. Virtual meetings have become common, bringing with them new questions and challenges. 

Virtual meetings were not even imagined when many association governing documents were drafted. For now, most Washington associations are allowed by Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-51 to hold meetings this way. It’s considered the safest and smartest way to gather. Each association should check with their legal counsel to see what, if anything, they need to do to allow virtual meetings to continue once the pandemic is over and the proclamation expires. 

Meeting this way is not all bad. There is no need to locate or rent a meeting space or provide refreshments. Guest speakers are more likely to be available. 

And many associations are finding virtual meetings bring greater attendance and participation. People who live offsite, are out of town, or were previously unable to attend for other reasons can now simply click a link or dial up a connection to join a meeting from just about anywhere.

Community Engagement 

To ensure maximum participation, make the process as understandable as possible. People are more likely to feel included in their community if they are comfortable joining in and don’t get frustrated once they’re there. 

  • Use a platform that is known to be user-friendly. It should offer the options of calling in or video. 
  • Send detailed instructions with the meeting notice about how to join the meeting. Explain what is needed on their computer or phone; what to click on; and what to expect once they are “in”. Include one-touch dialing and a link to click. Too much information is better than not enough but keep it simple. 
  • If you will be making a visual presentation (such as sharing a document on Zoom), provide a copy of what will be shared in advance so those who will be on their phones during the meeting can follow along. 
  • Ask a tech-savvy volunteer to receive and respond to questions in advance from those who may be concerned about getting properly set up for a meeting. Let owners know who this person is. 
  • Although you have likely mailed the meeting notice and instructions well in advance of the meeting, email that same information again a day or two ahead of the meeting. People will appreciate the reminder and having the information handy. 
  • At the beginning of each meeting, offer a quick review of what to expect during the meeting and how to use any buttons, symbols, or icons on the screen. Remember that someone may have phoned in and will not have those same capabilities. 

Ballots, Voting, and Proxies 

Without a sign-in sheet, paper proxies or paper ballots, administering association business can seem daunting – especially for larger associations. 


  • Request owners to submit proxies prior to the meeting. It is difficult to validate a proxy that someone has in hand from a remote location. If a proxy is presented remotely, announce that it will be accepted provisionally until it can be verified when a copy is received.
  • Encourage all owners to turn in a proxy, even if they plan on attending. That proxy can be withdrawn if the owner does attend. Noting the proxies on a checklist of owners may show, even prior to the meeting, that a quorum has been reached. 

Directed Proxies 

  • Use directed proxies – a proxy that directs the person holding the proxy to vote on the items up for consideration at the meeting – whenever possible. An owner who sends in a directed proxy AND ends up attending the meeting, should be given the opportunity to change their vote during the meeting if they choose. 
  • Include copies of any items to be considered by the owners (draft meeting minutes, resolutions to be adopted, etc.) with the meeting notice. This allows owners to review those items prior to the meeting and indicate their approval on the directed proxy form. 
  • When applicable, provide statements from the board candidates with the meeting notice. Allow owners to vote on the directed proxy. Unfortunately, this will not take into account any nominations taken from the floor, but any owner attending the meeting can change how they voted on their proxy. 

Voting During the Meeting 

As with any meeting, there is more than one way to call for and record votes. Your association’s options may depend on your governing documents or whether the Governor’s Proclamation applies. 

Roll Call 

This works best for those matters requiring a “yes”/”no” vote- approval of minutes, adoption of a routine resolution, etc. By asking for “aye” and “nay” votes, the outcome will most likely be obvious. If it’s not obvious, a visual vote such as a show of” thumbs up” may do it. Finally, unless it is requested the vote be secret, a quick roll call of those in attendance while noting their votes may be needed. 


Smaller associations have found that submitting votes by email during the meeting works well. If everyone attending the meeting is agreeable and able to send their vote to a designated person during the meeting, the votes can be tallied in real-time and announced before the end of the meeting. For larger associations, providing owners with a designated amount of time following the meeting to email 14 Community Associations Journal | January/February 2021 their votes works best. This allows ample time to receive and count the votes; the results can then be communicated to the community. 

Electronic Votes 

Depending on the meeting platform being used, owners can submit their vote by “chatting” privately to a designated person. Some platforms allow for polling or online voting to take place during the meeting. Be prepared to accept a vote from someone using their phone – maybe by text. 

Written Ballots 

Send written ballots ahead of the meeting, to be returned by a specified date. 

Owner Questions and Comments 

A successful virtual meeting will allow owners to be recognized to ask questions and offer comments. Be sure attendees know how to do this. Explain what features are available to them in the meeting platform. This may include using the “raise hand” function or “chatting” the question to a designated person. Attendees can also be asked to submit their questions ahead of time so they can be addressed during the meeting. 

Hosting a Successful Meeting 

  • Be familiar with the meeting app/platform. 
  • Have a co-host who can: 
  • Assist with tallying votes if necessary 
  • Monitor the chat function 
  • Manage Questions and Answers 
  • Mute/turn video off if participant is being disruptive 
  • Provide meeting guidelines to attendees along with the official notice and ask people to:
  • Log in 10 minutes early, this will allow time for the host to “sign in” the attendees as they are admitted to the meeting.  
  • Put their name/unit number as their identifier on the screen. 
  • Keep themselves muted unless they are speaking. 
  • Use the chat function for questions only. Discourage its use for distracting comments and sidebar conversations. 
  • Use their video, if possible. Seeing the faces and body language of those that you are meeting with promotes better communication and makes the meeting experience more personal. Especially during these times when people may feel isolated, it adds a human touch and can build relationships and foster a sense of community. 

Most associations say they will not go back to the old way of holding in-person meetings exclusively. Both boards and owners appreciate the benefits proven by virtual association, board, or committee meetings. This includes increased owner participation, more efficient processes for conducting business and greater flexibility in scheduling meetings and inviting others to attend. By holding meetings that are more accessible, making it easier for owners to attend and observe, associations end up with a better-informed ownership that feels more included in the process of how decisions are made for their community.

The Copeland Group

Providing a full range of professional management services personalized to fit the needs of your community and homeowners. Proudly serving the Seattle area since 2004.