Link Group managed a total of 382 virtual meetings and 57 hybrid meetings in Australia in 2021 continuing to support an evolving landscape since 2020. These included annual general meetings, scheme and extraordinary meetings, annual member meetings and employee town halls. Our reach was global, hosting meetings for clients in the UAE and Papua New Guinea, while Company Directors participated in meetings from the UK, USA, India, Japan and Egypt.


Over 32,000 people from across the world attended these meetings

Over 12,500 of these were voting holders (up from 7,000 in 2020)

2,135 questions asked online


In Australia, the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Act, which came into effect in August 2021, temporarily amended the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (Corporations Act) to:

  • Hold virtual AGMs (regardless of any constitutional requirements for in-person AGMs)
  • Electronically distribute meeting related materials to shareholders and members
  • Validly execute documents electronically.

Many of our clients with a 30 June year-end held off deciding an AGM and meeting format until the act was confirmed, so the announcement at the beginning of August was welcomed news. Many of our clients had already implemented strict guidelines for staff returning to the office. With New South Wales and Victoria still operating under pandemic conditions with restrictions on face-to-face gatherings, we were a strong advocate for this relief.

The temporary relief is due to end on 31 March 2022. After this, virtual meetings will only be possible where they are permitted by a company’s constitution. If a company’s constitution does not currently permit virtual meetings, it will need to be amended by way of a special resolution to enable virtual meetings. We had some clients include this on their Notice of Meeting in the 2021 AGM season while the temporary relief measures were still in effect. This was not supported by proxy advisors, and as a result some withdrew the resolution.

Tips for 2022

Continuing through 2021, clients had to remain flexible and, in many cases, have a Plan B or Plan C in place to cope with the rapidly changing health advice and travel restrictions. Many clients have become more comfortable with our virtual technology over the previous year having participated in online meetings during the pandemic. Ongoing travel restrictions resulted in overseas board members participating in meetings remotely via video or audio streams, ensuring full participation in their AGM. Auditors also had the opportunity to join and participate in the AGMs remotely.

As we move further into 2022, the pandemic will still impact meetings so it is important to remain flexible. Based on our experience over the last two years, below are some tips to help plan your 2022 meeting:

  • Check your constitution: Do you have a provision in your constitution to hold a virtual meeting after 31 March 2022? If your constitution does not currently permit virtual meetings, you may consider amending it to enable future flexibility. This will require shareholder approval via a special resolution
  • Contact us early: let your Client Relationship Manager know your meeting date and your preferred meeting format (virtual, hybrid or physical). We will then work on contingency plans in case they are needed
  • Consider the experience you would like to provide for your shareholders before, during and after the meeting.

Shareholder experiences

BEFORE THE MEETING
  • A page on your website (or a Link Group-hosted personalised microsite) to host all relevant meeting information and documents including your notice of meeting, online participation guide and any updates to the meeting due to current public health requirements
  • Provide shareholders the opportunity to submit questions prior to the AGM. This can be done via paper for individuals who receive paper proxy forms, or online for those receiving communications electronically. These questions, collected ahead of the meeting, have been a helpful tool for companies to get an idea of the topics shareholders would like to raise, and to use at the start of question time, before moving onto live questions
  • Have hardcopy proxy forms available for any holders who request one
  • Consider sending hardcopy materials a little earlier where possible – the current environment has resulted in postal delays, especially in remote areas
  • Make sure it is clear if shareholders wish to participate in the online component of your meeting (vote and ask questions), they will need their holder identification number and shareholder reference number (HIN/SRN).
AT THE MEETING
  • Open the poll at the beginning of the meeting
  • When closing the poll at the end of the meeting, ensure the Chair advises shareholders the time they have left to vote – those online will see a countdown banner, and those in the room will have their cards collected by Link Group staff. The new legislation requires that voting on all resolutions at meetings using technology needs to be conducted by poll. This includes procedural motions
  • Ensure the length of the address is as concise as possible and remember any PowerPoint presentations will be visible to those in the room and online, so make sure your presentations have the appropriate branding and images.

Online Participants

  • Provide online participants at least 30 minutes of registration time to login
  • Have a helpline available for online participants to call if they need help logging in – ensure this number is available in your notice of meeting, online guide, and the virtual meeting portal
  • You can include relevant meeting documents on the virtual meeting portal. Also consider links to your sustainability and any corporate governance pages on your company website that may be of interest to shareholders
  • Make sure your technical crew have appropriate ‘hold’ music leading up to the meeting. If you have a corporate video, you may consider playing this while waiting for the meeting to begin
  • Ensure the Chair has a clear script and encourages online participants to submit questions early.

Physical Participants

  • Ensure the venue has a COVID-Safe plan
  • Have sanitiser and masks available if any attendees require them
  • Ensure the room is set up according to current public health requirements
  • If using shared equipment such as handheld microphones or stands – consider the public health requirements. We can offer guidance if required
  • Consider what refreshments will be provided for those attending the venue
  • Shareholders have not had many opportunities to attend physical meetings so any opportunity in 2022 to chat with the company will be appreciated.

