When it comes to hybrid and online AGMs, it’s important to keep shareholders engaged and able to participate. Online event platforms offer many ways to accommodate this, with online question and answer sessions one of the most common.
But there is more than one way to take questions in your virtual AGM.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has been very clear during the pandemic that all virtual or hybrid AGMs must provide a “reasonable opportunity” for members to participate by commenting, asking questions and voting.
In doing so, it’s important to find the right balance between enabling the meeting to run smoothly and providing investors with a reasonable opportunity to participate.
Prior to the AGM
When it comes to taking questions, you can call for questions from shareholders and members online during the registration process.
You can also send all registered attendees an email specifically requesting questions, including questions to the auditor.
This will provide shareholders with an opportunity to ask questions as well as giving the organisation the option of responding to those questions online or during the meeting.
If you’re responding online, your Q&A page should be kept up-to-date with answers right up to the deadline for proxy voting.
Download our complete guide to hosting a Virtual AGM here
During the AGM
Questions may also be answered at the AGM during the live stream. In fact, the corporate regulator is understood to prefer that shareholders are able to ask questions during the event itself.
Most webinar and conferencing platforms enable participants to submit questions over the chat feature or to ask questions verbally during online meetings.
However you decide to manage it, it’s important to make it clear to your audience how you will be taking questions during the event, as well as how you’ll be handling any follow-up questions.
A common way to ensure live Q&A sessions run smoothly during AGMs is to have shareholders type them into the private chat feature on your online event platform, and have your moderator read them out to be answered by your chair or other spokesperson.
If you are expecting a large shareholder body to attend the live event and ask a lot of questions or follow-ups, it may be worth having a number of people online to ensure every question is seen and a representative sample is sent to the moderator to be read out.
If your shareholders are located in regional or remote areas, it’s a good idea to include a teleconferencing option, so they’re able to ask verbal questions over the phone line in areas with unstable broadband connections.
This can be fully facilitated by your event provider — just ask your virtual AGM platform provider about the services they offer, such as combined tele-, web- and videoconferencing.
If you will be taking questions live, it’s important to rehearse how this part of your AGM will run to ensure your moderator, executives and facilitators — as well as your producer if you’ll be broadcasting from a studio, are all clear on how to work together to respond quickly while keeping the meeting on track.
After the AGM
Finally, you also have the option of holding a separate, post-AGM event specifically to enable shareholders to ask questions of the board or executive team.
Many retail investors value face-to-face events because they afford an opportunity for shareholders to meet and directly question executives on issues that are important to them.
Some organisations typically announce at their AGM that a separate shareholder Q&A will be held online, and provide the date — effectively splitting the business of the AGM in two.
If you have held an online Q&A prior to the event but don’t wish to hold a live Q&A during your AGM, a post-event Q&A session may placate any shareholders with further questions while satisfying the corporate regulator that a reasonable opportunity to participate has been provided.