How to Organize a Shareholders Meeting

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Your company's annual shareholders meeting should be more than a dust-dry occasion for electing directors and dealing with other business matters. The session is also an opportunity for management to tell its story, full of hope and glory, to an audience with a personal financial stake in the outcome. Just be certain to meet all the legal requirements in setting up the session.

Choose the meeting date and related notification dates. (The date may be written into your corporation's bylaws or determined each year by the board of directors.) Each state requires both a minimum and maximum number of days before the meeting date for notifying shareholders. Ten-day minimums and 60-day maximums are the most common.

Set the agenda for the meeting. Important topics include the appointment of directors, approval of audited accounts and approval of the annual budget.

Draw up a list of everyone legally entitled to notification. Include each name, address and number of shares held. Reserve the meeting place and prepare the mailing. Along with the official meeting notification, include proxy cards, the agenda and descriptions of major business items to be considered.

Get a time estimate of the chairperson's speech. (And hope for everyone's sake that it actually falls within the promised time frame). Prepare informational handouts and any audiovisual aids needed by the chairperson and other speakers (see 207 Polish Your Presentation Skills).

Assign someone to keep the minutes. Corporations are legally required to keep written records of all shareholder meetings. Consider outsourcing the extensive task of tabulating the minutes and distributing them to shareholders.

Tips & Warnings

  • Download templates for meeting notices and proxy cards from Nolo.com. It's far easier to modify a form than to create one from scratch.
  • Make it possible for shareholders to receive meeting materials and background information online. Post a searchable version of the annual report.
  • Have your attorney review your agenda and mailing to make sure everything is done by the book.

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