Two investor day experts combine experience to deliver best practices on leveraging digital platforms to deliver a compelling virtual investor day
The investor day is one of the most effective platforms for presenting your company’s strategy, outlining your long-term targets and showcasing the depth and strength of your management team. With the world moving to virtual formats for the foreseeable future, IROs are faced with a new task – mastering virtual investor day planning. This pivot presents new challenges as well as exciting new opportunities to engage and communicate critical messages with the investment community.
The following are top tips for IROs to master to execute a successful virtual investor day:
1. Follow the fundamental rules of executing a successful investor day – which remain the same
While there are many things that are different, the fundamental building blocks of investor day planning remain intact, whether executing an event in person or virtually. These include:
- Start with an understanding of market perceptions – A critical first step for investor day planning is to understand what investors want to know about your company and what would compel them to increase or initiate a position in your stock. To do so, it can be helpful to engage with a third-party to conduct a perception study and leverage the findings as a roadmap to develop your agenda, messaging and slides.
- Identify a few key messages for the day – Typically this will be three to four key messages that you want the audience to be sure to understand when they leave the meeting. A helpful practice is to consider what you want analyst report headlines to reflect the day after your event. You will want to get executive buy-in on the key points you identify and then build your investor day program around these.
- Build effective presentations – To create compelling presentations that strike a balance between simplicity and meaningful content, David Fine advises to follow his four best practices in presentation development: 1) have clear messages, 2) use a structured flow that tells a story, 3) create simple slides with a clear takeaway in the title and 4) leverage strong and meaningful design.
- Provide multi-year outlook – Investors want to walk away from an investor day with a view of your company’s financial potential over time, and as the world normalizes, will expect some longer-term guidance of key metrics. With the uncertainty and fluidity of COVID-19 affecting visibility for most companies, providing mid- or long-term financial targets becomes more challenging than usual. This should be a high-priority topic to address with management at the start of the planning process to vet out what metrics, ranges, assumptions or scenarios your company can reasonably provide in the current environment.
2. Drive audience engagement
The need to engage a virtual, and easily distracted audience, is one of the biggest differences to consider as you plan your investor day. To keep your audience engaged, consider the following strategies:
- Shorten the event – Best practice is to keep your virtual event to approximately two and a half hours compared with the typical four to five hours for in-person investor days.
- Incorporate video of your speakers – Video versus an audio-only webcast can make a major difference in engaging your virtual audience.
- Ensure clear, content-dense presentations – The shorter event timeframe puts an even greater emphasis on creating compelling and concise presentations that get to the heart of the issues investors want to better understand.
- Prioritize Q&A – Ideally 30% to 40% of the event time should be dedicated to Q&A to break up the presentations and engage your audience.
- Leverage digital assets to make your story come alive – For example, include customer testimonial videos, product demos, virtual tours or advance screenings of new promotional videos.
- Incorporate interactive sessions – Fireside chats or panel discussions with customers, industry experts or leaders within your organization can be highly engaging and an excellent way to validate your company’s market position or strategy.
3. Prioritize planning
As we know from planning traditional investor days, there are many logistics to consider with an investor day, and virtual events are no different. Instead of things like catering, presentation printing and room reservations, you will need to manage digital-world logistics like platform technical specifications, Q&A logistics and speaker Internet and video capabilities.
- Select a strong technology partner. With a virtual event it is imperative that you vet your technology partner(s) thoroughly to make sure they can support your event goals and the interactive features that support your message. This means understanding the webcast platform’s capabilities, limitations and deadlines for functions such as video-based speaker presentations, integrating pre-recorded content, streaming product/demo videos, streaming live multi-speaker panels, and hosting live Q&A. Before signing with a platform, request references from other IROs who have used the service for an investor day to verify the platform’s reliability and leverage learnings from technical hurdles they may have encountered.When you can, pre-record. To minimize risk of technical issues, pre-record as much as possible. That goes for the speaker’s prepared remarks, customer panels, virtual tours and product demos.Think through how you will handle Q&A. How you handle Q&A is probably one of the most important logistical decisions you’ll need to make. You will need to make sure the Q&A sessions are well planned and tightly choreographed. Some questions to consider are:
- How will you take questions? There are several approaches to consider with pros and cons to each. For example, the IRO can announce questions submitted from analysts and investors through email or the chat function, or you can open up the line for analysts and investors to ask questions. Another option is to have a panel of analysts on video ask questions of the speakers. You also can use a platform like Slido, where the audience can submit questions and then vote on which should be posed.
