‘Tis the season: the evolution of the AGM

What lessons have we learned from the most recent AGM season and how will the format evolve for 2022 and beyond?

With another successful AGM season under our belt, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the elements that elevate an AGM from good to exceptional, and to look at how the format itself has changed and continues to evolve ahead of the 2022 AGM season.

Anyone involved in planning and delivering the Annual General Meeting for their company understands its significance as a form of shareholder engagement and communication, and how important it is to get every detail just right.

This year, companies have again had to adjust to a new way of managing their AGM, with COVID restrictions continuing to prevent shareholder attendance in person.  At Aspect, we’ve been delivering hybrid and digital AGMs for more than 20 years, so the challenge for us has not been the operational side of things but offering our new clients the reassurance that their AGM can run as successfully and effectively – if not more so – by adopting a hybrid model, while maintaining full compliance with their articles.

Here are some of the key points to consider:

The power of video.  A hybrid format provides increased opportunity to use video content effectively beyond the traditional opening of the meeting.  This could include a pre-roll of information as shareholders take their seats (real or virtual), sharing business presentations that have been filmed at company locations, and pre-recorded new board member introductions.

Lightening the chairperson’s load.  AGMs are demanding for the chairperson, as he or she is required to manage a variety of questions from multiple sources, ensuring a good balance of topics.  A question master, who has overall visibility of questions coming through via telephone, online and in the room itself, can orchestrate the process effectively on behalf of the chair without them needing to relinquish control.  Depending on the level of expertise required, this could be a professional journalist or someone from within the organisation.

The shareholder experience.  While the purpose of an AGM is to share factual company information, a hybrid format can drastically enhance the overall shareholder experience of the meeting.  Production methods that might appear more at home in TV programming, e.g., lower thirds, graphic overlays and clear signposting, will all help to engage the audience with the content in the most cost-effective way.

Equality for all.  One of the key considerations of any hybrid event is to ensure parity between the different audience experiences.  This applies not only to attendance and the Q&A and voting processes but to the meeting experience overall.  Planning a successful hybrid AGM therefore needs to take into account catering, exhibitions and even goodie bags for all audiences.  If these elements are to continue, it needs to be on an equal basis for all shareholders.

Easy access.  We all like a reason to get out and about and enjoy a nice cup of tea and biscuit but in reality, it’s not always practical to attend an AGM in person (not to mention the current restrictions making it impossible in some cases).  A hybrid AGM makes it feasible for all shareholders to attend the meeting regardless of location, travel restrictions or budget.  We have found that the quality of attendees is higher as a result, as they really want to be there and have relevant business questions to ask.

The rise of the digital age brings with it the opportunity for greater audience reach and engagement, and as a result businesses are increasing their focus on technology as a new way to communicate with their shareholders.

While this may be a daunting prospect, the right AGM partner will provide all the expertise and assurance needed to deliver an engaging, cost-effective and successful meeting that shareholders actively look forward to attending.

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