Timesaver’s guide to NIRI 2014
What: NIRI 2014
When and where: June 8-11, Las Vegas, Nevada
In the past, NIRI’s annual get-togethers have alternated between the east and west coasts. That changes in 2014 as the world’s biggest IR society heads inland to the conference capital of the US: Las Vegas. It’s a great city for the business traveler with top hotels, great entertainment and easy access, says Jeff Morgan, NIRI’s president and CEO since 2008. The association plans to mix up its schedule with more mid-country locations in the future, he adds.
The hotels of Las Vegas take their cues from Paris, Egypt and, in the case of the Bellagio, Italy’s Lake Como. NIRI’s venue of choice is famed for its eight-acre lake and grand fountain, along with a sculpture in the lobby made from 2,000 hand-blown glass blossoms. The two-tower, 4,000-room mega-complex is also home to the top-rated poker room in town, with 40 tables and two ‘high-limit’ areas – maybe leave that corporate credit card back in your room, just to be safe. For those who prefer spectacular shows to Texas Hold’em, the Bellagio hosts Cirque du Soleil’s aquatic production O twice a day between Wednesday and Sunday.
The IR job today is fast-paced, constantly throws up challenges and makes use of state-of-the-art tools – just like an extreme sport, says conference co-chair Mark Donohue, vice president of IR at Impax Laboratories. That’s the thinking behind this year’s conference theme – Extreme IR: fast, furious and highly connected – which Donohue developed along with co-chair Laura Graves of Polycom. ‘The theme plays into what the role has become and the challenges it has today that it didn’t face 10 years ago,’ he states.
New sessions this year include a provocative talk on the ‘shareholder value myth’, prompted by some heated debate on NIRI’s online e-groups. There’s also a ‘shark tank’ on Tuesday afternoon where IROs will pitch their favorite products and services to a panel of judges – think NIRI meets Dragon’s Den. Another change will see the conference kick-off by the co-chairs taking place on Sunday night.
A couple of innovations from last year’s conference return this year following positive feedback. Interactive topic breakouts – where smaller groups can discuss specific areas of IR practice – will once again take place, says Donohue, who moderated one in 2013 on IR performance metrics. NIRI has also kept topic vignettes: short, provocative, TED-style talks that aim to change how you think about IR.
With the kick-off on Sunday, the conference can dive straight into the first of its general sessions on Monday morning, when speakers from some of the biggest players on the buy side will talk about activism from their side of the table. BlackRock’s head of corporate governance is down to speak, as is Prudential’s chief governance officer. Tuesday’s general session will hear from Dr Christopher Probyn, State Street Global Advisors’ chief economist. On Wednesday attendees get the chance to sharpen their emotional intelligence with a closing keynote from highly rated communications expert Steve Smith.
While Donohue hopes a new sports center in Vegas will be ready for the conference, which would give IROs the chance to try their hands (and feet) at a bit of rock climbing, the agenda definitely includes a boot camp session using interval training and plyometrics, burpees, squats and planks to get IROs revved up and ready to go. If you don’t fancy scaling new heights however – or getting too sweaty with your fellow NIRI attendees – the regular options of golf, yoga and a fun run/walk are also on offer.