An annual meeting, whether it's held in-person, as a hybrid or virtual event, is one of a public company's largest responsibilities. Virtual annual meeting services provide a customizable technology solution that offers superior flexibility during uncertain times.
"Today’s environment highlights the need for resilient leaders. These high performers are adapting, making changes and embracing the new day," says EQ's Chris Ward, Vice President, Client Solutions. "Virtual annual meetings are an easy way to show the market and your shareholders that your house is in order and moving forward. Instill confidence in your company during changing times by implementing these simple best practices.”
Seven steps to help maximize you and your shareholder's virtual annual meeting experience:
1. Research your current regulatory environment
Research your current regulatory environment and determine if virtual annual meetings are allowed as some states require shareholder consent or approval.
2. Determine the medium for your meeting
Decide which option, audio or video, provides the most effective presentation and plays to your company's strengths.
- In 2020, the vast majority of virtual annual meetings were audio-only.
- Choose the option that provides the most effective presentation and one that aligns with your board and executives' strengths.
- Effective presentations come first, but don't dismiss the power of a live video feed. Seeing the speaker, even in a virtual environment, can help drive home your message. The live video adds many visual cues that are necessary to show sincerity, build trust and gain the confidence of shareholders.
3. Work with a trusted provider
Work with a trusted provider and consult with them every step of the way.
- Ensure that your provider has given clear instructions to your executive team and board members on how to join as a participant if they are not speaking.
- Ensure that your provider has a valid phone number for every speaker. The operator can bring them back in the meeting if they get disconnected.
- Schedule time with your provider for an initial review and walk-through prep sessions with speakers. You want to ensure that each speaker is comfortable with the platform. You don’t want the meeting day to be the first time that the speaker has seen the site.
- Have your provider give you a snapshot of attendance and statistics right before the meeting so you can assess how many are attending.
4. Review your script and incorporate clear communication
With the lack of in-person and on-site meetings, be clear about communication with shareholders (e.g., where can they vote, when does voting close?).
5. Focus on guiding and setting expectations
- In a virtual environment, we lack the physical cues we are used to relying on at an in-person meeting, such as knowing when shareholders have finished voting.
- Make sure to inform your shareholders early in the meeting that the polls are open, and they can expect them to close in five, 10 or 20 minutes. This is an easy way to avoid upsetting shareholders who may have otherwise missed their opportunity to vote.
6. Be prepared to answer questions
Prepare or collect one to two questions in advance of the meeting if your company wants to encourage shareholder engagement.
- Advance questions enable speakers to get off to a great start and provides time for others to ask questions. It also provides some time to craft a response and/or determine who should answer the question.
7. Build in time for speaker prep
Request that speakers join the call 15 to 30 minutes prior to the start time for sound and microphone checks. This time also allows speakers to review their parts and acclimate to the setting.