Nobody likes playing to an empty room, and when your company’s future is on the line, a low turnout to an annual meeting can be a serious setback. Firms expect people to flock to annual meetings to touch base, learn about leadership’s plans, and – most importantly – vote on plans for the business and members for the board. Besides being bad for morale and public perception, having too few shareholders attend could mean too few votes for a quorum on an important ballot, or even cast doubts on the validity of a majority ruling.
As with many aspects of running a successful business, the key to a successful and well-attended annual meeting is proper preparation. So here are some pointers to make sure every annual meeting is a big – and crowded – success.
Shareholders are often spread all over the map, and they will weigh the benefit of attending an annual meeting against the bother of making the trip. That means organizers can maximize attendance by combining style and substance to plan an annual meeting too good to pass up.
The event should be held in an interesting and comfortable setting such as a convention hall, hotel conference room, or movie theater. Hosts should provide guests with food, entertainment, copies of any important documentation, and gifts to take home. Major companies like SalesForce and Google can afford to hire popular musicians and celebrities to attend their events, but local entertainers or movie screenings are also available. Booking marquee speakers in your company’s field is more important than entertainment, as professionals will travel far to see industry leaders give a speech, and appreciate transcripts of such speeches in their complimentary bags.
Incentives such as these will get many people out to an annual meeting, but the need to tend to an investment is what will really pack the rafters. Company leaders should make it clear when inviting shareholders that the annual meeting will involve discussions of serious issues, some of which may be controversial or surprising – using a bit of mystery to create anticipation and buzz never hurts, so long as there actually is a controversy or surprise to discuss. The invitation should also lay out plainly what will be at stake in the shareholder vote, and why investors cannot afford to let others make such decisions without so much as designating a proxy. Make the annual meeting seem important, and people won’t skip it – simple as that.
A beautiful invitation often means a beautiful wedding, and the same is true of annual meetings. While companies don’t send out frilly save-the-dates, they do send their stockholders documents such as invitations, ballots, itineraries and more. By retaining the services of a financial printing service in New York or another fiscal hub, companies can make sure their business materials are produced quickly, to ensure that they are clear and appealing. If the documentation for the annual meeting is of the highest quality, investors will assume the event itself will match that quality as well and be eager to attend.
Specialized printing firms can also help companies set establish data security for shareholders who need to examine the company’s information during a meeting, either at the event itself or, for those who cannot make it in person and must designate their proxy, while watching the company’s stream of the meeting.
Are you prepared for Annual Meeting Season? Here's our free checklist to ensure you've considered everything in your planning!