Annual general meetings (AGMs) are typically hosted in-person. But like many other meetings and events, AGMs are turning to virtual options to keep up with the times.
If you’re new to the idea of virtual AGMs, it might seem like a wild concept. How will members vote? How will their votes be collected? Is the meeting moderated?
We know it can be tricky navigating the by-laws and other issues that can come up with hosting virtual AGMs. But today, we’re going to share important considerations for virtual AGMs. We’ll also cover other useful advice, including how they can legally suffice organization by-laws.
So, let’s get started with covering some of the benefits of virtual annual general meetings.
The benefits of virtual AGMs
As of this past year, more people are working from home than ever before. In some cases, it’s not only beneficial to host meetings virtually, but it’s also necessary.
When you host a virtual AGM, you can help keep your attendees safe by allowing them to participate from the safety and comfort of their own home.
As anyone who has organized an AGM knows, it’s a challenge getting everyone in the same room at a convenient time.
When shareholders are scattered around the world, virtual annual general meetings make it more convenient than ever before to conduct these meetings.
At the same time, you’ll save time setting up for a virtual AGM without the worry of seating, refreshments, and other logistics.
Let’s say current travel restrictions make it impossible to get everyone in the same room. In that case those shareholders who are located in the same country or state can gather in person for the meeting. Then, other participants can join via video.
This partially-virtual option is a flexible and effective option for many corporations.
One of the great things about virtual AGMs is how easy it makes vote collection.
Rather than counting votes by hand, votes are collected electronically. They can also be displayed in real-time to attendees, which encourages voter confidence. It also virtually eliminates the possibility of human error.
At the same time, if shareholders don’t see how other members are voting by raising their hands, their vote is less likely to be swayed by fellow participants. Not to mention, results are collected instantly, saving valuable time.
Important considerations for virtual AGMs
If a corporation has by-laws in place prohibiting annual general meetings from taking place virtually or if they’re silent on holding them, all hope is not lost!
In many cases, the board of directors can change the by-laws with the change effective until the next meeting of shareholders or members. At the next meeting, the change can either be confirmed or rejected.
As virtual AGMs become increasingly common, it’s expected that existing by-laws restricting this format will be amended.
Notifications and instructions
Especially if this is the first year your AGM will be done virtually, it’s important to give shareholders and other participants as much notice as possible.
This notification should include basic information like the meeting time, but it will also include information and instructions for joining virtually. Luckily, all this usually takes is having attendees click a link on their computer or smartphone to join.
It’s also a good time to outline how virtual AGMs work. You’ll want to cover things like how votes are collected and address any security and privacy concerns.
At first, your shareholders might seem reluctant to participate in virtual AGMs. But there are plenty of ways to make them more comfortable with the process and foster participation.
One of them we’ve already discussed: providing proper notification and instructions.
Rather than springing the idea of a virtual meeting on participants, they’ll have time to wrap their head around the idea. At the same time, they’ll take comfort in knowing exactly how to join and what to expect during the meeting.
They’ll appreciate knowing your corporate statute and governing documents are reviewed ahead of time. That way, they’ll know your meeting aligns with governing legislation.
Lastly, you’ll want to make it easy for shareholders to communicate during the meeting. Whether it’s offering chat features or asking questions over video, there are plenty of ways to make this possible.
One of the best tools for encouraging participation during virtual AGMs is including question and answer periods.
Question and answer sessions during annual general meetings
You want to offer attendees the same opportunities they’d have during an in-person meeting to ask questions as they would during virtual AGMs. The good news is, with the right technology it’s easier than ever to do this.
Q&As help make sure important topics are covered and attendees have a chance to have their concerns addressed and questions answered.
During virtual AGMs, shareholders can submit their questions and other attendees can upvote their favorite questions. You can also collect these questions to use at a later time, or save unanswered questions for after the meeting.
You also have options for moderating questions before sharing them with attendees. That way, you can filter out repetitive, offensive, or irrelevant content.
Remember: It’s important to have a subjective meeting moderator in place for this task. Otherwise, shareholders might lose confidence in the process.
The greatest criticism of virtual AGMs used to be that it didn’t provide shareholders with the same opportunity to speak up and hold the board to account. But now, you can offer your shareholders the tools and information they need to attend a virtual AGM with confidence and ease.