Are you stuck in an AGM rut?

When you mention “AGM” to people a similar image tends to appear in their head: rows of chairs in a hotel conference room, a podium and elevated table up the front with hours of text heavy presentations to sit through before you’re given access to tea and coffee.

Whilst this may be the traditional AGM formula - and what people have come to expect – is it best representing your company and achieving the outcome you want? Or is there a way to reimagine the AGM experience to delight shareholders instead?

It’s easy to simply consider AGMs as an administrative necessity where the focus is on what do we need to tell shareholders? What resolutions need to be put to the Meeting? When do we need to send out meeting materials to shareholders? All of these components are important, however what is often overlooked is that your AGM is one of the key shareholder engagement events, and how the way in which the AGM is conducted can directly influence the outcome of resolutions and your brand in general.

Allan Goldin wrote last year about the innovative approach CSR took for their AGM and the positive impact it had on shareholders – Read the article here. Interestingly, the elements that were deemed innovative were not overly complex or expensive, but rather considered what people actually want.

So where do you start?

Consider your layout
It may seem like an inconsequential part of the AGM, however the format of your room can set the tone for your meeting. For example, having presenters elevated at the front of the room sends a message of dominance and stature, whereas roundtable formats signal collaboration and open discussion. Consider how you want your shareholders to feel, and what message you’re trying to send, and adjust your room accordingly.

The power of good presentations
Think about the best presentations you have seen. Was it full of slides and slides of text? Were they more like a study guide than an engaging presentation? Most presenter’s instinct when it comes to communicating large volumes of information is to write everything down in slides. The challenge with this is that the audience can quickly get overwhelmed, fatigued and even distracted by lots of text, and may not actually hear or remember the message that you’re trying to deliver. Instead consider using visual aids such as graphs and images to support the message you deliver verbally. You can then use supporting material such as your Annual Report or other handouts to reinforce your message or provide more detail in a format your shareholders can keep.

Give me a break
Nobody likes to sit in a chair for two hours at a time, and most people can only focus on one thing for 10 minutes before becoming distracted, so consider introducing something new into your presentation every 10 minutes to keep your audience engaged, maybe a product demonstration or video, and perhaps even factor in an intermission midway through the meeting for people to have a proper break.

Don’t underestimate the human element
AGM’s are certainly not the time to broadcast personal stories, however don’t underestimate the impact humanising your board members can have. Whether it’s as simple as giving the audience ample opportunity to speak directly to the individuals, or incorporating insights into their passion for the company, showing the people behind the position can be very powerful.

All of these tips are not revolutionary, but could make a real difference to the way your company is perceived and the messages that shareholders take away from your AGM. So why not dare to be different and give the owners of your company what they want.

Ann Nguyen, Head of Client and Investor Services, Automic