- How will your team answer questions? Will you have a panel of speakers available by audio or video? Which speakers will participate in each Q&A segment?
- Who will moderate the Q&A? This may be the IRO or it could be an operator, depending on the approach to Q&A you select.
- Will you give attribution? If you choose to ask questions that are submitted via chat or email, you will need to decide if you identify who asked the question.
4. Prepare your speakers for the virtual stage
In delivering a presentation, there’s an inherent difference between communicating face-to-face and through a video platform. With a virtual presentation, you will need to consider speaker delivery and each speaker’s setting. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- Leverage the power of voice – Since the use of a small computer screen limits your ability to fully leverage the power of body language, your voice becomes that much more important. That means that each speakers’ enthusiasm for the company needs to come across in the tone and tenor of their voice. It is important to speak loudly, clearly and most importantly, use vocal variety. Adjusting the tone and cadence throughout the presentation makes the delivery more interesting, keeps people’s attention and emphasizes key messages.
- Use gestures with caution – Gesturing also can be effective in bringing more energy to the screen, but speakers will need to be aware how their gestures come across the webcam so that they don’t, for example, have a giant hand coming at the audience.
- Eye contact is critical – To make sure speakers are making eye contact with the audience, they will need to be set up to focus on the webcam or laptop camera, not their script or second screen. Putting the script on the same screen as your webcam works well, as does placing a second monitor directly behind the webcam.
- Professionalism matters – If you’re using video, definitely consider using a professional production team. And if not, invest in high-def cameras and good mics for all of your speakers to enhance the production quality for each of your speakers.
- Think wardrobe – While dress codes are decidedly less formal in this new virtual world, it’s still important to look professional and reflect the image you want to convey about your company and its culture.
- Note backgrounds as they will be judged – In today’s virtual world, a backdrop is worth a thousand words. Each speaker’s background should convey the right image for your company. You may, for example, consider having each speaker against a similar, simple background or it may align better with your culture to have each speaker in their unique setting. With more complex backgrounds, think about the details as they will be noted. If there’s a bookshelf behind the speaker, for example, what books can the audience see, and what do they say about the speaker. Also consider using the virtual background function and feature your company logo behind the speakers.
- Room lighting matters – You don’t want your speaker to be either washed out or completely in shadows. Natural light coming from the front and sides of the speaker is best. When you hold your dress rehearsal, hold it at the same time of day as the actual event so that you can see how natural light presents your speakers.
5. Practice, practice practice…on the platform that you will be using
For any investor day, it is imperative that you rehearse, but even more so with a virtual format that is likely to be a new experience for most presenters. You should hold at least two full rehearsals and at least one of which should be on the platform you are using to ensure you iron out all of the logistics (e.g. transitions between speakers, driving the slides, mock Q&A, etc.). There really is no such thing as being over-rehearsed or “sounding rehearsed.” You just need to rehearse the right way.
While the shift to virtual formats today is out of necessity, experts and investors agree that the virtual event is here to stay as a go-to-resource for IROs. Not only are virtual formats more convenient for investors (no travel required), but they can be considerably more cost effective for companies, allow for engagement with an unlimited audience size and, when done right, can more effectively deliver on your goals. For this reason, IROs can leverage learnings from their virtual investor day to build high-touch virtual interactions into your IR program going forward.
Fine Communications Inc. is a boutique communications firm specializing in investor presentations. For more information contact David Fine at Fine@Finecommunications.com.
Sharon Merrill is a strategic advisory firm that counsels IROs on virtual investor day planning; effective presentation development; and virtual meeting presentation coaching. Contact us to discuss how we can help.
Sharon Merrill and Fine Communications recently joined Mark Grant, Vice President, Investor Relations, GoDaddy Inc. on a NIRI-hosted webinar to discuss practical advice for hosting a compelling virtual investor day. To view the replay, click here.
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