How to Plan a Hybrid Annual General Meeting

April 6, 2021
mkamel@psav.com

4 questions to get you started 

With majority of events turning to a hybrid format, so too are company Annual General Meetings. As of January 1, 2021, the Canadian government ordered the normal rules apply for calling an AGM and presenting financial statements, as opposed to last year’s extension deadlines. 

This means that “by law, all federally incorporated businesses, not-for-profits and cooperatives have to hold an annual general meeting of shareholders or members every year”. While the government recognizes that hosting an in-person AGM during the pandemic would contradict public health advise, the Canadian government has recommended pending by-laws, that the organization consider a virtual or hybrid meeting as an alternative.  

So what exactly constitutes a hybrid AGM? 

A hybrid AGM is an AGM that has both in-room attendees as well as remote attendees who participate via a virtual event platform. Like any type of hybrid event, it’s the combination of both the in-room and online experience which makes it hybrid. 

These two audience groups can apply to both the shareholders as well as the company board of directors and other stakeholders. For example: 

  • In-room and virtual attendees with board of directors attending in-person 
  •  In-room and virtual attendees with all, or some of the board of directors attending virtually. 

Unlike other elective events, AGMs are a legal requirement of publicly listed companies and come with a unique array of requirements. This new hybrid model presents AGM planners with a whole new set of challenges and considerations. 

To assist with your planning, here are four helpful starter questions on how to plan a hybrid Annual General Meeting

How do you start planning a hybrid annual general meeting? 

1. How many shareholders and speakers will I need to allow for and where are they located? 

The first two parts of this question you can determine quite simply. Once you have your total possible audience size, you need to factor in your average attendance rates as well as your venue’s capacity, taking into account MeetSAFE requirements.  

With current travel restrictions in place, you should allow for a larger portion of shareholders and attendees to attend virtually. Similarly, depending on the location of your board members or other speakers, they may choose to attend in-person at the venue or virtually via a live-stream or pre-recorded video. 

Understanding your numbers will assist in both your venue selection and in determining your virtual event platform and hosting requirements. For example, a virtual audience of only 20 requires far less technical power and support than an AGM of 10,000 shareholders with attendees streaming from different locations.  

Once you have an idea of how many attendees will be attending virtually vs. in-person, you can better establish the basis of your technical requirements with your hybrid AGM production partner.  

2What AGM participation requirements do I need to consider? 

The key to running an effective hybrid AGM is using hybrid technology that does not disrupt the in-room experience but also encourages participation for the virtual attendees. As mentioned previously, understanding how many shareholders will attend in-person versus virtually will help identify which virtual solution will meet your needs. 

With many solutions available, finding the right virtual event platform for you needs can seem overwhelming. An obvious place to start is asking your venue’s in-house event technology partner if they offer one. Encore Canada is in-house at more than 200 venues across the country and boasts an award-winning interactive event platform, Chime Live. The platform has already been used for hundreds of hybrid and virtual AGMs worldwide because it offers a virtual experience, that’s engaging, flexible and supported by a team of experts. It combines high-definition video streaming with a suite of interactive features like live polling, secure voting, Q&A, speaker bios, networking solutions, documents and more. Importantly, it has all the security protocols in place to be legally compliant for hosting AGMs online. 

As sensitive company content is shared along with important decisions made during AGMs, you’ll need to source a platform or integrated solution that allows for secure virtual registrations to ensure the correct people are actually attending and voting. Your AGM production partner will be able to provide a solution to manage this both in-person and virtually. 

If the company wants to share documents, videos and other company reports you’ll need to consider how both in-person and virtual attendees will access these. Additionally, you might want to ask attendees to complete a survey on how they found the experience and ask for improvements. We recommend tailoring these surveys to the different audiences (in-person vs. virtual) as some questions will be irrelevant to each audience. A platform like Chime Live can provide you with two survey versions for your audience groups to access digitally. 

Secure voting and Q&A sessions are typically required at AGMs. Your virtual event platform will need to be able to facilitate this with all security and moderation protocols in place. For example, limiting voting to only those members allowed to vote as well as being able to cast a single vote anonymously. The beauty of an online voting system means your in-person shareholders can cast their votes using an internet-enabled device like their tablet or Smartphone. Similarly, for the Q&A session rather than running around the room sharing a microphone which goes against COVID-safety rules, in-room shareholders can ask their questions using the virtual Q&A feature in the virtual platform. We recommend a designated moderator or virtual concierge vet questions before sending live to screen.

