Virtual AGMs must follow all of the in-person meeting rules while using the right meeting tech stack.
Knowing how to run a successful virtual annual general meeting is vital, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is likely one of the most critical parts of your organization’s year. AGMs are a critical convergence between shareholders and management, so running them well can set the tone for the entire organization.
While creating your plan of attack for the AGM, many pieces are dependent on if you have the event in-person or virtual. A virtual AGM requires extraordinary technology and an experienced provider to have the same effect as an in-person meeting. We created a list of 10 steps to ensure your virtual AGM is meaningful and productive.
What Is a Virtual AGM?
A virtual AGM is a meeting held by organizations and their shareholders through an online virtual event platform. The goal of virtual AGMs is to allow shareholders and management to discuss business results, vote on resolutions, question the board, and interact with their fellow shareholders. It was once unclear whether holding virtual AGMs was legally allowed. Still, after the onset of the pandemic, AGMs modified to include virtual technology as long as boards follow the guidelines.
Giving the Green Light for Virtual AGMs
The number of AGMs shifting from physical, in-person meetings to virtual has risen from nearly zero in 2014 to 7.7% among the Russell 3000 (the 3000 largest U.S.-traded stocks) in October 2019. As with other important meetings, however, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend. Indeed, it has forced many organizations to identify alternative arrangements for their yearly gathering or consider delaying it altogether.
Recognizing these difficulties, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently issued guidance that provided flexibility for companies seeking to change the date of their meeting or to utilize technology to hold a “virtual” shareholder meeting.
Staff Guidance for Conducting Shareholder Meetings in Light of COVID-19 Concerns from The National Credit Union Administration (NUCA) took similar action and provided model language for credit unions to amend their bylaws to authorize virtual member meetings.
“Virtually and without an in-person quorum if all of the … conditions apply and are certified in meeting minutes by a resolution of the majority of a quorum of the board of directors.”
How Should Your Organization Proceed?
With the rise of virtual AGMs, new guidelines from ASIC specify exactly how an organization should proceed with virtual AGM software and the regulations around a virtual notice-of-meeting (NOM). Participants must be able to access the necessary technology to take part in the meeting by the time that the NOM arrives. The NOM should also include:
- The date, time, length, and access link for the meeting
- How participants will engage in a virtual environment (voting, commenting, etc.)
- How to use the virtual AGM platform
Suppose your organization needs to send a NOM before all these details can be arranged. In that case, you must send a second NOM containing the above information once it’s gathered. These virtual AGM regulations help your annual meetings run as efficiently as they do in-person.
How to Run a Successful Online AGM?
Running a successful online AGM requires an armchair expert on user experience — or at least an insightful checklist. We compiled 10 tips to make the organization of the AGM a clear order of operations.
1. Find a tech stack
When evaluating what tech stack you need for a virtual AGM, make sure to look for:
- Security and encryption
- Voting capabilities
- Integration between management tools and conferencing
- The correct amount of accessible seats
2. Practice makes perfect
Run a rehearsal before the event day with key stakeholders like the CEO, CFO, and board chair. The idea is to allow anyone who is speaking to have a dry run before the big day. This can help the speakers address any overlap in content while allowing an accessibility test for the virtual AGM software.
3. Test virtual capacity
Take the time to calculate your expected attendees and ensure the virtual portal you are using can handle that capacity. Some virtual portals will only allow entrance for an allotted number of participants.
4. Craft a script
Before the virtual AGM, make sure to develop a script for the chair. This will keep the meeting on track.
5. Check for real-time response
One of the crucial aspects of a virtual AGM is that it needs to function like an in-person event. Ensure your virtual AGM platform allows for interactions like voting.
6. Consider the virtual view
Take the time to decide what attendees should see when in session. Are all the presenters dressed in more traditional business attire? Do you want all cameras on, but all microphones on mute? Thinking through these requests ahead of time will make the day more cohesive.
7. Create backup plans
Actually, create backup plans for your backup plans. Ensure that all the speakers have an alternative if they can’t attend or their connection is unstable. Ensure all links work ahead of time and try to pre-plan for any issues when possible.
8. Keep it short
Try to outline the agenda with a tight time frame. Cutting out unnecessary time will keep attendees engaged. Sticking to the established script is an easy way to do this.
9. Keep a record
Decide ahead of time if you want to record your sessions or if meeting minutes will suffice. This attention to detail will ensure everyone can voice concerns with either.
10. Track success
After running your first virtual AGM, take a moment to note what went well and what could have gone better. This will help you revise and prepare for next year.
Keeping Your Virtual AGM Private
A frequent concern of virtual AGMs is the security threat that can come with remote events. The worry is not unfounded, considering how much vulnerable information is discussed and shared. Finding the right tech stack can help address the issue of security. Pro tip: Look for software backed with plenty of cloud security, like Microsoft Azure.
How OnBoard Can Help With Your Virtual AGM
OnBoard virtual meeting management tools can support your virtual AGM software needs. The virtual AGM platform provides:
- World-class security built in Microsoft Azure to deliver full disaster recovery and active geo-replication
- Complete data encryption for data in transit between a user’s device and at rest
- Full mobile accessibility so your board and shareholders can participate from anywhere on any device
- An unlimited Resource Center that provides you a central location to quickly upload, manage and share all relevant information with your attendees
- Secure Voting and Approvals to record all key decisions made at your AGM
- Web Conference Integration that allows members to meet face-to-face directly within the platform and also stream the meeting to additional parties as needed
Hosting your virtual AGM with OnBoard makes it possible for more shareholders to attend and participate in your organization’s governance.
About The Author
- Director of Business Development and Government Strategy
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