With the recent announcement that the Corporations Act has been modified to allow Australian companies to legally hold virtual annual general meetings (AGMs) until March 2021, many organisations are now planning to run their first ever virtual annual general meeting.
In this article, we'll show you everything you need to know about virtual annual general meetings, and how to make yours a successful one. Follow these steps for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) or any other non-compulsory meeting within your organisation.
The good news is that with the right technology and provider, a virtual or hybrid annual general meeting can be just as professional, informative and effective as hosting your usual physical event.
What is a virtual AGM?
A virtual annual general meeting is a meeting between organisations and their shareholders or members, where results are reported on, business is discussed and resolutions are voted on, all within an online virtual event platform, rather than at an in-person event. In the past, the Corporations Act 2001 was unclear as to the legality of holding AGMs online but the recent restrictions on public gatherings due to COVID-19 has been the catalyst to a modification of the rules that accept the use of virtual technology for annual general meetings as long as ASIC's guidelines are followed.
Guidelines for conducting virtual meetings
Holding a virtual annual general meeting has different guidelines and rules to a traditional shareholder meeting, which must be strictly adhered to. To make your meeting successful - and legal - the virtual event operator that you work with to host your meeting must provide all participants a reasonable opportunity to join in discussions, ask questions and vote on resolutions. This means that it’s your organisation's responsibility to ensure that appropriate technology is available to facilitate this and that participants are made aware of how the online platform you choose works.
What is a hybrid AGM?
A hybrid annual general meeting refers to a traditional shareholder meeting that’s held at a physical location in addition to the provision of participation via an online platform. In the past, the general consensus around hybrid meetings was that they were permitted under the Corporations Act 2001 as long as the details about how to use the online platform were included in the notice-of-meeting (NOM).
Companies must include instructions on how to participate virtually
The new guidelines laid out by ASIC specify that along with supplying reliable virtual event technology, businesses must also include detailed information on how to access and participate in the proceedings when they send out their notice-of-meeting to shareholders. The notice-of-meeting should include clear explanations of:
- The date, time, run-time, and access link for the meeting.
- How the reasonable opportunity to vote on resolutions, comment and ask questions will be provided to those participating virtually.
- How to use the technology to observe, vote on resolutions, make comments and ask questions.
If your organisation has already sent out a notice-of-meeting before these new requirements came in, you should issue a fresh notice containing the new details at least seven days before the commencement of your virtual annual general meeting.
Member participation during virtual AGMs
To satisfy ASIC's requirement that you have ensured all participants can successfully participate in your meeting, the technology platform or provider that you choose must:
- Have a reliable connection or host server that can allow the meeting to take place uninterrupted.
- Support live Q&A sessions.
- Ensure that only those with the right to vote can vote.
- Give members the option to cast a vote live during the meeting in the same way that they would if they attended in person, even when the option to vote prior to the meeting is also available.
Smooth sailing during a virtual AGM
Technical problems can be an unfortunate fact of life, but an expert virtual event operator, will work closely with you to determine your requirements and run your event behind the scenes without your organisation having to worry about the technical aspects of running a virtual AGM. The best providers will also have their own infrastructure and proprietary software, giving you an extra layer of protection against any mishaps that could derail your meeting.
To ensure that your meeting runs smoothly it’s critical that you:
- Hold a full dress rehearsal prior to your annual general meeting with all hosts and speakers present. It's also critical that the devices used during rehearsal are those that will be used on the day of the AGM.
- Have a backup solution in place. The provision of a teleconferencing option is ideal, so that in the event of technical or internet related difficulties, your guests can securely dial in to your AGM using their telephone.
- Advise participants of the backup plan in your Notice Of Meeting and subsequent follow-up emails.
Professional virtual event providers will run you through these options during the planning stages of your virtual AGM.
Keeping it private
Some organisations are rightly worried about the security flaws that recently occurred with a well-known video conference provider. These potential security breaches are why it’s essential to choose a virtual event provider that is based in Australia with network infrastructure owned in-house and monitored 24/7.
Express Virtual Meetings virtual event solution only allows access to your meeting via several authenticated layers of security ranging from encoded URLs, secure https domains, to the provision of unique access codes and PINs. This means that the likelihood of uninvited guests turning up to your AGM is extremely low.
Managing voting and Q&A
Apart from the physical contact between people, the process of running a virtual AGM is not unlike the physical events you may be used to attending.
Your organisation will still be the 'face' of your annual general meeting, while your virtual provider works behind the scenes to ensure participants join the meeting, the information is presented and is available for all guests to see and hear and importantly, seamlessly facilitate online voting and Q&A.
- Resolutions to be voted on are organised with the operator before the event.
- At the schedule time and on hearing the pre-arranged cue from the hosts, the operator will activate the online voting for those with the right to vote, and give them a specific time-frame to cast their vote. If required, the operator will also announce the resolution to those participating via phone who will press their telephone keypad to cast their vote.
- Results are tallied and this process is repeated for each subsequent resolution.
- On hearing the pre-arranged cue, the operator opens the floor to questions. Participants can join the Q&A queue by 'raising their hand' online or by pressing specific buttons on their telephone keypad.
- The host or presenter is given the opportunity to answer each question by speaking directly with the questioner in the queue.
What technology do I need to hold a successful virtual AGM?
Transitioning from a physical to a virtual annual general meeting doesn’t need to be a stressful or complicated process. The team at Express Virtual Meetings are experts in running seamless virtual events and annual general meetings, with close to 20 years experience in corporate events of all sizes, across all industries.
Our state-of-the-art technology means you can rely on us to deliver a secure and high-quality event. Our Australia-based team are available to support you 24/7, every day of the year.
With Express Virtual Meetings you can be confident in knowing your virtual annual general meeting will be seamless, professional and successful. To learn more about how we can help make your virtual annual general meeting a success, read more about our managed virtual event service, or call us on 1300 849 300, we're available 24/7 every day of the year.