, the strategic meeting facilitation division of Psych/Consult Systems
, an international leader in creative organizational & human resource development, can assist you in creating successful shareholder meetings, even in these contentious times. We reproduce here our popular White Paper on the topic; contact us
for your printed copy and more information.
Synergy for Success:
What goes into a successful Shareholders' Meeting?
Dr. Barbara Strand, President, Psych/Consult Systems
We're sounding a wake-up call to corporate management: post-Enron, post-market bubble, the climate is changing drastically and your annual shareholder meeting—and you—must change with it. New legislation is reshaping corporate responsibilities and shareholder expectations and oversight. Both globalization of markets and the emerging power of special interest groups are shifting stockholder demographics, and disillusioned and distrustful investors are increasingly aggressive and litigious.
If you're planning the old-style, management-controlled 'dog and pony show', you're in for a rude awakening. You must work long before, during, and well after the Annual Meeting to maximize its positive results. Psych/Consult Systems
can work with you at every step.
Before The Meeting:
- Identify your goals: Make sure to find ways to align them as well as possible with those of shareholders. A primary goal should always be to communicate effectively your perspective on shareholder concerns and help relieve them.
- Identify shareholder concerns, challenges, and goals: A pre-meeting survey can help alert you to concerns, pre-meeting communications can motivate shareholder support for yours. Actually meeting with influential shareholder groups may allow you to clarify unclear positions, and learn enough to pro-actively address them at the meeting, defusing tension. The idea is to walk in with a coherent plan that says "We hear you, hear us, and together let's work it out."
- Become comfortable with conflict: You won't avoid conflict in today's atmosphere, and conflict can be a positive force for awareness and change. Get used to it. This pays off not just in the immediate defusing of explosive situations; financial analysts often view Annual Meetings as an evaluation of management's performance in a public and possibly hostile setting, and their ability to instill confidence.
During The Meeting:
- Broadcast on station WII-FM: What's In It For Me: Reassure shareholders with well-thought-out action plans that address their concerns while protecting the bottom-line; this defuses their worry and combativeness; investment professionals are presented with a clear vision of how their participation will pay off for them and their clients; the media gets a strong, positive story, and you get through with your butt intact! Everybody wins.
- Shareholders want a robust Q&A: Trying to avoid it, as in the past, with an over-staged presentation that attempts to limit the flow of information and block stockholder initiatives, will backfire If you think combative shareholders are a challenge at Annual Meetings, they're going to be a lot worse if you frustrate them.
- Actively identify ways to not only meet the letter of new legislations, but its spirit: Ensure that investors have complete and rapid access to a wealth of information. You actually reduce risk and enhance credibility through greater fiscal and corporate transparency. Management credibility and integrity is a primary driver of corporate valuation.
- Communicate proactively in the meeting: Co-opt and address the 'hot topics' instead of avoiding them. Armed with pre-meeting research, bring up the controversy, share the bad news while demonstrating the strategy for turnaround, acknowledge kernels of truth within rumors, own mistakes while delineating a clear plan to reverse and prevent them. Scary? Yes, but by pre-empting objections, you weaken their combative power, and establish a partnership alignment vs. adversarial stance.
- Remember that Perception is Reality: It doesn't matter if you agree that something is a problem; if the shareholders, markets, or media believe it is, it must be addressed.
The Basic Stance:
- Be honest: You don't necessarily tell everything you know, but what you do tell should be true. You can only fake trustworthiness in the short-run. But there's nothing wrong with presenting information in the best possible light. We help clients use 'ethical spin': you're passionate, positive, motivating, but honest.
- Be human: Show some emotion, show your unique personality. Don't show anger, but you should show passion. Negativity is CONTAGIOUS; so are passion, excitement, and commitment.
- Show compassion: Make sure you understand how vitally important to you the concerns of these stakeholders are. Listen and feed back what you hear people saying. Show you personally care. It's often more important that people feel heard and valued than that you necessarily agree to their demands.
- Show commitment: Take personal responsibility for turning things around; show you are competently managing difficult situations. Present with empathy as well as authority; the latter without the former seems arrogant, the former without the latter is just plain scary in a chief executive.
- Don't be defensive: Focus on the specific steps towards correction if you're wrong, or on changing perspectives if you're not. Focus on the positive plans for the future.
Should you include your directors in your meeting? Explore our perspective here.
How can you use the 'Meet, Greet, 'n Eat' events to best advantage? Learn some tips here.
After The Meeting:
Don't sit on your laurels yet! You still have to maximize the positive effect of a good Annual Meeting:
- Inform stakeholders: Especially for employees, non-attending, strategic partners, vendors, lenders, investment pros, and media, communicate what happened at the Annual Meeting, to excite and motivate them to help implement plans. Cement buy-in with the candid, cooperative, compassionate and committed approach you used at the meeting, a tone that should filter through all your IR communications. We often help clients make significant use of the Internet to further goals, as well.
- Follow-up on your commitments. Get back to questioners with further information, create and meet with strategic teams, including a cross-section of stakeholders, to implement programs and make good on promises.
- Debrief and strategize: Most critically, Psych/Consult Systems will facilitate a strategic retreat with top management to debrief the meeting, examine what worked (and didn't), and re-evaluate corporate strategy in light of new developments. Next year's Annual Meeting should be an opportunity to show how you've grown through responsive change.
In these ever-challenging times, following these guidelines will help assure your Annual Meeting is a creative opportunity for synergy and success. Psych/Consult Systems
will work with you every step of the way.
contents © Dr. Barbara Strand