Phone Participants (if applicable)

  • Ensure shareholders are aware of how to obtain their unique PIN before the meeting to ask questions by phone
  • Allow adequate time for phone registration on the day – at least 30 minutes
  • Present a clear phone banner and/or welcome message containing all relevant instructions for phone participants
  • Provide the Chair with a clear script so those on the phone know when to ‘raise their hands’.
AFTER THE MEETING
  • Include results on the ASX website and your own website where applicable
  • Publish questions asked at the meeting and the answers provided
  • Communicate the 2023 AGM date to your shareholders if known.
InvoCare Limited – Annual General Meeting

On 28 May 2021, InvoCare Limited (InvoCare) hosted their Annual General Meeting (AGM) in partnership with Link Group’s team, and award-winning1 virtual meeting technology, to successfully conduct a hybrid meeting (with a physical and online presence) for their 29,269 shareholder base, representing an issued capital of 144,060,733.

With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, InvoCare was ready to conduct their meeting and physically meet with their shareholders. A virtual component was also implemented to facilitate the attendance of the wider shareholder base.

Link Group worked with InvoCare, on an ongoing basis, assessing every detail regarding both components of the meeting, to ensure the event ran smoothly and successfully.

The InvoCare physical meeting was hosted at The Mint, Sydney with the presence of the InvoCare Chair, the Chief Executive Officer, a majority of the non – executive directors (one attended online) and the Executive team, along with the attending shareholders. Link Group’s platform facilitated the video webcast component of the meeting. The hybrid nature of the meeting allowed for physical and online voting with questions, which were answered live during the meeting.

Shareholder attendance included 55 at the venue and 57 securely connecting online. Those wishing to attend virtually were able to log in to ask questions and cast their votes, in accordance with the online guide and instructions, jointly presented by Link Group and InvoCare. The total number of hybrid meeting attendees increased by 32% - from the attendees of the fully physical InvoCare AGM in 2019.

The meeting was supported by Link Group’s Events team onsite and virtually which included members of our Client Relationship team attending in person, dedicated onsite technicians and virtual technicians to ensure the AGM ran smoothly, securely and was of the highest quality.


1 'Digital Platform of the Year’ at the 2021 Financial Standard MAX Awards.

Attendance increased by 32%

Hybrid meeting services including live online questions and webcast production

29,269
Shareholders

Virtual Meeting Checklist

3 months before the meeting

  • Engage Link Group in an initial discussion – we can create your action plan:
    • Confirm the AGM date and time;
    • Arrange webcast requirements. Physical, fully virtual or hybrid (physical and online attendance) meeting;
    • If holding a hybrid meeting, confirm your venue booking;
    • Arrange webcast requirements, video or audio webcast;
    • Determine if any changes to your constitution are required and seek advice if necessary;
    • Are your presenters or board members situated in multiple locations? If so, would you like them connected via video conference or audio conference?
    • Consider what information is required to implement your Plan B scenario during initial planning discussions in case of unforeseen changes to health and travel guidelines.
  • How many presenters will you have?
  • Will you provide a conference call line for shareholder and/or member participation? If so, will this be a ‘listen only’ function or ‘listen and ask questions verbally’ at the meeting, or all options with the addition of voting via phone?
  • Do you need a transcript of your meeting? If so, what is the preferred turnaround time?
  • Do your presenters require an autocue or teleprompter (for video/physical events only)?
  • What is your Plan B in the event of a lockdown or travel restrictions? We can help scope this for you – it may save time and energy for all involved;
  • Is your venue able to support a live video or audio webcast? We can arrange for a technician to conduct a site visit to determine how the meeting can be best conducted, and arrange the resources and equipment required. If the venue is not suitable, then we can help you consider alternate venues or methods for the meeting to proceed.

2 months before the meeting

  • Prepare the Notice of Meeting information including:
    • URL link to the virtual meeting platform;
    • Login requirements;
    • The time when the online platform will open for the meeting;
    • Any health information that might be applicable at the venue for hybrid meetings: i.e., social distancing, mask wearing, vaccination certificates;
    • Engage Link Group in the design of your proxy voting form (this should include details for voting online and proxyholder contacts).
  • Capture AGM questions from shareholders prior to the meeting with a question form sent with the proxy voting form – utilising our online question functionality. This provides an opportunity to consider recurring questions, issues or themes and ensures responses are carefully considered and if necessary, discussed with the chairman. Responses can also be worked into the Chair and/or MD’s script for the meeting;
  • Discuss and finalise mail, and email blast components (i.e., final text for shareholder letter, DL postcard, NOM, proxy form, question form etc.), including the delivery of annual reports to Link Group’s mail house, if these are printed by your own provider;
  • Consider whether any other documents and/or guidelines should be prepared in advance, for example direct voting regulations and/or meeting procedures and whether these documents should be available on your website before the meeting;
  • Work with us to design your online platform guide;
  • Provide us with your company logos, presenter photos and biographies to assist us in personalising your virtual meeting site in accordance with your brand guidelines. Screenshots from this can be used in your online platform guide too;
  • Complete the Request for Information Form (RFI) sent to you by your Client Relationship Manager as early as possible, this ensures our team can work on all meeting items in a timely manner, and allow for all required resources and equipment (i.e., camera technician, webcast technician, autocue operator etc.);
  • Engage our event specialists early so that we can make provision for the appropriate AV requirements to ensure that the event meets the expectations of all stakeholders.

