The arrival of COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of digital technologies for the seamless execution of general meetings in Singapore. Supported by legislative changes, the pandemic ushered in an era where virtual platforms became the backbone of these meetings, revolutionising the way businesses and organisations convened and interacted.
The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Alternative Arrangements for Meetings) Orders allowing businesses to hold virtual general meetings in Singapore ceased from 1 July 2023. However, in recognition of the many benefits afforded by virtual and hybrid meeting technologies, Singapore introduced a new Bill on 9 May 2023, allowing businesses to continue holding their general meetings electronically if desired. However, for public companies listed on Singapore Exchange (SGX), general meetings would have to be held either in physical or hybrid format.
With legislation supporting businesses to provide stakeholders the option to attend meetings virtually or in person, it appears that hybrid meetings are set to be an ongoing Annual General Meetings (AGMs) trend.
Charlyne Pak, Manager Share Registry Services for BoardRoom Singapore, explores the reasons behind the surge in hybrid AGMs and offers expert tips to help you run hybrid meetings successfully.
The benefits of hybrid AGMs
Hybrid AGMs are becoming commonplace in Singapore and around the world due to the raft of benefits they can provide to businesses and shareholders alike.
Three key advantages of hybrid AGMs are:
By allowing attendees to join from anywhere in the world, hybrid AGMs, or any type of general meeting, can help to improve accessibility and stakeholder engagement.
“One of the main reasons companies adopt hybrid meetings is because they want more interaction with shareholders who want to attend in person while at the same time giving shareholders the flexibility to choose which mode they want to participate in,” Charlyne explains. “Hybrid formats allow for a wider reach of stakeholders, as attendance is not limited by location.”
The convenience of hybrid meetings also means that shareholders are less likely to skip them due to conflicting schedules.
“Shareholders who hold stakes in multiple companies can now attend multiple AGMs in one day, as there’s little to no travelling time in between,” says Charlyne.
Positive ESG factors
By leveraging technology to bridge distances, businesses can enhance their response to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues in several ways.
“Hybrid AGMs can help reduce the environmental impact of meetings because attendees who would normally travel can instead participate remotely,” she says.
A reduced need for travel leads to less carbon emissions, thus promoting sustainable business practices.
Hybrid AGMs can also help foster good corporate governance, with higher attendance levels across stakeholder groups helping to promote transparency, accountability and relationship building – three critical components of responsible business management.
Cost and time savings
Hybrid meetings can provide businesses with valuable time and cost savings, which can then be redirected into progressing primary business goals. A reduced number of in-person attendees can help businesses to save on costs by downsizing their catering and event space.
By leveraging digital technology, hybrid meetings are also likely to proceed more efficiently than fully physical meetings; since COVID-19, average meeting times in Singapore have seen a remarkable 62.5% drop.
How to prepare for a hybrid AGM in Singapore
Businesses can help ensure a successful hybrid AGM by taking the following steps in the preparation stage.
As a matter of best practice, a reputable meeting services provider will adopt these steps during the preparation stages of an AGM, seamlessly reducing the burden on companies. By leveraging their expertise, they will ensure a streamlined hassle-free experience.
Tips for conducting a successful hybrid AGM
When it comes to ensuring the smooth and effective running of a hybrid AGM webcast in Singapore, Charlyne has the following three straightforward tips for business leaders:
- designate a moderator;
- request attendees turn phones off or on silent; and
- foster engagement with both virtual and in-person attendees.
“Firstly, as there are two different channels for receiving questions – in person and via the real-time messaging platform – always designate a moderator from your company,” she says.
A sharp moderator can help guide the flow of discussion and manage questions raised during Q&A, encouraging valuable engagement across stakeholder groups, and also helps the Chairman to control the meeting time.
“Secondly, request all attendees to turn off their mobile devices or switch them to silent mode,” Charlyne continues. This will minimise distractions and interruptions during the meeting and help attendees stay focused on matters at hand.
“Thirdly, it is important to foster a sense of fairness among in-person and virtual attendees,” Charlyne says. “This involves making sure all attendees are equally engaged throughout the meeting instead of defaulting to those present in the room.”
Business leaders can foster engagement and satisfaction among all shareholders by:
- dedicating equal airtime to in-person and remote attendees during the live Q&A; and
- providing remote attendees with tokens of equal value to any perks provided to physical attendees (such as refreshments or vouchers).
What to do after your hybrid AGM
The period following an AGM presents a golden opportunity to evaluate the event’s success and make improvements to your conduct of hybrid general meetings.
After your AGM, it is time to:
- Analyse attendee feedback – Gathering feedback from all attendees will assist in refining future meetings. Consider including a QR code at the end of the final presentation directing shareholders to a feedback form.
- Evaluate the success of the hybrid format – Assess the effectiveness of the hybrid format in achieving your desired outcomes (such as increased engagement and inclusivity) and compare attendance rates with other formats to gauge overall success.
- Start planning for future AGMs – Use the insights gained from the evaluation process to refine and enhance future AGMs. Opportunities for improvement may lie in adopting new technologies, enhancing your engagement strategies and addressing any shortcomings identified.
Engage a reputable meeting services provider for the best results
From 1 October 2022, in order for shareholders to make decisions on an informed basis, all SGX-listed companies must include live polling and Q&A at their general meetings. A professional meeting services provider can support with these practices and all aspects of the meeting process from start to finish to ensure a compliant and successful general meeting.
Top general meeting service providers in Singapore tend to have the following:
- strong knowledge of local regulations and standards and the ability to help you achieve strict compliance;
- a wealth of experience in running General Meetings in different formats and implementing contingency plans for dealing with unfortunate situations like power outages; and
- an end-to-end service that includes a post-meeting debrief to explore what was done well and what can be done better next time.
Tailored support for hybrid meetings in Singapore
Hybrid meetings have emerged as the future of general meetings, with many Singaporean businesses embracing digital technologies to deliver inclusive and productive meeting experiences for their shareholders.
BoardRoom has a long history of helping businesses throughout the Asia-Pacific region make the most of their General Meetings. Today, we proudly conduct general meetings for almost 47% of companies on the Singapore Stock Exchange and have a strong reputation for delivering exceptional outcomes for clients.
As part of our comprehensive share registry service, we assist with all aspects of running physical, virtual and hybrid meetings in Singapore. Our experienced share registry team specialises in providing a professional, tailored meeting service that aligns with your unique business needs.
Contact us today to find out how we can assist with running your next AGM. To learn more about the future of annual general meetings in Singapore, download our AGM trend infographic so you will be equipped to make informed decisions for your next AGM
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