The meeting restrictions introduced in the course of the COVID-19 measures, which are still in force, continue to make it impossible for the vast majority of companies to hold general meetings in the presence of shareholders. Alternatively, a general meeting can be held in writing using voting cards or virtually via video conference. Both forms allow for the necessary decision-making process by the shareholders, but are very different from each other. Therefore, when preparing and planning such a general meeting, the board of directors should ask itself which type of general meeting is the more suitable for its company.

In the case of publicly traded companies, the size of the shareholder base is an important decisionmaking criterion, since publicly traded companies generally have not only a very large, but also a very widely dispersed shareholder base. Therefore, due to the size of the shareholder base, the technical effort for the preparation and execution of a virtual general meeting will inevitably be more complicated, time-consuming and expensive than in written form. Accordingly, these companies prefer the general meeting to be held in writing. However, this method of conducting the general meeting reinforces the gap that already exists between the company's management and the small shareholders, who until now have had the opportunity to participate directly in the general meeting. This lack of immediacy at the general meeting, which is conducted in writing, leads to a greater isolation of the shareholders, which may benefit the management, but can lead to a lack of transparency and thus also to a loss of confidence in the company.

The situation is different for smaller or medium-sized companies and especially for family-owned companies or start-ups. Here, not only are the ownership and majority relationships among the shareholders clearer than in public companies, but also their influence on the company and the management. Furthermore, the need for information and influence of such shareholders is usually greater, as they want to know about the interests of "their" company. Accordingly, the need for personal participation is greater in these companies than in public companies. For this reason alone, the form of the virtually conducted general meeting is in the foreground here. Such a meeting is usually more feasible than with public companies, since the number of participants is usually much smaller, which means that the technical and organizational requirements can be met. However, the personnel and administrative effort required for a virtual general meeting is greater and correspondingly more cost-intensive. Since the implementation of a virtual general meeting is not provided for in current company law, the board of directors must adhere to the legal requirements as provided for a general meeting with the presence of shareholders. This means that the entire process, in particular the conduct of the presence check at the beginning, the conduct of orderly requests to speak by and discussions with shareholders, as well as the voting and elections, must be well planned in order to be able to hold a general meeting that complies with the law and the articles of association. The rules of the game of such a virtual meeting must also be communicated to the shareholders in advance so that they can prepare themselves accordingly. Furthermore, when holding a virtual general meeting, it is important to point out to the shareholders that they themselves are responsible for the technical execution of the participation, for example in connection with a good internet connection and audio equipment, and that the company assumes no liability for this.

Another important point to consider when choosing the form of holding a general meeting is the minority shareholders. Especially in the case of small or medium-sized companies, as well as in the case of family businesses and start-ups, they play a much stronger role than in the case of public companies. Since the instruments of minority protection under Swiss law already take effect with the ownership of a single share, the influence of minority shareholders on the company and the management should not be underestimated. Even if actions by minority shareholders for the appointment of a special auditor, for the contestation of general meeting resolutions or for the responsibility of the board of directors seem futile, they can cause numerous unpleasant side effects for a company, which can have a negative impact on its business until a court decision is pending. For example, investors who withdraw their investment commitments during the duration of such a lawsuit, reservations in audit reports that have a negative effect on the creditworthiness of a company or, in general, the reputation of a company that suffers during such legal proceedings. Therefore, the board of directors should not disregard this aspect when choosing the most appropriate form for holding a general meeting, so that minority shareholders also have the opportunity to participate directly, to ask questions at the general meeting and to communicate with the management.

Accordingly, the type of general meeting can even become decisive for the further future of a company. Therefore, the board of directors should take various aspects into consideration before making its choice. Factors such as the size and composition of the shareholder base, the information needs of the shareholders, the financial situation of the company and the minority situation should be taken into account by the board of directors in its decision-making process, as well as the technical feasibility and the personnel and administrative requirements. Most of these considerations speak more in favor of holding a general meeting by virtual means, where immediacy as well as personal exchange and transparency are better preserved, than by written means, which isolates the board of directors much more from its shareholders and actually does not allow for much communication.