1 month before the meeting

  • Meeting documents should be mailed and emailed, and online voting activated;
  • Keep track of how shareholder votes have been lodged through miraqle votetrak;
  • Review and provide comments and approvals on the conference call, welcome banners and scripts provided to you, for review by your CRM (if this function is being used);
  • Appoint a moderator for fielding and/or verbalising online questions and consider the best way to run this, considering your Chair, their technical level and location. It is imperative you provide reasonable opportunity for shareholders and members to ask questions or make comments. (N.B. moderators will be trained by Link Group staff prior to the AGM and a Link Group team member is available to assist at the live event if required);
  • Consider whether to upload a Q&A document of questions submitted before the meeting onto your online platform (optional).

2-3 weeks before the meeting

  • Book audio line and video conferencing tests with presenters a minimum of one week prior to the live event. Technology challenges can be unsettling for presenters, so connect with our specialist team to ensure a smooth process for your stakeholders;
  • Schedule and run a dress rehearsal in advance of the event. This is strongly recommended for any event with a live video component.

1 week before the meeting

  • Ensure the moderator and Chair practice the Q&A session. It is imperative they understand the online question process (it can be daunting in a virtual or hybrid environment);
  • Also ensure they practice from the same location as the meeting, utilising the exact technology and devices to be used at the live meeting.

Day before the meeting

  • Send reminder email broadcasts the day before to ensure maximum participation;
  • Provide final presentation slides and the Chair’s script to Link Group, to have it ready for the live meeting.

Meeting Day

  • Our team of specialists will be on hand to offer support.

Virtual Meeting Technology

We hear from Stuart McNair, Head of Events at Orient Capital, Link Group’s specialist in-house events team.

Planning ahead to make your AGM a success

2021 held few surprises for our team with the continuation of several COVID outbreaks, multiple lockdowns, the inability to travel to and from Australia easily as well as company Boards/C-suites continuing to be geographically dispersed.

One notable difference to 2021 came in early August with the Australian government’s amendments to the Corporations Act which made virtual AGMs permanent and the stipulation that shareholders needed to ask questions verbally into the meeting, if virtual. This in turn resulted in more corporates choosing to host a hybrid AGM (virtual and in person) which enabled many listed corporates the ability to plan ahead, something which was harder to achieve the previous year.

Undoubtedly, hybrid meetings do increase the technology complexities behind the scenes in order to ensure investors watching the event virtually have the same experience, or as close as possible, to those in the room. To solve this, our team were able, utilising our existing technology, to support some 250+ virtual meetings with a shareholder line to facilitate investor questions to be asked; a significant increase to those offered the previous season.

On the whole, we picked up a couple of notable changes to last year. Firstly, there was a considerable increase in the number of companies choosing to pre-record director re-election speeches. Secondly, there was a significantly reduced reliance on office utilisation – perhaps an adaptation, after 12 months of home working, to boards and executives being more comfortable to deliver the AGM from their homes rather than traversing cities to access offices. Lastly, we noted that the corporates we supported were more comfortable in using technology flexibly, with a mixture of audio and video. Several chose to have the Chair and CEO on video with all other directors/executives participating as audio only. This was well received and worked well for a geographically dispersed team, reducing rehearsal time and costs not to mention technical complexities.

Overall the combination of our events, webcasting and virtual meeting teams here at Link Group have now project managed close to 1,000 virtual and hybrid AGMs (rehearsals and tests) and have supported numerous and multiple requirements.

We are very comfortable with a wide range of technologies and being able to deliver events from almost all corners of the world. In order to make your meeting as successful as possible, we would encourage you to engage our team as early as possible. This way you can work with our team of meeting and technology specialists to ensure all aspects of your meeting are managed and the most appropriate format is used to ensure the expectations of your team, board and investors are met. Key Considerations - Based on our experiences over the last 2 years we encourage all of our clients to consider the below and again lock in your AGM date with us as soon as you can.

Key Considerations - Based on our experiences over the last 2 years we encourage all of our clients to consider the below and again lock in your AGM date with us as soon as you can.

  • Is your event virtual, physical or hybrid?
  • Which venue are you utilising? Presenters’ homes, office/s, hotel or conferencing space?
  • Do you require audio visual (AV) provision?
  • Do you require set design?
  • Does the venue have wired internet connectivity and telephone lines?
  • Who needs to participate and which presenters will be on video vs audio?
  • Are your Chair and moderator in the same location? If not ensure you allow ample time to rehearse and run through the Q&A component;
  • What technical support do you require in each location, if your Chair is at home, do you need IT/telephony assistance?
  • Who needs to be present during line tests/rehearsals - often an AGM involves a cast of thousands, choose the core team you want internally to liaise with our technical team and we will do the rest.

For any questions please contact your Relationship Manager or Orient Capital’s specialist events team via Stuart McNair stuart.mcnair@orientcap.com