Going on tour: retail investor fairs
If you have any cash swilling around in your IR budget during these financially tight times, you might want to head down to the fair – the investor fair, that is. Because while the choppy stock market has provided its fair share of white-knuckle thrills, taking a chance on retail investors still has the potential to pay dividends.
The big retail investor events are still largely confined to the US. ‘The World Money Show has run now for several years in London and there are a few other small-scale UK fairs that have taken place in the last couple of years, but they seem to be more ad hoc affairs than regularly scheduled events,’ notes Roger Lawson, communications director of the UK Shareholders Association.
The recent economic downturn has left many shareholders out of pocket, but there are still retail investors looking for new companies to bulk up their portfolios. And if last year’s attendance figures are anything to go by, they will be turning up in their droves to the most established events. Last year some of the biggest shows attracted upwards of 10,000 investors and nearly 300 exhibitors, of which nearly half were publicly listed companies.
The two-person US-based IR team from Swedish motoring company Volvo travels to the World Money Show every year. As well as having a booth at the show, Volvo uses the conference as an opportunity to push its investment brand to a wider audience. ‘We typically have one or two presentations or panel discussions, which generate additional questions,’ says John Hartwell, director of IR for Volvo North America.
So what’s the advice for IROs hitting the retail circuit?
Bring the right paperwork
‘We bring investor fact sheets to hand out, models of our products, quarterly reports and a few annual reports,’ Hartwell explains.
But when it comes to information, less is sometimes more. Beth Grudzinski from Better Investing reckons there’s not much to be gained from lugging unwieldy documents to investor fairs. ‘Don’t bring annual reports,’ she advises. ‘If you have a 10K, that’s great, but a two-page fact sheet is best.’
Grudzinski also advises against bringing lots of spares along just in case. ‘Always bring fewer documents than there will be delegates. If you know there will be 500 or so attendees, only bring 350 pieces of collateral because you don’t want to have to ship stuff home.’
Prepare your spiel
The key challenge in a conference environment is getting and sustaining people’s attention. ‘Think about what the attendee needs, and why your company would be the best suited to meet those needs,’ says Janice Rushing, PR officer for MoneyShow.com. ‘Relationships are central to business, and one-to-one conversations are key to building a lasting business relationship.
‘Prepare your graphics and be sure they have data through the most recent quarter-end. Performance is not the main selling point; it is very important to have other data available.’
Bridge the brokers
Kill two birds with one stone: investor fairs cost money and time and normally involve sacrificing a Saturday, too, but they do provide opportunities for forging relationships.
Grudzinski suggests using a trip as an excuse to meet brokers in new places. ‘I tend to tell my clients that are doing investor fairs to always try to plan other meetings,’ she says. ‘There are always brokers in the city that you can go and see.’
Volvo also goes out of its way to make the most of its annual excursion. ‘In addition to our booth and presentation, we will visit local brokers or investment houses to talk about our stock,’ Hartwell says.
With competition fierce and attention spans limited, exhibitors have to be prepared to vie for an audience. ‘You have approximately five seconds to get a delegate’s attention, so your booth should be eye-catching and attention-grabbing,’ Rushing says. ‘Graphics must say who your company is, what your company does, and why you are better than your competitors.’