3. What challenges might the shareholders or board members face? 

Challenges can range from bandwidth issues to scheduling content within different time zones. This is particularly challenging when your shareholders are international. In that case, there will likely be latency (delay) to contend with, which your presenters and operators need to know in advance. It becomes essential for live presenters or operators to have these details when collecting audience feedback, such as timing a poll question and determining how long it

 remains open. 

In-person attendees will want peace of mind that their health and safety are of the highest priority. Due to the event industry’s recent adaptations to combat COVID-19, this will remain important for some time. Encore’s leading MeetSAFE program delivers best-practice in the design and delivery of safe AGMs and events of all kinds. These guidelines ensure events are delivered safely in the changing landscape for live, virtual and hybrid meetings and events. The guidelines were developed with four key areas of event design and delivery in mind:  

  • Room layout 
  •  Traffic flow
  •  Technology enhancement
  •  Cleaning guidelines
 

Be ready to ask your event production partner these questions and how they can help mitigate challenges remotely and in-person to ensure a positive experience for your AGM attendees. The good news it, one of the biggest benefits of running a hybrid AGM lies in the ability of being able to ask some shareholders to attend virtually if restrictions change dramatically.   

On the other hand, adding a virtual element can be daunting to from both the planning perspective and attendee perspective. We strongly encourage partnering with an experienced production company who can provide rehearsals, virtual stage management, and on-site technical support. Even the concept of a COVID-safe hybrid event is hard to imagine for those not familiar with the model. If you’re facing difficulty getting the hybrid AGM design over the line with your board of directors, consider presenting them with a realistic 3D render of the event.  

Security is one of the most important elements when organising a hybrid AGM. Ensuring your virtual platform is secure as well as any integrated software (if you use a third-party provider) is critical to the company’s integrity and AGM’s success. An experienced hybrid AGM technology provider would already have all the relevant measures in place to keep the AGM secure from anti-hack platforms, to tight security protocols to secure cloud based networks. Recording the event is another security measure to enable the AGM to be instantly audited allowing a complete review of the entire event and ability to pinpoint each member’s activities and attendance. As a courtesy, you should notify all attendees at the start of the AGM that the event is being recorded for security. 

Speak with your event technology partner to find out what security protocols they have in place for their platforms. 

Accessibility is another important element to ensure your AGM caters for attendees’ specific needs. There are a range of accessibility features which can be incorporated into the in-room experience as well as via the event platform to ensure everyone is accounted for. From something as simple zoom, audio control, font size and typeface, through to sign-language, translations and captioning. Discuss options with your production partner to see what is right for your company’s stakeholders.  

4.  How will board members deliver their content?  

The nature of hybrid events means you’ll have to allow for both in-person production services as well as virtual. Depending on how your board members plan on presenting, you’ll need to consider the stage design as well as a virtual backdrop for those presenting virtually. With restrictions still in-play, make sure you follow the COVID-safety plan of your venue and event production partner when designing the stage look to ensure there’s adequate spacing, hygiene measures etc. 

For consistency, it’s best when the stage designs mimic each other. Whilst you’re limited to what’s available for the in-room stage look, Presentation Stages have the ability to incorporate a range of digital assets into the backdrops such as embedded videos, animated graphics, microsites and more. They can even change in appearance to suit the topic of the presentation. The basic Presentation Stage typically consists of a static backdrop or green screen and desk with the presenter and production team. Your speakers have the opportunity to live stream their presentation or pre-record it and host on the virtual platform. If you’re looking for something that stands out, Encore has launched a variety of Presentation Stage environments that vary in size, technology, and custom content options Whilst extremely impactful, this type of environment requires rehearsal and production time In advance of your AGM. 

For a seamless planning and production experience, we strongly recommend using an event technology partner that can provide both live and virtual production services. This means not only will you get high-quality in-room staging and support, they’ll also be able to work closely with their digital teams to ensure the virtual experience runs smoothly too.  

Whenever possible, we recommend you make content available on-demand. For one, it provides longevity to your content as well as an archive of the AGM for auditing purposes. 

The take away  – Hybrid AGMs are here to stay. 

In fact, 88% of attendees at Lumi Global’s ‘AGMs of the Future’ event believe that AGMs will be mostly hybrid or virtual

A hybrid annual general meeting provides a solution to keep your company stakeholders feeling connected, whilst also allowing all shareholders to attend despite changing restrictions. Answering these four questions is a great place to start when planning an in-person, hybrid or fully virtual AGM. Arming yourself with detailed answers will go a long way in leading discussions with potential production providers. Choose an experienced, full-service event production company to help guide you through the planning process and provide a seamless service for all your needs.