Investor Days can be one of the most effective and cost-efficient activities in your IR program – but only if you’re prepared. Anyone who has worked “behind the scenes” of an investor day knows that it can be a logistical headache. You not only need to anticipate all the possible hiccups of hosting a live event, but handle the more substantive issues associated with telling your company’s story to a roomful of investors and analysts.
While a smooth day-of execution always reflects well on the company, a truly successful investor day hinges on what the IR team does from a strategic perspective in the weeks and months leading up to the big event. An investor day is a unique opportunity to act on the intelligence that your IR team should routinely gather throughout the year. As such, here are the five things to do before your next investor day:
1) Conduct a perception audit,
2) Tailor your presentation messaging to the audit results,
3) Select event speakers based on the subject matter to be highlighted,
4) Determine what event format best suits your needs, and
Understanding What’s on Investors’ Minds
An investor day should not be an earnings call rerun, nor should it be a “who we are and what we do” primer. Instead, your investor day presentations should be strategically tailored to whatever questions or misperceptions your audience has. While a review of your earnings call Q&As and one-on-one meeting notes are good first steps, you should not rely on educated guesses about what your analysts and investors are thinking.
Do analysts and investors understand your M&A strategy? What do they really think of your latest business development initiative? What are their biggest concerns? Ask! A perception audit of carefully thought-out questions can get to the heart of the opinions that shape your company’s reputation.
And while you might think you have a great relationship with one or more analysts and investors who are not afraid to tell you “everything,” and who are even willing to provide constructive feedback on occasion, there is no substitute for using a third party to conduct a perception audit. The use of a third party not only preserves the anonymity of respondents—which dramatically raises their level of candor—it also provides external perspective in evaluating the results.
Crafting the Right Messages
With the results of your perception audit in hand, the next step is to identify any corresponding gaps in your overall IR messaging. If key messages have failed to connect with investors, your investor day presentations must address those issues head-on.
A well-structured perception audit can give you not only the “what” but also the “why” behind investor opinions, which is a critical distinction in addressing any misperceptions. For example, a product development update might fall on deaf ears if investors have serious questions about the strength of your IP.
Once you have identified a list of issues and potential responses, you should reduce each to its essence and prioritize. What are the key issues at hand and what are the most important takeaways for investors to understand? From there, you can build the talking points that should form the core of your investor day presentations. CEO and CFO buy-in is invaluable at this stage to ensure that everyone is on the same page and you are not spinning your wheels during the drafting process.
Demonstrating Bench Strength
Your investor day is an opportunity to showcase talent that would not otherwise have facetime with investors. More importantly, your choice of speakers should follow logically from the perception audit findings and your subsequent message development. If, for example, you find that investors and analysts have questions about your product pipeline, you could have one of your key development people explain what is in store and why it is important for your target market. Companies often brag about how “deep” in talent they are; if that’s true in your case, an investor day is the perfect opportunity to show off.
Finding the Right Venue
The most critical decision relating to format is whether to hold the investor day at a New York City location, or at a company facility. Companies tend to get the best attendance in New York, but being able to showcase a manufacturing plant, service center or other type of operation can provide tremendous value to investors. To make this determination, go back to the message you are trying to convey during the day. If an up-close-and-personal look at company operations will underpin that message, start planning for an on-site event.
This is also a good time to check with your vendors regarding the latest conferencing and webcasting features available. You might not be able to get every investor on your target list to participate in person, but a multimedia and interactive webcast experience might open the door to follow-up meetings.
Rehearsing for Success
As they say, practice makes perfect. It is critically important to make sure everyone on the team exudes the passion they have for the business while concisely and effectively conveying key messages. Coaching all the speakers in the delivery of their presentations could be the most valuable investment you make in the investor day. After spending countless hours developing the presentations, you need to make sure they make a powerful impact. And with analysts and investors being trained to read body language, it is vitally important that the presentation training includes specific coaching in positive and negative non-verbal cues.
As your messaging takes shape, each subsequent team meeting becomes an opportunity to practice Q&A. Importantly, conduct a full dress rehearsal to ensure accurate timing, strategic message flow and logistical details.
“Begin with the end in mind,” an axiom made popular by the late Stephen R. Covey, is appropriate to summarize the approach you should take as you plan your next investor day. Think about the emotions (e.g., positive, excited, confident, optimistic) and the messages (e.g. “strategy on track,” “gaining market share,” “positioned for growth”) you want your audience to walk away with. Understanding what you want to get out of an investor day is perhaps the most critical part of the planning process.
Sharon Merrill Associates provides both strategic and logistical support for investor days, including the implementation of perception audits. To discuss how your company can execute a flawless investor day, please contact David Calusdian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Calusdian is President at Sharon Merrill Associates. He oversees the implementation of crisis communications plans and proactive investor relations programs. He also coaches the C-Suite in executive presence, presentation delivery and media proficiency, and provides strategic counsel to clients on numerous communications issues such as corporate disclosure, proxy proposals, shareholder activism and earnings guidance.