It's always been a challenge to produce an AGM that impresses and persuades your investors. And walking the thin line between showing you care and just plain "showing off" (with their own money) is far from easy. Then, along came COVID-19. Investors can no longer be wooed by swanky hotels and exotic canapés, nor can your team charm them with bright-eyed smiles and firm handshakes. Investors are now stuck in the same room they have been in for months, and nothing can impress them, but the content you have to show them on screen.
Back in June of last year, we published an article showing seven simple steps to more effective AGMs (https://www.mjhudson.com/newsletter/seven-simple-steps-effective-agms/), and, while much of this can still be applied virtually, there are certain tips that can help ensure your virtual AGM runs smoothly and, most importantly, engage investors. We have collated some of these for you, below:
- Pick an online platform that works for your
– Check compatibility with your Technology / IT team
– Address any security concerns by protecting your AGM with a password
– Pre-register and pre-screen all meeting attendees
- Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse – prepare your AGM
team to operate virtually
– Have a dedicated events team with the technical expertise to manage your virtual AGM
– Make time for meeting stakeholders and presenters to familiarise themselves with the meeting platform
– Test the quality of each presenter's Internet connection to ensure optimum audio and video quality
– Ensure each speaker's background is AGM appropriate and perhaps even provide branded backdrops for them
– Be succinct and stick to the timings outlined in the agenda
- Have a contingency plan. Unforeseen events can and do
happen. If a speaker loses connection, what will you do? Anticipate
the risks and prepare a Plan B.
– The show must go on, so make sure the Chair of the meeting is aware of any potential technical pitfalls and how to handle them
– Continue the AGM without the speaker until they're able to reconnect. The Chair should be able to cover or, at least, stall
– Ensure all speakers have access to a telephone with the meeting dial-in details at their fingertips
– Make sure you have a member of your events team to assist in resolving these connection issues, whilst the other team members run proceedings
- Decide upon which method of voting system(s) to
– Run your meeting in accordance with the constitution or articles, particularly in terms of issuing the notice of the meeting and the circulation of papers
– Consider collecting all votes ahead of meeting using a proxy voting system such as CREST (https://www.euroclear.com/services/en/settlement/settlement-euroclear-uk-ireland.html), versus new all-in-one online platforms, such as Lumi Global (https://www.lumiglobal.com/), who offer a similar service and can extend the voting window beyond the live meeting, and segue seamlessly between the proxy voting period and the live meeting.
– Whichever method is used, recent experience tells us that transparency and consensus around what will be constituted a legitimate vote is important
- Engage your attendees with visually appealing content.
Graphs and charts are unavoidable, and often necessary for AGM
meeting compliance, but that doesn't mean that your entire deck
has to bore their virtual socks off:
– Keep your slides to a minimum and use bullet points sparingly
– Get attendees to focus on what is being said by keeping your video turned on
– Compliment your presentation with video and music and use all the technical tools at your disposal to make the event as interesting as possible for your audience
– Use built in platform features such as live polling to keep your audience engaged
- Record the meeting and track engagement. This
– The secretary (or assigned person) to review and ensure the meeting minutes are accurate
– To provide an opportunity for those who were unable to attend to watch the meeting on-demand
– To track and record exactly who watches the presentation, in a secure manner
- Have all your post-AGM communications and materials
ready to go in advance
– Have everything prepared and signed off by the AGM committee in advance
– You should be able to press the send button on the follow-up email, right after the meeting ends
– Ask for feedback from your AGM attendees, especially if this is your first virtual AGM
While technology will never be able to completely replace the connection you can build with investors face-to-face, it can do a pretty good job, if executed correctly.
Make sure you are prepared and do the basics well, as nothing will disappoint investors more than crackly connections and chaotic presentations and panels.
Get it right now as, whilst the pandemic will eventually pass, virtual AGMs may not.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.