Organizations worldwide are being forced to find alternatives to their traditional in-person Annual General Meeting (AGM). With COVID-19 still spreading and non-essential businesses closing left and right, corporations are left wondering how to handle their AGM in these unprecedented times. Will your organization maintain the status-quo or hold a virtual meeting? The following sections cover considerations to be made when planning changes to your AGM.
There may be legal aspects to holding a virtual meeting rather than your usual in-person meetings. “Under current state corporation laws, virtual-only meetings are allowed in 30 US states, including Delaware, which means more than half of all US companies are able to choose that option. Thirteen states allow hybrid meetings, requiring a physical component to a virtual meeting. Seven US states – including Wisconsin, South Carolina, New York, and Alaska – still require a physical shareholder meeting.” (Corporate Secretary)
Even with that corporate law, the SEC has provided guidelines for businesses dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. “The SEC staff recognizes that many public companies and other market participants are transitioning to teleworking, virtual meetings, and other contingency measures to address health concerns,” said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton. “Our staff stands ready to facilitate these transitions, and we encourage market participants to contact us with requests for guidance or relief. The SEC has itself moved to teleworking and virtual meetings and remains fully operational.”
When considering alternative plans for your annual general meeting, ensure you comply with all state and federal regulations.
Running Remote Meetings
The considerations taken in running a remote meeting for your AGM can be broken into two facets: technology and people planning. Both of those factors need to be planned for in order to have the most successful virtual AGM possible.
The Technology Aspect
The overall goal of this transition is ultimately to create a positive experience for shareholders, investors, and board members using digital engagement tools. The following are key topics to consider when employing a technology partner or tool to facilitate your virtual AGM.
Resources and Training
Ensure that you are prepared to provide support and training to your attendees who may be less familiar with your chosen technology.
The accessibility of the tool is crucial for maximum engagement; confirm that your AGM tools are accessible from all common devices and that the experience is the same across those devices.
Choose only the most secure platforms for your meeting and implement a process that will confirm security measures are working and ensure the technology works seamlessly without interruption.
Once the right technology partner has been implemented, it can be easy to overlook the importance of planning how your people will interact with the technology and facilitate the flow of the meeting. Consider these key factors when planning for the people element of your meeting:
Consult Key Shareholders
Ensure key shareholders are comfortable with the proposed plan for virtual meetings. Shareholders who are entirely on board with the changes can act as champions for the cause during what may be an uncomfortable transition.
A virtual meeting will likely throw a kink into the way some of your traditional meeting processes go. Think through the schedule of your typical meeting and determine what changes need to be made and how your AGM meeting tool can help. For example, how will your board utilize technology to handle a Q&A process? You may choose to enable a discussion feature and schedule that for a particular point in the meeting.
Whenever implementing a new tool for something as critical as your AGM, it is vital that you practice. Think of it as a rehearsal for your meeting. Practice going through the different sections with the technology to increase your team’s comfort level with your new technology. Your AGM’s success will reflect the time spent practicing the new meeting format.
Communicate the meeting changes as early as possible. Allow time before your virtual AGM for attendees to ask questions and align their expectations with the new circumstances.
BoardBookit Supports Virtual Meetings
BoardBookit is fully equipped to meet your organization’s virtual meeting needs. As the premier technology partner for board governance, BoardBookit’s features can streamline your boardroom and provide the virtual environment your team needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Start a conversation today and discover how BoardBookit can support your virtual AGM.
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