With the COVID-19 pandemic causing such widespread upheaval to all aspects of daily life, I suspect few individuals outside of the ‘industry’ have considered the impact that restrictions on travel, and the lockdown on public gatherings of more than 2 people, is having on AGMs.Yet for many, the AGM is a legal or constitutional requirement for a huge number of listed organisations, member based associations, sporting federations and not-for-profits. Governance professionals are being forced to consider options for their AGM that up until recently would have been considered ‘extreme’. Hold an AGM behind closed doors with no shareholders present? Never… Take my AGM entirely online and have both the board and shareholders attend virtually? Legally confusing and controversial for some……
We might not be able to comment on the legalities of these options for your organisation, or the possible impact on shareholder / member disenfranchisement, but what I can do is to help to dispel some of the ‘fear’ that seems to exist when anyone mentions a virtual meeting.
The Lumi technology has been developed over 20 years, it’s used by many of the major transfer agents and registrars across the world, and it runs thousands of AGMs every year. This makes virtual a simple add-on, it really isn’t any more complicated than a physical, in-room only meeting.
It’s a common misconception that a virtual AGM will work in the same way as a Zoom-style online meeting – where all participants can be seen and heard, and can talk at the same time. The reality couldn’t be more different. The Board members may be in the same room, but in a fully virtual meeting it’s likely that they will all be based independently from each other. The “audience” – made up of your shareholders or members – are entirely separate, entering the platform in essentially a ‘watch and listen only’ mode. They cannot interact with the board or with each other, they can simply submit moderated questions using the text based facility in the platform, and vote on resolutions / motions or elections if that functionality is enabled.
Your virtual meeting will arguably run even more smoothly than an in-room meeting, which could always be subject to shareholder or member activism, or heated debate between participants.
I hope this blog goes some way to assuaging some of your concerns about a virtual meeting, and will make you feel more confident about recommending your annual meeting is not postponed or cancelled, or held behind closed doors. And that there is a solution that can ensure you still engage with your shareholders / members, that you can maintain good corporate governance and decisions can be made to keep it as “business as usual” as its possible to be in these challenging times.