Yesterday afternoon I presented a workshop entitled, “Giving Life to Your Investor Relations Presentation. . . and Your CEO” at the National Investor Relations Institute’s Annual Conference. We’ve all seen bad investor relations presentations. But what makes them bad? The purpose of an investor presentation is to convey the company’s “story,” which is essentially its investment thesis. If the presentation does not succeed in articulating the investment thesis in a memorable way, it has failed.
So how do we ensure good presentation slides — and success? Here are a few tips:
- Make sure that your presentation tells a story and is not just a recitation of facts. Your “investment highlights” should be the key storyline.
- Keep the bullets to a minimum. Conventional wisdom says no more than six bullets to a slide and six words to a bullet. That may not seem nearly enough to communicate everything you have to say. But remember, the slides are only visual aids that support what you are saying. Use too many words on a slide and the audience will not even give it a second glance.
- Look at each of your bullet slides and ask yourself, “Can a graphic demonstrate this concept better than words?” I hate to be cliché here, but a picture truly is worth a thousand words. Let’s face it, bullet slides are nearly always boring.
- Ensure that every slide has one key message that will resonate with investors, and then emphasize that message in the slide headline. Why make the investors search for the key message you need them to remember?
- Convey a key thought on each of your financial slides instead of simply posting tables or non-descript graphs. What story do your numbers tell?
If you follow those tips, your investment thesis will jump off the slides and get through to the audience. However, there is another element of the presentation that can also send the audience flocking to the doors – and that’s a bad delivery. So what makes for a bad delivery? If the speaker’s presentation inhibits the key messages from getting through to the audience, the speaker has not done their job (and some nicely assembled slides may have gone to waste). Here are a few tips on how to get the most of your presentation delivery:
- Speak with clarity and confidence. How? First, as your mother told you long ago, stand up straight. Nothing says “lack of confidence” like a slouching speaker. And let go of that podium. Don’t use it as a barrier to your audience, or grip its sides like your life is depending on it.
- Use your hands. The lack of hand motion will make you appear stiff. Try to keep them in a motion that feels comfortable to you and use them to accentuate key points. Remember, nervous fiddling with your hands will distract from your delivery, so avoid playing with your wedding ring, keys, pens, etc. while speaking.
- Make eye contact with your audience. Don’t scan the room without making eye contact with any one individual. Speak as if you are having many individual conversations. Slowly move your eyes from one audience member to another, drawing each individual into your conversation. Eye contact forces the audience to listen to you.
- Maintain a conversational tone with the audience. Don’t try to sound like a U.S. president delivering the State of the Union Address. Have a conversation with the audience and speak with them, not at them.
- And lastly, don’t kill your audience with acronyms. While IRS, SEC and even LOL are well recognized by most people at this point, many of the acronyms that you use on a day-to-day basis at your company are probably not as widely recognized as you would hope.
Certainly all of this is not easy. Developing a cogent slide deck that clearly articulates your investment thesis takes a significant amount of strategic thinking and a lot of hard work. And delivering a dynamic presentation can take many hours of practice. The results of these efforts, however, can make all the difference between an investor heading for the door, or buying your stock.
Executive Vice President & Partner