By David Calusdian, President
Five Tips to Effectively Present to Investors on a Video Platform
Management teams of publicly held companies throughout the world are readying for a new phase of the corporate “new normal” in the COVID-19 world – the virtual non-deal roadshow. After the calendar Q1 reporting season ends, management and investors will be meeting via video platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts or Teams to discuss their companies’ prospects going forward.
In addition to figuring out the technological logistics that will allow management to tell their companies’ stories to investors in an online format, they will need to prepare to deliver corporate messages using a different medium than what they’ve been accustomed. There is an inherent difference between communicating face to face and through a video platform. In this blog, we provide five tips to help deliver a compelling story to investors during a virtual non-deal roadshow.1) Use Positive Body Language
Body language is a critical component of any investor meeting, and video-based meetings are no different. Displaying confidence is critical, and the best way to do that is through posture. During a virtual meeting, most likely you will be sitting at a table with your laptop in front of you. Sit up straight with your shoulders back to set a confident appearance. Be careful not to get lazy and rest your chin on your fist with your elbows leaning on the table. This can make you look lazy or disinterested in the conversation. Remember, appearances are exacerbated on screen when the investor’s focus is completely on you. And speaking of appearances, even though you may be conducting the meeting from your kitchen, make sure you dress as you would during an actual in-person meeting to avoid making a negative impression with the investor. Also remember to check the lighting in the room so that you don’t appear as a shadowy figure on screen – not the best look to enhance credibility!
In addition, be aware of potential negative body language. For example, covering your mouth while you’re speaking can mean that you subconsciously do not want to say the words that are coming out of your mouth, and can be a sign of deception. Also, be careful not to fold your arms in front of you as it can be viewed as a defensive posture, basically creating an extra barrier between you and your virtual audience.2) Gesture Effectively
Speakers are always more dynamic when they use their hands to accentuate key points and add energy to a discussion. This becomes even more crucial during video conversations that can become boring when the speaker is droning on with no dynamism. During the meeting, gesture as you would in a normal conversation and use your hands to accentuate key points. Try to think about your virtual speaking situation as you would if you were having a friendly conversation with a friend over dinner– versus being in “presenting mode.” If your laptop is set a few feet away from you, the investor will be able to see your upper body and the energy generated from your hand gestures.3) Bring Energy to the Conversation with Your Voice
Given that 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 – and even more so if you are simply speaking on the phone versus a video call.
Your enthusiasm for your company’s story needs to come across during the meeting, and that can come out in the tone and tenor of your voice. Speak loudly, clearly and use vocal variety. That may sound obvious, but most speakers aren’t aware that they’re being monotone or are not annunciating until hearing a playback of themselves. It is always important to employ variation in your speech pattern to make your speech interesting to listen to, and to use your voice as a tool to emphasize key points and convey the appropriate tone or emotion. For example, if you are saying, “I’m really excited about the prospects for our company,” you better sound excited. Always take the opportunity to really punch home such declarative statements. Further, monitor your voice pitch at the end of sentences and make sure your pitch does not go up, as if you were asking a question. That does not make you sound very confident.
Another common problem for some presenters is that they drop off their voices at the ends of sentences. They speak loudly for a period, and then suddenly fall off. The extreme version of the trailing voice is called “vocal fry” – a raspy sound you make when you run out of breath, as if you were fighting to get the air to finish each sentence. Either way, your message loses its impact. And without that, there’s really no point.
I’m often asked by non-native speakers what is the number one thing they can do to ensure they are being understood, especially when speaking over the phone or on a video call. In most cases, speaking more slowly is helpful, especially if they tend to speak very quickly in normal conversation.4) Maintain Eye Contact
Keeping good eye contact with your online investor audience is a necessity. One potential problem area is the use of a second computer screen to view the investor deck or other data. All too often, investors are forced to stare at the side of a CEO or CFO’s face for the duration of the meeting. If you do need to use a second screen, make sure to maintain eye contact to engage your “audience” and keep their attention. Know your material well enough that you need only glance quickly to the second screen and return your attention to the investor. Sustaining eye contact will help keep the investor engaged and not secretly pulling up other work on their screen while you’re speaking.5) Watch for Visual Cues and Ask Questions
Often, the secret to a successful meeting is being able to read your audience’s body language and tone. For example, knowing when to stop plodding through the investor deck and opening the conversation to questions can spark the life back into a faltering meeting. Without the full advantage of observing body language on the small screen, you’ll need to be especially attuned to minor visual cues that indicate that the investor’s attention is wandering. For example, do they appear to be looking at their phone or a second screen instead of keeping their eyes on you? To help keep them engaged, ask questions of them, such as whether you are providing the right level of detail or if you are covering the topics they are most interested.
Life and business have continued to move on during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in new and different ways. And investor meetings will be no different. Virtual non-deal roadshows will become a common occurrence, and management teams will need to be well prepared to tell their companies’ stories using video platforms during a critical time for investor communications.
David Calusdian is President at Sharon Merrill Associates. He is recognized as an expert in executive presentation coaching and strategic messaging with decades of experience coaching the C-suite and board members in developing executive presence and dynamic communications skills. From quarterly earnings calls to investor days, financings to media blitzes, David helps executives connect with important audiences, refine their messaging and enhance credibility when it matters most.
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