Before you can run an effective AGM, you must properly plan. Please make sure you read How to Prepare for Your AGM.
Planning is essential if you want to confirm that you have everything covered. This is beyond logistics, planning also includes what information is shared and how it is shared. By the time your members arrive, they should be well versed in all of the important information.
Greet your Members
First and foremost, you and the board should greet and mingle with your members as they arrive. Shake their hands and introduce yourself if you have not met before.
If you are having a remote meeting, then try to start the meeting with a very brief introduction of each board member.
Either way, having a personal connection to the members at such an important meeting helps to smooth the edges when important conversations need to take place.
Ensure you have a Quorum
Your specific quorum requirements will be listed in your constitution and if you planned appropriately, you took the steps to ensure you have the audience you need to hold the AGM.
Verify with the registration desk that you have sufficient voting members in attendance before calling the meeting to order. If you do not, then you must wait until enough voting members arrive.
If 30 minutes pass and you still do not have enough voting members in attendance, the AGM must be postponed and rescheduled. This can be tricky as far as timing and keeping under the rules of your charity, so it’s best to do your planning upfront to ensure you have the attendance you need.
Follow the Agenda
Once the meeting is called to order, you have recognized the members and any special guests, it’s key to follow the Agenda. You sent this agenda out in advance and have prepared for it in your presentation deck.
You likely have members who have prepared statements or questions that they would like to present. The best way to keep order in the audience is by following the agenda, keeping on topic, and managing time.
Manage the Time and Conversation
This is an area where I see AGMs (or any meeting for that matter) go off course. While it’s important to allow members to provide feedback and ask questions, it’s not a good idea to let them derail the AGM.
If you have prepared upfront and given the members as much information as possible, this will greatly reduce the concerns and topics going off course. However, there are times when it can’t be avoided. In such cases, the following statements should help to bring things back into order:
“I believe we understand and thank you for your feedback. Next question.”
“I understand your concern/question, but may I ask that we stay on topic. Are there any other questions?”
“We have 5 more minutes for questions and feedback regarding this topic/motion, anyone else have something to add that has not already been stated?”
“That question has been asked and answered, I will repeat it once more for the audience, but can I ask that there are no more repetitive questions so we can keep this AGM on task.”
There is a way to say these things without coming across as rude. The members need to know that you and the Board value their feedback, but that you want to ensure the conversation stays on topic and is informative.
This is very different from cutting people off where you feel they disagree with you. They are paying members and still deserve to be heard. You must respect that, or you will lose all credibility with your audience and voting may not go as you expected.
It can be a delicate balance allowing members to be heard but keeping the AGM on track.
Expect the Unexpected
Even with the best planning, sometimes things go awry. Some things I’ve witnessed is that the member packets were missing important information, I’ve seen a member call out accounting errors and I’ve witnessed a conversation very quickly turn heated and come very close to exchanging blows.
No matter the incident, as the leaders of the organization you must remain calm and work towards resolving the error. In the case of the missing information, the presentation was paused and the document was brought onto the screen so everyone could see the complete details. With the accounting error, the Treasurer respectfully thanked the individual for pointing out the error noting that sometimes it takes a tribe to run a club. With regards to the heated argument, they were separated by other members and the President thanked them for their passion but reminded them that there will always be two sides to a vote and in the end, we should all be thinking about what is right for the club.
The bottom line is that if you make the mental note to stay calm when the unexpected arises, you will handle things professionally and the members will follow your lead.
Close on a Positive Note
It’s important to genuinely thank the members for their time and input even if conversations or votes didn’t go as planned. Having a successful club means allowing for open and transparent communication. I would always value a robust conversation over an audience that doesn’t say a word. That’s how wonderful ideas are created and mistakes are caught. So, thank them for their input and time and if you aren’t having an event immediately following the AGM, then ask them to stay behind and mingle a bit longer.
It’s important to have a debrief at the next board meeting. Discuss what went well and what didn’t. Where could you improve? What would you change? These notes are important for the incoming Board, so they can ensure the next AGM runs well.