Corporate Compliance: A quick “How To” guide to holding a Socially Distant Annual General Meeting

COVID-19 may grind your business to a halt, but your obligations are alive and well. If only the organization’s constitution had a pandemic clause; one that allowed you to abandon all activities except those deemed essential. Sadly, the constitution template didn’t include that clause. Now you have to figure out how to hold an AGM without landing you and your shareholders in a mandatory quarantine.

A physical meeting is out of the question. With travel restrictions and social distance regulations, many of your shareholders would be locked out of the meeting. Even if they could access the venue, you’d need a stadium to seat everyone appropriately. So that leaves you with the virtual option.

These days, when anyone mentions online meetings, you automatically think Zoom. Zoom has its challenges. First, they have a maximum number of participants which is 1000. Even though you are unlikely to have 100% attendance, you should have the capacity to accommodate them.

Second, zoom meetings have had the misfortune of being hacked for sport. There’s a cyber security firm that purchased over 500,000 zoom credentials and passwords hackers. That’s one way participants in an engineering zoom meeting become unwilling students of a human anatomy class with very graphic visual aids.

Third, participants would need a good internet connection and a device capable of connectivity. Those with “mulika mwizi” phones are automatically locked out as participants.
What you need is a solution that is:
• Inclusive – accords all shareholders the opportunity to participate
• Interactive – Allows participants to vote and ask questions
• Secure – A clear stable connection that keeps malicious hackers at bay.
• User friendly – A solution that accommodates low tech users.

As long as the shareholders can follow the proceedings, you don’t need a video conferencing tool. That makes things a lot easier.

You’re best option is teleconferencing, with a little adjustment.
First of all, you know that all shareholders won’t join the meeting on time, so how do you ensure that the meeting isn’t disrupted by late comers? Have the call set up as a one way conference call, essentially muting all participants except the host.

That’s fine and all, but how do you ensure that those who call in are actually shareholders? Part of the invitation pack that you send to your shareholders will contain a USSD code (similar to one people use to load airtime on their phones) and a password that they have to use in order to listen in on the call. That information is recorded as the participants call in which helps to register those who are present.
Okay, now we know who we are dealing with and that the meeting can proceed smoothly. If this is one-way, how do shareholders vote? Using the code shared earlier, there will be prompts that will allow the shareholders to vote when a motion is brought up.
The call can be recorded which will ensure all vital details are captured in the minutes.

Finally, what do your shareholders need to access the meeting? A phone with a dial pad and a fully charged battery. That’s not a lot to ask. They don’t even need airtime. The number used to call in is toll-free.

This solution works all over the country as long as the hosts have a good internet connection. We at Node have a hassle free voice communications solution that does all the above. We do all the heavy lifting. All you need is a quiet room and a good internet connection. We’ll take care of the rest.

The branded umbrellas can be pushed to next year.