To some extent, Berkshire's annual meeting is just like any other company's annual meeting. That is to say, it's a chance for management to meet with shareholders and update them on how well (or poorly) the company is doing. However, that's pretty much where the similarities end.
The Berkshire annual meeting is a dash of "true" annual meeting along with heavy helpings of value-investing rally, diversified consumer products convention, media circus, and all-out wild extravaganza.
The day starts very early with jockeying for position as tens of thousands of Berkshire shareholders converge on the CenturyLink Center in Omaha. At 7 a.m., those early rising Berkshire faithful are able to enter the convention hall and browse stands from a wide variety of Berkshire-owned companies -- from See's Candies to Justin Boots and Brooks running shoes. You can even buy some GEICO insurance or participate in the second annual International Newspaper Tossing Challenge, where Buffett takes on all comers.
And lest it go without mention, Buffett does encourage shopping at the annual meeting. In the annual report, he noted:
Last year, you did your part, and most locations racked up record sales. In a nine-hour period, we sold 1,090 pairs of Justin boots, (that's a pair every 30 seconds), 10,010 pounds of See's candy, 12,879 Quikut knives (24 knives per minute) and 5,784 pairs of Wells Lamont gloves, always a hot item. But you can do better. Remember: Anyone who says money can't buy happiness simply hasn't shopped at our meeting.
At 8:30 a.m., the annual ritual of the Berkshire video takes place. This is a humorous riff on Buffett and the company that typically lauds Berkshire managers under Buffett and trots out a few big-name celebrities.
Finally, at 9:30 a.m., the Oracle of Omaha himself, along with the ever-insightful Charlie Munger, will step to the mic, ready to answer questions for the next six hours (OK, there is a short lunch break in there). This is where the Berkshire fans truly swoon as Buffett and Munger answer questions covering pretty much everything -- from Berkshire, to investing and living a good life. This year there will be an extra twist -- Buffett has invited a "credentialed bear" to pepper the duo with some challenges.
So... how do I get in?
There's good news and bad news. First, here's the bad news. If you don't already have your meeting credentials and your plane ticket, you may be out of luck when it comes to attending this year's meeting. (Take it from this procrastinator: Plane tickets into Omaha get crazy around the time of the Berkshire meeting.) And since there are no cameras rolling or official transcript, that makes tuning in to what Buffett and Munger have to say... well, challenging.
The good news, though, is that The Fool has dutifully sent a cadre of Fools to Omaha to help you keep tabs on every witty quip uttered onstage at the CenturyLink Center. Here's what you do:
- Bookmark The Fool's special, dedicated website for the Berkshire Hathaway meeting. This will give you access to all of the pre-, during-, and post-meeting coverage, as well as our team's pictures and tweets from the event.
- Saturday morning, cozy up with your laptop and pull up our live chat. That's right, we'll be chatting live with readers from the CenturyLink Center as the action goes down.
- Make sure you have an ample supply of Cherry Coke, Dilly Bars, and See's Candies peanut brittle. Buffett would have it no other way.