How to pivot to an online AGM
At onsomble, we often get asked to help our clients with governance matters and during COVID-19 we were tasked with pivoting a live AGM to an online one.
Let’s set the scene:
- The client was an association which had members in Australia and New Zealand
- They were looking to pass a special resolution at the AGM
- They had cancelled their face-to-face AGM in March 2020 but had already accepted proxies for this event
- They needed a members’ attendance rate of 10% to make a quorum
- They required a majority vote of 75% to pass the special resolution
We recommended the association use a virtual technology platform to run their AGM. While we chose to use Zoom (with webinar add-on), there are many other platforms that can be used such as GoToMeeting, BlueJeans and Redback Conferencing, to name but a few. The Zoom platform allowed us to take registrations from a branded landing page and export a list of attendees post session. It also has a polling functionality, which was used when asking members to cast their vote on the special resolution.
We drafted the proxy forms for our client, and had originally included the following clause in the initial proxy for the face-to-face AGM:
“As my/our proxy to vote in my/our name(s) and on my/our behalf at the Annual General Meeting of the Society on [date] and at any adjournment thereof.”
This enabled the proxies from the first scheduled AGM to remain valid. It was an important addition as the association’s quorum of 10% was ‘the presence (physically, by proxy or as allowed under rule 35) of 10% of the members entitled to vote’.
We worked with the client to ensure the content delivered was in line with AGM requirements and included a President’s Report as well as a Financial Report, along with the special resolution wording. We reduced the original presentation from 62 slides to 15, so that the AGM could be run effectively online.
As we had set up each executive member with a panellist login, the ability for each of those members to speak and contribute during the meeting was a seamless process. The attendees could ask questions using the Q&A functionality and provide feedback using the chat messaging system. As the host of the AGM, we were also able to upgrade microphone access for attendees, when required, so that members could ask questions or provide comment verbally.
Running the AGM online resulted in a higher attendance rate than a regular face-to-face session and helped to include the trans-Tasman constituents who wouldn’t normally attend the meeting. This allowed the quorum to be met and the special resolution passed.
Our top 5 tips for running an online AGM
- Run a practice session to ensure all members of the Executive are comfortable with the software
- Engage an external stakeholder to host the session and deal with technical requirements
- Encourage members to complete a proxy form to help achieve a quorum (depending on your constitution)
- Cross-check your registration list against your membership database to ensure all attendees are eligible to vote
- Make sure you check what your virtual technology platform includes — the polling functionality is an important feature if you are asking members to vote on any issues
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