Today I had the pleasure of attending the “Vermont Condo Forum and Expo.” It was as boring as it sounds.
I didn’t relish the idea of spending a beautiful June morning talking about insurance policies and accounting procedures, but I try to be a responsible association president.
Besides, no one else in the community volunteered to attend.
The forum was held at a local country/golf club, which isn’t as nice as I imagined it would be. The meeting room was on the lower level and there was a nice view of the golf course, trees and hills but we couldn’t see any of it because they closed all the shades. I think they didn’t want to tempt anyone to leave early (It didn’t work. I bolted before lunch.)
My fellow forum-goers were all property managers or other condo directors and officers.
The managers were either bored-looking young men in button up shirts featuring their company’s logo or their older, schmoozy bosses in button up shirts featuring their company’s logo.
The condo board members were all, well, old. I was the youngest by a good twenty five years.
Don’t get me wrong. I like old people. I like talking to them and think they have a lot of experience to offer. They also apparently have the time and energy to devote to their communities, which is admirable.
But I do worry that young people (or even relatively young people, like me) aren’t more engaged.
Do they just not care about things like mulch and plowing? Or do they feel no sense of responsibility to the communities in which they live?
Maybe they just don’t have the patience to deal with people whining about cigarette butts by the mailboxes and who is going to plan the annual pool party. I can understand that.
On top of being held on a nice summer day and the fact that the coffee was too weak, today’s event featured two of my biggest conference pet peeves:
1) Workshop titles that sound interesting and end up being extremely dull.
I expect “Accounting Controls” and “Managing Association Risk and Insurance” to be boring. And they were.
But I actually thought “Top 10 Board Challenges” might be interesting, or at least helpful.
After all, it was sort of a reference to David Letterman, so the presenter has to be a little cool and have a sense of humor, right?
The speaker (who, I have to admit, lost me right away when he said that he didn’t have email or “tweeter” and that he thought websites were “the wave of the future.” Future? Um, I think they’ve already arrived.) was an older gentleman (surprise, surprise) in a bowtie and thick glasses. And he had zero sense of humor.
The entire hour long session was a discussion of types of meetings. I’m not exaggerating.
For sixty long minutes he talked about open meetings, executive board meetings, informal meetings, annual meetings, special meetings, executive session meetings, electronic meetings and, lest we not forget, ballots in lieu of meetings.
I wish I had counted how many times he said the word meeting. It would have given me something to think about other than how disinterested I was.
And he didn’t even have a top ten list! He didn’t even number the list of types of meetings.
Maybe they were afraid no one would come if they called the session, “Meetings, meeting and more meetings.”
It probably would have kept me away.
2) People who ask questions that are all about them and their particular circumstances.
I don’t often ask questions at conferences and meetings. It takes me a while to digest what I’m hearing and think it through enough to formulate a question. That’s just how my mind works.
But if I were to ask a question, I’d be savvy enough to frame it in a way that makes it relevant for everyone, not just my specific situation.
Not everyone knows how to do this. Or maybe they don’t care if the question only pertains to them.
Today, for instance, a little old lady stood up and proceeded to tell “Mr. Meeting” and the whole room about her condo board dilemma.
It seems she planned on attending a meeting (she didn’t specify what type of meeting) and introducing some action, but she was in the emergency room so she wasn’t able to go.
She thought the rest of the board voted on the topic she was going to introduce anyway, but she hadn’t seen the minutes and no one would tell her what happened.
She had requested the meeting minutes from the property manager and the board president, but they hadn’t provide them. Didn’t they have to give them to her immediately? What should she do?
As fascinating as this saga was, she simply could have asked how long after the meeting does the board have to send out the minutes.
That’s information everyone can use. It’s a question I’ve had in the past.
We didn’t need to hear about her medical emergency or poor relationship with the rest of the board. (After hearing her long-winded question, I can just imagine that they all roll their eyes when she walks into a meeting.)
Conference speakers aren’t there to provide individualized advice. There are fifty other people in the room, for crying out loud.
It probably comes down to self-centeredness. We all think our own story is fascinating and everyone wants to hear it.
Come to think of it, isn’t that what blogs are all about?
But at least with blogs, people can choose whether or not to read the posts. You have no choice when you’re stuck in the middle of a conference room full of gray haired people watching PowerPoint presentation.
I did learn a few things this morning, or at least figured out a few questions I need to ask of our property manager, but I’m not sure I’ll go back to another Condo Forum and Expo.
Unless I’m desperate for an insomnia cure.