Telematic Shareholders' Meetings - 7 keys to organize them

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In 2020, the confinement forced many companies to rush into telematic shareholder meetings and online corporate meetings. For Investor Relations managers of large companies, this change meant, in many cases, headaches and sleepless nights. However, technology should save time, money and effort for corporations and their shareholders. So, what are the keys to organize a smooth telematic shareholders' meeting? In this publication we tell you 7 secrets that will make your life easier.

1. Plan your telematic shareholders' meeting with the support of professionals.

Shareholders' meetings are complex events involving many players. Event organizers, video producers, streaming companies, communication agencies, law firms, etc. Until now, all this machinery was very well oiled for the organization of face-to-face meetings, in which voting and telematic attendance was an almost anecdotal element.

Forced to introduce technology for mass use in a very short time, those in charge of these events had to juggle to adapt procedures such as shareholder registration, proxy voting or quorum counting. This shows that technology alone is not enough to make our lives easier. It is necessary to have a new professional profile among our suppliers, a secure electronic voting service provider.

If the date of your next corporate meeting is approaching and you haven't already done so, contact an experienced e-voting provider who can be involved in organizing the event from the beginning. Your event planner may know more than one company. Find out more about the different options and find a partner who will not just set up a platform, but will be involved in the preparation of the event.

2. Write a call for proposals according to the online context.

One of the most common mistakes is to think that an online event should replicate the characteristics of a face-to-face event by adding a computer in between. When we try to transfer behaviors from the physical to the digital world in this way, the only thing we generate is disappointment. Surely during the pandemic you have had this feeling on numerous occasions.

Designing a "digital native" event in such a highly regulated context as regulated as that of shareholder meetings is complicated, but not impossible. We will have to sell this idea internally in the company, but the results will speak for themselves. By slightly adapting some aspects of the wording of the notice of meeting - without the need to alter the bylaws and in compliance with current legislation - we can make life easier for our shareholders while reducing our stress levels at key moments such as the calculation of quorum or the presentation of results.

3. It has a centralized census of shareholders

Receiving attendance cards and proxies is one of the most tedious parts of organizing a shareholders' meeting. And things get more complicated when there are different channels for receiving these documents or if there is a proxy option with voting instructions. This is where technology should become our ally and not just another enemy at the orders of Professor Chaos. Having an intuitive digital census manager that allows us to centralize the information that comes to us through various channels and informs us when there are inconsistencies is essential.

If your electronic voting platform allows the online registration of your shareholders, you are already a long way ahead. You could even take advantage of the wording of Article 189.3 of the Capital Companies Act to collect in advance remote votes that will be taken into account in the calculation of the quorum.

4. Applies widely used technology standards

Technology is not an end but a means to achieve our goals. Your stakeholders are of very different ages and educational backgrounds. But they all use their email and cell phones on a daily basis. And most of them are accustomed to using video conferencing systems such as Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Zoom or Jitsi. Why complicate their lives by forcing them to learn a new technology? Don't reinvent the wheel. Make sure your technology provider - or that of your event organizer - knows the reality of your stakeholders and applies widely used technology standards without sacrificing security in identification and information management.

In this sense, the IEEE (the worldwide association of engineers dedicated to standardization) defines interoperability as the ability of two or more systems to work together without inconsistencies. Check that your technology provider uses an interoperable e-voting system, which allows you to identify your voters according to the European Electronic Identification Regulation regardless of the videoconferencing system you use.

5. Offer telephone assistance to your shareholders

No matter how intuitive your processes are, there will always be someone who needs additional support to complete them. Investor relations, marketing and communications departments put a lot of effort into converting stakeholders into fans of the company. But all that work can go up in smoke in a matter of seconds if shareholders are frustrated when it comes to signing up or participating in our online shareholder meeting. To avoid this, it is important to have a shareholder call center that can resolve any type of incident before and during the meeting. A high-end technology provider will allow you to outsource this service, adapting to your brand voice and ensuring the highest quality of service to your shareholders.

6. Manage the timing of your telematic meeting well.

As we have already seen, a face-to-face event and an online event are, as our grandparents used to say, "like an egg to a chestnut". In the in-person version, your stakeholders talk to each other during downtime. They may even have a space to network while enjoying a catering service. However, in the online version they can be anywhere; at home, on the street or even by the pool. That's why it's very important to manage the timing well. Presentations will have to be adapted, question and answer times will have to be well designed, and voting and results presentation times will have to be optimized.

Again, many make the mistake of trying to continue doing things the old way. Voting times are either set too short - leaving less skilled shareholders behind - or extremely long - waiting for final results. An effective solution is to display the voting results online in real time, so that the secretary can make a provisional reading of the results within seconds and proceed with the meeting. This way, the dynamics of the event are not interrupted and no one is deprived of the opportunity to participate at their own pace.

7. Evaluate, evaluate and evaluate

Lord Kelvin, to whom we owe so much, said: "What is not defined cannot be measured. What is not measured, cannot be improved. What is not improved is always degraded". Defining, measuring and improving is a job that is often forgotten after the hangover of the event. However, it is very important to have quality indicators that allow us to measure shareholder satisfaction with the organization of the meeting. If your meeting is telematic, you will have to introduce indicators related to the usability of the applied technology. A technology provider focused on continuous improvement will be able to help you with this task as well.

If you need help to organize an online shareholders meeting at the level of your brand, contact us and we will study your case without obligation.

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