This article is part of a three-part series on Navigating your Annual General Meetings and provides tips on how to plan a successful AGM.
Your Annual General Meeting, or AGM, is an important event where stakeholders can directly engage with the Board to ask questions and make resolutions. However, since it only happens once a year, those running the meetings tend to be a bit rusty on what’s required and may struggle to plan and execute a successful event.
As an external company auditor who has attended many AGMs, I have collated several practical tips to help you run a successful AGM.
1. Plan, and plan immediately after your AGM!
Following your AGM, hold a session with key stakeholders to determine what could be improved on or avoided in your next meeting. Those who should attend the session include the Chair, the Company Secretary/ CFO, a Non-Executive Director and a member of the executive management team.
2. Choose the right venue
An appropriate venue is one that caters for people you’ll host, provides you with access to any technology and multimedia facilities required, is easily accessible by transport and provides good parking. You should also consider the length of the meeting and whether you’ll be providing food and drink. Some function spaces will provide the option of catering while others will allow you to engage external caterers.
3. Notice of meeting
It’s critical you send the Notice of Meeting, including the meeting’s agenda, Explanatory Memoranda and often the audited financial report, to all those invited prior to the meeting. Companies must give at least 21 days’ notice to members about an upcoming general meeting while listed companies must give 28 days’ notice. It’s hence imperative you consider how you’ll provide the notice – whether by mail or email. You should also check your Constitution, and governing legislation, and/or consult with experts to determine whether you publish notice of meeting on your website.
4. Marketing and publicity
AGMs present a valuable opportunity for members to communicate and collaborate with Directors and management. Make the most of this occasion! Treat it as a chance to display your organisation in the best light possible, like a billboard. Some companies choose to provide members with product showbags or a multimedia presentation highlighting their past year’s achievements and future plans.
5. Coordinating communication
To hold a successful AGM, the Chairman and Company Secretary must work closely together. Think of the Chairman as the Lead Actor and the Company Secretary as the Film Director. They should create a list of potential questions and prepared responses, along with key messages to ensure they’re on the same page. It’s essential to understand your constitution and seek advice from your legal team on elections, communications, and voting. Be prepared for unexpected situations to avoid any confusion or loss of control during the meeting. If the CFO is not the Company Secretary, make sure they are included in the planning process to handle financial-related queries.
6. Engage a Share Registry
Having a share registry to manage members is essential to ensure a successful AGM. Usually, they attend the meeting to register members and provide them with voting cards. They also play a crucial role in assisting with proxy voting and overall counts per resolution. The share registry should work closely with the Company Secretary to ensure a smooth running of the AGM.
7. External auditors
It’s important to ensure that the auditor is aware of the time and venue of the AGM and will be properly represented. External Auditors are usually allowed to speak at AGMs and must attend and answer relevant questions within the scope of their engagement as an external auditor, under the Corporations Act listed company AGMs. It’s surprising that so few questions are asked of auditors, especially when they are issuing enhanced long-form audit reports, which detail key audit matters and how they were addressed for the audit.
Normally, when accounts are tabled at the AGM, there is no requirement to ‘pass them’ as they are typically endorsed by the Board and audited. The issue is questions that may arise from the financial report, and this is where the CFO should be fully engaged and ready to provide the Chairman with specific knowledge beforehand and/or to liaise appropriately with the auditor to ensure the questions are well answered. If your planning is thorough, you will anticipate the questions and have excellent responses available for the Chairman to present.
AGMs present an opportunity for your organisation to enhance its reputation and instil confidence in its members. By carefully planning each detail, you can assure that your meeting will be valuable and well received. For assistance planning your AGM, contact your local William Buck advisor.