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Myth busting: Managing the 5 misconceptions around hybrid meetings


Having worked with many Corporate Secretary and Investor Relation teams, we know the value hybrid meetings can provide to both organizers and shareholders: from increased international exposure, freedom from unwanted activism to a more engaged shareholder base, hybrid meetings connect shareholders to their organizations without the pressure and expense of travel.

However, detractors of the format remain. If your organization is considering moving to a hybrid AGM and you’re trying to navigate internal negativity, in this article we debunk and fact check the five biggest misconceptions about Hybrid meetings so that you can answer with confidence.

What is a hybrid meeting?

Whilst ‘hybrid’ may still be an unfamiliar term for some, put simply, a hybrid meeting blends both in-room attendees with online participants- seamlessly stitching multiple meeting rooms together in a single meeting environment. When delivered correctly, a hybrid AGM can provide a fuller, more comprehensive meeting experience.

  1. Hybrid AGMs are more expensive.

 

False. Hybrid AGMs can often help organizations save cost. Unlike physical AGMs which involve several variable costs, a hybrid AGM involves a single payment to a service provider who will then provide the end-to-end solution for the meeting. Traditional, physical AGMs necessitate costs that are totally absent in a hybrid set up. Including:

  • The hire of a large or prestigious venue
  • Flying directors and important investors in from around the world
  • Hotel stays
  • Catering and hospitality
  • Carbon offsetting programmes

Whilst there may still be people in the room, often organizations opt for an office-based approach, where key directors host the call from company premises, mitigating additional hospitality cost.

  1. Hybrid AGMs are more work than physical meetings

 

It’s important to consider a hybrid AGM as one meeting. Contained within a single platform, a hybrid meeting brings two (or more) spaces together, without the need to organise several smaller meetings. The benefit of hybrid is that each individual investor can log into one single meeting portal; once an investor logs in, they’ll be able to see the full presentation, video stream and ask questions as usual. Think of it as walking into the conference centre, sitting down and listening to the discussion.

  1. Digital meetings cut off opportunities for discussion

 

Several regulatory bodies have come to agree on the importance and power of virtual AGMs to enhance accessibility and fulfil corporate governance objectives. Hybrid meetings provide an opportunity for shareholders to ask questions both verbally and through text and once the meeting is over, organizers compile an exhaustive list of questions that captures all the questions put to the meeting, even if they weren’t read aloud during the session. This provides an opportunity for full feedback from the board, to ensure that shareholder voices are heard and answered.

In exclusive meeting data published by Lumi, we found shareholder engagement exploded this year in parallel with increased hybrid adoption. Notably, the average number of questions asked at any given meeting has risen from 6 questions (2020) to a new high of 12 questions- a 100% increase from last year. The number of shareholders attending hybrid meetings has also risen from 26,000 in 2020 to over 180,000 in 2021. Far from stifling discussion, hybrid meetings provide shy shareholders with relief from a roving microphone, spotlight, and a watching audience.

  1. Hybrid AGMs allow board members to evade tough questions

 

Whilst the absence of attendees from the physical meeting room prevents filibustering, or performance activism, a hybrid meeting can often be a fantastic space for productive discussion. Marks & Spencer’s recent AGM showcased how shareholder scrutiny can be embedded at the heart of the hybrid meeting.

At their 2021 meeting, Marks & Spencer’s introduced a Shareholder Advocate who sat alongside the Board of Directors presenting this year's AGM. BBC Journalist, Kamal Ahmed, joined the panel taking questions from the floor and pressing the board on key issues.

Covering the topics of most urgent interest shareholders, Kamal's presence provided a unique layer of circumspection to the AGM, as he injected a journalistic element that pushed discussion beyond the initial question asked. This is a fantastic example for other organizations looking to deliver on engagement promises, and to ensure that shareholders have an opportunity to press their boards on important matters.

  1. Hybrid AGMs are boring and harm investor relationships

 

We often hear fears from governance and IR professionals that a hybrid meetings can be dull. Whilst some meetings can be tedious, whether held remotely or in the room, there’s no evidence that shows hybrid AGMs are particularly tiresome for shareholders.

In the first instance, make sure you welcome your online attendees to make sure they feel part of the meeting. This acknowledgement will not only ensure they feel important but will set the tone for how you will manage the meeting- making sure it is an engaging experience for those in the room and those attending remotely.

In addition to this, consider how you can make the online experience feel multi-dimensional. This might be adding a more cinematic feel to any pre-recorded elements, having your board positioned like a talk show, creating the space for an engaging Q&A that specifically incorporates remote participants.

Can you think of any more misconceptions?

Lumi is the leading digital platform facilitating in-room, hybrid and virtual AGMs for the world’s largest corporations and membership organizations. It is the only platform that digitizes the entire lifecycle of an AGM in a single solution that enables sophisticated meeting facilitation before, during and after the live meeting.


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