Preparing for the new hybrid norm of AGMs

by Catriona Tierney

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is one of many business traditions that has seen a huge change since the Covid pandemic. The two main elements of an AGM still remain, to facilitate engagement between the board and shareholders and to allow decision making and the passing of resolutions to take place. However, the recent global pandemic and declining shareholder attendees mean that companies are starting to see the many benefits to virtual AGMs.

Emergency measures

Virtual and hybrid meetings had already begun to take place all over the world but the pandemic has sped up the process with many organisations and companies forced to adapt during the extended lockdown periods. The ability for Irish companies to execute fully virtual AGMs was made possible by temporary emergency measures introduced by the government in response to the global Covid 19 pandemic. While many businesses supported the idea to make these temporary reforms permanent, relishing the chance to embrace the new technology and cost benefits, many other groups raised concerns that completely virtual meetings don’t allow shareholders to take part as they can in person.

So while a new way of hosting an AGM was inevitable due to restrictions on large gatherings and travel and public health concerns not everybody is a fan of completely virtual AGMs which is why the benefits to a more hybrid approach are now one that many are starting to explore and embrace.

Right to reply

The format of the AGM has always given board members and shareholders the opportunity to put questions to the board and management of a company whether that meant airing grievances, venting their frustrations or simply keeping companies to account. So you can see why members are keen to keep face to face meetings and protect their right to reply in person.

Going forward in order to protect the shareholder’s voice, any completely virtual AGMs will need more legal and regulatory provisions than was provided for by emergency legislation during the pandemic. Part of this will be that companies will be required to provide effective technology, and sufficient engagement with shareholders before and during virtual AGMs so a lot more work will need to be done to make sure shareholders are happy with that particular process.

Best of both worlds

With a lot of members preferring to retain some in-person parts of AGMS and vaccines now well underway a more hybrid approach bringing together the benefits of the virtual AGM and the accountability of in-person meetings will be crucial going forward.  Hybrid AGMs will allow members to meet in person if needed with the added bonus of being able to communicate with those who cannot attend in person using platforms like Zoom. If anything instead of disrupting the traditional AGM, the pandemic is pushing creativity and innovation forward when it comes to hosting events and meetings.

Reaping the benefits

While there will always be a need for face to face events, meetings and AGMs, adopting a hybrid approach can introduce a host of benefits for those hosting. This includes providing a more efficient, cost effective and interactive experience for the industry going forward. Cost is definitely a big factor when it comes to AGMs and going forward members no longer have to incur hefty expenses travelling to and from AGMS and staying overnight in hotels, now they can attend an AGM from the comfort of their home or office. In light of this many businesses are now thinking of making these changes more permanent as they can see how the technology can save their companies money. Just like companies discovered with virtual events, AGMs can also enjoy higher attendance due to the convenient nature of meeting online, it also saves time and money and is a greener option with shareholders travelling less. Companies can also offer a shorter more time conscious experience for those attending AGMs and also a more interactive offering with the latest technology at the forefront of meetings.

Here to help

While companies all over the world, particularly in the US have been adopting a more hybrid approach to AGMs over the years, it wasn’t until the pandemic that large scale virtual and hybrid AGMs started to really take off here. IMS can help provide the technical expertise needed to prepare and set up virtual AGMs in Ireland. We can also host and manage every aspect of the event on the day ensuring a high quality and professional experience for all members from start to finish.