Investor days are one of the largest and most influential investor events a company can organize. They also are arguably the most overwhelming, triggering challenges in logistics and human resources for public companies large and small.
But don’t let organizational challenges prevent you from hosting a successful investor day that will have both your company and your investors happy.
Begin with the end in mind.
It’s not enough to want to host an investor day – you need to be clear on what you want to achieve. Are you showcasing management’s bench strength? A new CEO? Unveiling a new strategy or drilling down on an existing one? It’s crucial to start the planning process with clear objectives, because those goals will determine the content of your presentations, your primary speakers, the timing and even the location.
It’s very common for companies to skip this step, believing that hosting the event is reason enough. Unfortunately, this typically results in a kitchen sink approach, with management teams subjecting their investor base to a fire hose of information without a unified message. If you don’t have a clear purpose, you risk missing an incredible opportunity to provide the Street with a deeper level of information focused on the strategic messages you want to deliver.
Do your homework.
Once you accomplish step 1, the countless hours you’re about to spend planning your investor day will become more focused, organized and effective. Do your due diligence when selecting the location and time of year for the event. If you have decided to use a hotel, for example, create a list of questions to ask each venue you’re considering.
- Is the venue conducting major renovations on the date of your investor day? Can the venue change your event room without notice?
- Will the venue’s cancellation policy allow you to change dates if you need to reschedule?
- Is wi-fi access included?
- Are you allowed to bring in outside food or beverages?
- Does your event date conflict with a major trade or investment conference, whether it’s in your host city or across the country?
Once you have narrowed your search to two or three candidates, visit them before making your final decision. Images posted on a hotel website, aided by fresh paint and well-positioned lighting, may not reflect the experience your guests will have in person -- and once the contract is signed, there is no going back.
Plan for every detail.
A highly detailed timeline of tasks and deadlines is essential to keeping your investor day on track. Hold weekly update meetings for the internal investor relations team and any IR counselors. As you get closer to the date, hold these meetings more frequently. Build in a buffer between when iterative drafts of materials are due and when you actually need them, because these will inevitably be delivered later than you expect.
Key items to include in your timeline are:
- Action steps. Name each task with the target completion date and the name of the person or people responsible for implementation. You’ll use these to hold each other accountable at the weekly update meetings.
- List all the materials that are necessary for the event, including drafts and final versions. Obvious items include speaker presentations and marketing collateral, but there are several others. Invitee lists, meeting room arrangements, handouts, scripts, and name badges are great examples.
- Realistic deadlines. Highlight all deadlines related to your venue and vendors. Keep in mind the various tasks that will be completed by third parties, such as providing the conference center with a final count for meals and sending final documents to a printer. Being systematic will help avoid last-minute headaches and, hopefully, additional rush charges and fees.
Practice. And then practice again.
Rehearsing for your investor day is a must. Busy executives typically leave this to the end, if they practice at all. But the benefits of practicing outweigh the time costs by allowing your speakers to practice their delivery for maximum effectiveness.
- You will be able to assess the content of the speakers’ presentations, ensuring that there are no conflicting messages and excessive redundancy.
- A full run-through of all presentations ensures timing is in synch with the schedule.
- It helps align speaker content and flow with slide content and order.
- Rehearsing potential questions and answers drives consistent messaging across presentations.
- Presentation training with an outside consultant builds presenter confidence and increases the impact of the message.
- FD training instructs speakers on what they are or are not allowed to say, including when communicating with individual guests.
Get feedback from your guests – before they arrive.
Don’t assume you know what your investors want to hear at the big event. Consider a perception study with your key shareholders and sell-side analysts well in advance of the event. This type of feedback can guide the decisions you make in step 1 and set the stage for an investor day that is relevant and effective.
Once the investor day is complete, prepare a brief feedback survey to distribute to those who attended. This will inform your preparation for the next event, but it will also provide management with a deeper understanding of the Street’s opinions about your company as an investment. Understanding which messages were successfully communicated and which areas may need some additional clarification can help shape and improve future communications, including earnings releases, quarterly conference calls, and investor presentations.
The ‘big why’
Executing an investor day can be a daunting task, but an effective, well-organized event will be well worth the effort. This is your company’s best opportunity to showcase its talent, its strategy, and its prospects. If you treat it that way, investors and analysts will take notice. If you don’t, well, they’ll notice that, too. So don’t “wing it.” Take the time to give your audience a better understanding of the company’s near- and long-term strategy and capabilities. Tell the story you want investors to hear, because your audience listening.
To further enhance the effectiveness of your investor day or other corporate events, please download our free e-book, “A Guide to Delivering Captivating Presentations.”
Jamie A. Bernard, IRC is a senior associate at Sharon Merrill Associates, Inc., a nationally recognized, full service investor relations and strategic communications consultancy. She counsels clients on a range of investor relations issues, including messaging, financial disclosure, analyst and investor targeting, competitive intelligence and online communications. She provides direct support for investor days and non-deal road shows, as well as presentation development, market research projects and quarterly earnings announcements. Jamie represents clients in a variety of industries including energy, environmental services, industrial, life sciences, oil and gas, consulting and technology. She is currently on the board of directors of the Boston Chapter of the National Investor Relations Institute.