COVID-19 has confined us to our homes and separated us from those that we do business with. Even while lockdown occurs, the need to hold meetings to discuss significant affairs is still just as important as ever. But what do these meetings look like during COVID times?
Having meetings via virtual communication tools isn’t a new idea and has been used in the past when face-to-face communication isn’t possible. Us New Zealander’s don’t like to stay still, so when your business partner has decided to go on holiday for a week and you want to discuss business matters (including how good the weather is at the beach), you might need to consider a virtual meeting.
We have so many platforms that are specifically made for the use of online meetings. These include Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Microsoft Teams just to name a few, and this number is still growing (check out our review of the different platforms here). But what about matters of importance where the meeting is used to make big decisions? Can online meeting platforms really be used?
Board and Shareholder Meetings
Board meetings and shareholder meetings are held for companies to discuss and make decisions on important matters relating to the company. Having a remote board or shareholder meeting is already possible under the Companies Act 1993, and can be replaced entirely by circulating a resolution to be signed by all parties.
Trustees typically have an obligation to act unanimously, meaning they will often need to meet to discuss their obligations, powers, and to record what actions they will and will not take with trust property. Fortunately, there is no requirement for these meetings to be held in person, so why not hold a trustee meeting virtually?
Incorporated Society Meetings
An incorporated society is required to hold one general meeting per year, although more may be held if there is an urgent or important matter that needs to be discussed. The rules on how a meeting can take place are usually stated in the society’s constitution, so whether you can host a meeting virtually may depend of what is stated; although these rules are not static. If the meeting is due to be held during this lockdown period, it may be time for an update of the rules to allow for virtual meetings.
An Effective Virtual Meeting
We suggest the same rules that apply to a traditional meeting should be used.
There needs to be reasonable notice of the meeting given (as people may need to get their other half to watch the kids).
It is important that there is a clear agenda so that everyone knows what issues are going to be addressed and so the meeting has the same organisation as it normally would.
It is also very important to ensure that there is some recording of minutes of the meeting to make sure there is written evidence of what took place at the meeting and the decisions that are made.
So yes, virtual meetings are an option for those times where important decisions need to be made in order to keep matters moving as normal (or as normal as they can be in a time like this). The range of virtual meeting platforms means that you can find one that best suits the type of meeting you are going to have and the participants that will be joining you.
But beware, with new technology, especially internet-based technologies, there is always a risk. Not all online meeting platforms may be as secure as you think they are. If you are discussing sensitive or confidential information, it may pay to read the terms and conditions carefully before you use these platforms.
Still not sure? Reach out to one of the iCLAW team here. We're happy to chat you through it all!