LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION! IT’S SHOWTIME!
Think of your Annual Meeting as a Theatrical Production to ensure success
by Arlene-Frances Ring
Director of Public Relations
It's Showtime! Your annual meeting is the most important meeting of the year and it is your time to shine. Think of your annual meeting as a theater production and your owners are the audience. If the production is appealing, they will attend.
If your community does not have a clubhouse, consider holding your annual meeting somewhere else within the community rather than at an off-site location. For example, if your association has a dry retention pond (and it is not in the middle of the rainy season) you could hold the annual meeting at the retention pond. You can rent an open gazebo type tent (to shield the owners from the sun) and plastic folding chairs at a minimal cost. Don't have a retention pond? Another idea would be to hold the meeting at the end of a cul-de-sac. By having your meeting within the community, you counter one of the common excuses ("I didn't have a means of transportation to get there") for not attending. The more comfortable the surroundings and easily accessible the location, the more likely the owners will attend the meeting.
To generate more interest among the owners to attend the meeting, offer door prizes. These may be gifts that are donated either by individuals within the associations or local merchants. For example, if there is a Mary Kay lady or Amway dealer in your community, perhaps they would be willing to donate merchandise as a door prize. And don't forget to tap the sometimes overlooked business segment of the neighbor - the teenager who mows lawns on the weekend. Not only does the Association obtain door prizes to boost attendance, but these businesses obtain valuable exposure at minimal cost. Another way to entice a business person to donate a door prize is to provide him one month's free advertising in your newsletter (all about newsletters in our next edition). The possibilities are endless. Once you=ve obtained the door prizes, don't forget to recognize the businesses in your mailings and at the meeting. This way it is a win-win situation for both the members and the business owner.
Another great "attendance getter" is to have refreshments available. There are two ways to approach serving refreshments. A committee could donate baked goods or perhaps a local merchant could donate refreshments in exchange for mentioning their business and providing them free advertising in your newsletter or membership directory depending on the value of the refreshments. However, do not use association funds to purchase door prizes or pay for refreshments unless your Governing Documents provide such expenditures. This would expose you and your Board to criticism as to the propriety and possibly the legality of, by some, for expending Association funds for improper social purposes.
A lot of Associations feature a guest speaker at their meetings. The following are a few suggestions for speakers to appear at your annual meeting:
- landscape professionals giving tips on maintaining your property.
- the principal from one of the schools in your district speaking on what direction the school is taking with its students.
- if there is a "hot" issue, consider asking your attorney speak to the membership.
- realtors providing tips on how to showcase your home to get the best possible price.
- elected officials speaking on topics of interest to the association.
- candidates for public office who will explain their position on the issues. This gives them some valuable and free exposure.
- an attorney to speak on such day to day issues such as the importance of having a will or consumer law issues.
The possibilities are unlimited. Try to think of topics which interest your membership. A little bit of imagination goes a long way.
You will also want to provide professional and eye-catching notices for your annual meetings. Preparing the correct and legal notices (among other documents) for your annual meeting can be very tricky. Inquire if your attorney offers an annual meeting package. Many firms will prepare all the documents and notices you need for an annual meeting at a special reduced fee. By distributing professional and legal annual meeting notices and documents, you appear more knowledgeable and competent and avoid possible risk to your association.
Don't forget to give your residents plenty of notice. Your Association's Governing Documents may only require a fifteen-day notice, however, consider giving additional notices such as thirty days, seven days, and three-day notice. You might even want to call your membership the night before the meeting to remind them. Yes, it is extra work, but many people have a short memory, and they forget. Try appointing a committee to assist you in this endeavor if you have a large Association.
In order to ensure a quorum, encourage owners to provide the board (or a trusted neighbor) with their proxy, and if they can make the meeting, then the proxy can be returned to the owner. At least this way, you will have a quorum at your annual meeting.
As a board member, you want to make your meeting as interesting and appealing as possible. By providing comfortable accommodations, refreshments, door prizes, plenty of notice, and eye catching notices, you should attract a significantly larger number of owners than normal. In fact, you may never face the dreaded problem of having to re-notice the meeting again due to lack of interest. Just remember "It's Showtime!"