Corporate officers and directors sometimes view the annual shareholder meeting as the bane of their existence. Indeed, because so many annual meetings are so poorly planned, they can be costly not only in terms of the resources expended, but in the amount of productive time lost. It, of course, need not be that way.

With proper planning and assistance from experienced legal counsel like Milwaukee’s Kerkman Wagner & Dunn, a corporation’s board and management can not only “check off” this required annual gathering, but also use it as a springboard for the future. Here are seven tips for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of your meeting:

Tip 1: Consider this year’s overall theme or themes

Annual meetings often are boring and non-productive because the speakers get bogged down in mindless detail. Instead of focusing on the specifics that will be presented and discussed, first sketch out the overall theme or themes for this year’s meeting. Don’t be afraid to save some issues for next year.

Tip 2: Carefully select those who will present

Based upon the theme or themes that have been identified, select the individuals who should present information to the shareholders. Let them know early how much time they have and reinforce that you intend to stick to a timetable. If you have a Prima Dona on your staff, consider selecting someone else in that same department. The presentation will be shorter and you may teach the long-winded person to become pithier.

Tip 3: Craft a “screenplay”

A director would never think of putting on a play without a proper script. Follow that same rule in your annual shareholder meeting. Consolidate into one file – preferably electronic – all important information. Include, of course, the basic calendar and location data, but also include contact information regarding all the important “players” and special sections for vendors, the press, and others who may be in attendance.

Tip 4: Get the media involved

Invite members of the media to attend the meeting, particularly if they are specialists in business or commerce. Prepare media kits that include the annual report, biographies of important management personnel, and any other information that you would like to have incorporated later into a feature article. Writers love nothing better than to have someone do part of the work for them. Take this opportunity to blow your company’s horn.

Tip 5: Don’t skimp on the meeting room

If the company’s theme is one of success, nothing calls that theme into question quicker than cheap and tattered arrangements for the annual meeting. Be corporately responsible, but remember that you may have new investors present and you won’t have another opportunity to make a good first impression. Have everything, particularly all displays and banners, in place and properly installed long before the meeting actually begins.

Tip 6: Rehearse

Building on Tip 3, it doesn’t help to have a great script if you don’t rehearse. Have your rehearsal resemble the actual meeting as much as possible. If you expect questions from the shareholders on a “sticky” topic, such as pending litigation, have those questions aired at the rehearsal in order to formulate your responses clearly and responsibly at the actual annual meeting of shareholders.

Tip 7: Have a serious post-mortem

After you have completed the meeting, spend the necessary time reviewing how it went. Discern what problems arose and how successful you may have been in handling them. Learn from your failures and celebrate your successes.

Discuss Your Corporate Strategies With an Expert Attorney

Smooth corporate operation requires the services of skilled, energetic, and experienced legal counsel, like the Milwaukee based Kerkman Wagner & Dunn For assistance in assessing your company’s special needs, call 414–278–7000, or complete the contact form on our firm’s web site. The initial consult is free of charge.

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