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not for profit

Hosting a successful virtual AGM

Three chairs inside a board room

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) season is almost upon us, but with COVID-19 restrictions causing logistical challenges, many not for profit organisations will need to consider going virtual this year.

Back in May, the Federal Government made temporary modifications to the Corporations Act under the Corporations (Coronavirus Economic Response) Determination (No. 1) 2020 (Determination). As the charity regulator, the ACNC also reviewed operational guidelines.

These modifications addressed non-compliance issues and were designed to enable organisations to facilitate official meetings (including AGMs) via virtual technology. The ACNC states,

“Some charities may need to comply with rules that require meetings to be held in person. These rules may be from the charity’s own governing document or from a state regulator (such as those for incorporated associations) or ASIC (for companies). Check the governing document and check with any relevant regulator.

If your charity’s governing rules do not allow it to hold meetings remotely, it may be worth exploring the process for changing the rules. This could be as a temporary measure for situations that require it or as a permanent option if it makes the meeting more accessible for people.”

Since working from home has become the new normal, companies have embraced video conferencing with platforms such as Zoom, Teams and Hangouts… but hosting a virtual AGM carries much more significance than your regular Monday morning team catch-up.

Regardless of whether you host a completely virtual meeting – where all attendees are in their own location, or a hybrid meeting – where a small group is together and others are remote, it’s critical that you are well prepared.

We have put together some tips to help you prepare for a successful virtual AGM.

Video call screen template

Appropriate technology platform

There are many different technology platforms that can host your virtual AGM, but each has different features that you should review before making your selection. It is essential that you choose a secure and robust platform that will allow a seamless user experience.

Do your participants need to download an application, or can they use their regular web browser? Do you need to have a paid corporate account to host, or is it a free service? Does the platform support your expected number of attendees?

You need to make sure you select a tool that can host the number of people you have on your board… the last thing you want is for people to not be able to gain access because your meeting is full.

Plus, you will need to consider ‘how to vote’ methods, as your members will need to be able to vote on resolutions during the AGM. Some platforms have this facility, so keep it in mind when making your selection.

If you are unsure, we recommend you contact the technology provider to confirm the parameters of the system.

Clear notice-of-meeting information

Next, you must make sure you provide sufficient notice of the virtual meeting and comprehensive instructions outlining how attendees will participate. This includes a concise step by step process of how to access remotely. While many people will have used video conferencing tools before, you might have selected a platform that they are unfamiliar with.

You should also include instructions on how the voting process will be facilitated in the meeting and how you intend to run your question and answer session.

Smiling woman sitting at desk while talking to colleagues

ASIC guidelines

As part of the Government’s modifications to the Corporations Act, ASIC has outlined guidelines for conducting virtual meetings. You can read the information in full on their website, but these are some excerpts:

“As an overall guiding principle, members at a hybrid or virtual meeting should be given an opportunity to participate in the meeting that is equivalent to the one they would have had if attending in person.

The virtual technology used should enable those participating virtually to follow the proceedings of the meeting uninterrupted.

Members should be given a reasonable opportunity to ask questions live during the course of the meeting, regardless of whether they are participating in person or virtually.

Members entitled to vote on resolutions put at the meeting should have the opportunity to consider responses to questions and debate before doing so.

All voting at a virtual or hybrid meeting should be by a poll rather than a show of hands.”

The Governance Institute of Australia has also compiled a guidance document that offers tips for holding a virtual AGM. You can download this directly from their website.

Man Working From Home Having Online Group Videoconference On Laptop

Run a rehearsal

In the leadup to your AGM, it’s important that you are well prepared, so run as many rehearsals as possible. This is the time to test all your equipment and the technology you plan to use. If you can include test participants, you will be able to assess the experience and trial various scenarios.

If the chair, the CEO and any other board members are available, you can determine if there will be a time lag between individuals when they are talking… you want to make sure that key stakeholders are comfortable using the platform. Plus, a rehearsal is a great way to check that your presentation materials are easy to use.

Focused businessman wearing a wireless headset

Backup plan and tech support

You also need to consider a backup plan. What happens if the technology you plan to use doesn’t work correctly on the day, or if there are network issues or outages?

Ideally, attendees would prepare to login to the meeting at least 15 minutes before it is due to commence, so that any problems are identified in time. You need to have tech support readily available to help attendees who are experiencing difficulties.

Plus, it’s worthwhile having a Deputy Chair prepared in case the Chair’s connection drops out during the session.

Consider communicating your backup plan to all attendees before the meeting, in case technology fails on the day.

We anticipate that many of our clients will be moving to virtual AGMs this year. If you need any guidance on how to prepare, please contact our team today or find out more about not for profit accounting. Read more not for profit governance articles.

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