Hybrid meetings are the future of AGM. Thanks to their ability to blend the physical with the remote, adding a virtual meeting environment is a simple yet effective way to enfranchise shareholders and fulfil corporate governance objectives.
Once inside the meeting, there should be ample opportunity for attendees to participate in the business of the AGM and utilise their legal rights to vote and have their questions answered.
How can my organization help shareholders engage with the AGM?
There are two major factors to consider: one, is the importance of shareholders having their questions asked and answered. A basic solution may be an instant messaging Q&A where shareholders can type questions and send them to the meeting for moderation to be discussed in the body of the meeting, or answered after the fact.
Alternatively, your organization may opt for a platform which facilitates in-chat Q&A. This is where the broadcast of the meeting can continue uninterrupted but shareholders can also have their questions responded to directly in the chat portal, alongside your chair addressing some questions in the broadcast. A final option, if your organization intends to host a legal meeting using digital participants to count towards quorum, integrating telephony, or a virtual microphone, into your meeting planning is essential.
How do I know which option will work for me?
To ensure your organization selects the right option, it’s vital to look to your articles of association. Depending on your company’s articles, you may be able to opt for an informal Q&A. Conversely, your organization may be obliged to ensure shareholders are able to speak and be heard by verbal Q&A only. As emphasised by the Corporate Governance Institute, “In certain cases, the technology on offer may only permit virtual participants to ask questions through a chat function. This does not equate with the ability to ‘speak’ and ‘be heard’ at a meeting and therefore in the absence specific provisions in the articles which allow participation by communication in a different way (including a definition as to how persons participating can electronically ‘speak’), those attending electronically are not participants in the meeting.”
A quick checklist:
- Articles of Association- what is your obligation?
- Do online attendees need to count towards quorum or are they additional participants?
- Does your corporate secretary team have the capacity to handle live Q&A moderation?
How can I balance interaction with my corporate governance obligations?
Balancing the principles of your Articles of Association with good corporate governance is a constant balancing act- however, better accessibility and opportunities for engagement should always be priority. If your organization intends to conduct a shareholder meeting that purports to offer the same experience as a physical shareholder meeting, shareholders must be able to attend the meeting legally, which means that they must also be able to ask questions verbally. If you are a publicly listed company, a virtual microphone is an increasingly important consideration, not only to ensure shareholder voice is heard but guarantee the legitimacy of your meeting.
Lumi is the trusted partner of over 4,500 organizations in 40 countries worldwide. If you are considering a virtual or new-hybrid AGM later this year, or for 2022, please do get in touch.