As Covid-19 lockdown measures ease, it is likely there will be a preference for companies to run general meetings as hybrid meetings, which are meetings that are part in person and part remote. From a participation viewpoint, hybrid meetings offer companies flexibility in terms of allowing shareholders or members to attend and vote at the meeting in person or virtually. However, currently, this can only be undertaken if it is written into a company’s articles.
Organisers of hybrid meetings need to ensure the systems are in place to allow all attendees, whether they are attending virtually or physically, to have similar participation and voting experiences. This blog explores the importance of hybrid AGM registration.
To enable attendees to join the meeting virtually, companies will need to send credentials for the broadcast and/or voting system to all eligible shareholders or members. During the planning phase, it may be prudent to know who plans to attend the meeting, either in person or virtually. This way attendees can be sent the correct instructions of how to join the meeting, systems can be set up in advance, and stakeholders can prepare accordingly.
To ensure the smooth administration of any hybrid general meeting, there are several aspects to consider: –
The number of attendees coming to the physical meeting:
This will help understand the room size, staffing, seating, and general logistics.
The number of attendees joining virtually:
Selecting the best virtual broadcast platform to use and any associated licensing, how attendees can interact at the meeting and the voting method.
How to broadcast the meeting to virtual attendees:
Online broadcast systems are readily available for meeting organisers. To deliver an effective broadcast, organisers will require a stable internet connection, a webcam, microphone, and speakers in the meeting room.
How votes will be cast and counted:
Votes can be cast on separate systems (i.e. via online voting technology, a show of hands, or ballots papers) and collated. Alternatively, voting can be via a digital system used by both virtual and physical attendees via smartphone technology.
How attendee’s questions will be answered:
Prior submission of questions is an option, alternatively, attendees may have the opportunity to ask a question or speak at the meeting.
The options that companies chose in running their meeting will determine the systems needed, however in most instances knowing who will be coming along ahead of the meeting will help organisers with their overall planning process.
Hybrid AGM Registration
The physical meeting registration process is a tried and tested method, whereby a list at the registration desk is used to confirm the person arriving, to ensure that they are eligible to attend and if they have voting rights.
To join a hybrid meeting virtually the organisation has two choices:
- Send an invitation with joining credentials to all who are eligible to attend.
- Ask for attendees to pre-register for the AGM.
The first option, although informative, does not give the meeting organisers sight of the numbers of people attending, which makes effective planning difficult and potentially expensive. Many systems for running virtual meetings base their pricing on the numbers of attendees, therefore, if this information is not known budgeting is difficult.
Broadcasting and voting systems used in the virtual element of hybrid meetings will have license fees based on the number of attendees. Often these systems are not reactive, therefore if more attendees join than the license allows, it can be hard to upgrade the license instantly and will potentially cause serious disruption to the meeting, or worse still attendees may not be able to attend, calling the validity of the meeting into question.
The second option allows the organisers to better plan meetings by gaining sight of the numbers of attendees who will join virtually. This allows accurate budgets to be set for broadcasting and voting system licensing as well as any other system expenses, such as sending meeting credentials to pre-registered attendees in good time before the event.
For AGMs, this pre-registration exercise can easily be included in the proxy voting process, by posing the following questions:-
- Are they likely to attend?
- If ‘yes’ do they plan to attend virtually or in person
Some systems will enable the eligible person to specify their intention to attend and also allow them to change their mind if circumstances change for them. Of course, asking a person’s intention does not preclude them from attending the meeting especially if the company’s articles state they have the right to attend. It does however assist the organisers in planning and setting the process in the best way for all concerned.
Registration of those planning to attend a hybrid AGM is key to the successful planning of the AGM. This ensures those eligible to attend obtain the credentials needed in time and that the systems are set up for an accurate number of attendees. Logistics on how people will be able to participate, in terms of voting and speaking at the event, can all be put in place knowing the virtual and in person attendance count.
A clearer budgeting process can also be undertaken knowing the anticipated numbers due to attend.