Best practices for managing difficult people at an AGM


I have attended many Annual General Meetings. Some have been very interesting mostly because they drove me nuts for the same reason, because “Kim” attended. Managing difficult people at an AGM takes practice, but take heart, the skills can be learned.

Who is “Kim”?

“Kim” is a highly knowledgeable individual, who is hyper diligent, prepares long lists of questions to pepper the board with during business discussions and proposes an abundance of corrections to the minutes. “Kim” brings up the same issues every year and is a difficult person to manage.  Overall, “Kim” drives everyone crazy.

I have attended many Annual General Meetings and low and behold, so did “Kim”.  It turns out that “Kim” I think – attends every AGM being held.

Sometimes there is more than one

And, even more surprising is that sometimes more than one Kim attends an AGM.

At one Annual General Meeting there were six “Kims” in attendance.  It seemed that they had organized in advance and arrived at the meeting prepared with a very long list of questions. They wanted to know about every financial transaction; even as tiny as $20. This for an annual budget over $500,000.

All the “Kim” questions took up most of the meeting. Other members wanted to ask questions but there wasn’t enough time, and no one wanted the meeting to run until midnight.

Everyone left the meeting frustrated; the board didn’t have the time to answer everyone’s questions. The “Kims” didn’t feel they were getting satisfactory answers, and others in attendance didn’t even get to ask their questions.

What have I learned from managing difficult people?

We need the “Kims” of the world, because they bring up good points, ask good questions, and often volunteer to help.  But they require some management, so they don’t drive everyone mad.  I learned that trying to shut down a “Kim” will backfire on you. “Kims” have a right to speak and if you don’t let them, it will end badly.

My experiences dealing with “Kim’s’” has taught me to engage them in a way that redirects their energy into helping the meeting, rather than hindering it.

How to get the most out of “Kim”?

Ask “Kim” to review the draft minutes long before the AGM.  This worked well and saved time during the meeting.

Some advice I would also suggest is to enforce a time limit for everyone during the general business discussion. Give a maximum of 3 minutes for each attendee to ask questions or rant about a particular topic. Do not allow anyone to speak longer than the allotted time.  Assign a timekeeper who measures this.

Managing more than one difficult person

Dealing with multiple “Kims” attending a meeting requires a different approach.  Try holding a pre-AGM meeting for the exclusive purpose of going through the budget in detail.  Make sure the Treasurer and at least one other director commits to attending. With any luck, the six “Kims” will also attend and ask all their questions.

After using this technique, the “Kims” were happy to get answers to all their questions. As a result, at the next AGM, they were very supportive. The other members felt better about approving the budget knowing that the “Kims” had already gone through the budget with a fine-tooth comb.

The result? AGM’s with a positive tone and time to discuss high level topics… and finish on time!

The lesson for me

Despite how much everyone dislikes difficult people like the “Kims” of the world, we must appreciate what they bring to the meeting. The key is to figure out how to manage their contribution in a way that is beneficial for everyone.

Did “Kim” attend your AGM?

If so, what happened, and how did the meeting Chair deal with “Kim”?

A special thanks to Wally Vogel for contributing his experience with “Kims” to this article.