While the key principles behind a successful investor day – have something important to say, nail the logistics and prepare, prepare, prepare – remain the same, investor days today look rather different from how they did just three or four years ago.
With the online audience in mind, IROs and consultants say holding a compelling event in 2024 is about shifting to shorter formats, crisper messaging and higher production values. Meanwhile, in-person experiences need to offer more value than ever to get investors up and away from their desks.
Bombardier has had plenty to communicate to the investment community over the last few years. In 2021, the Canadian company sold its transportation business to France’s Alstrom to focus solely on manufacturing and selling business jets.
For its virtual investor day in March 2023, the manufacturer wanted to highlight its refocused business, new products and expanded service facilities, as well as update the market on the progress of its objectives for 2025.
Along with investors, employees were a key audience for the event, says Francis Richer de La Fleche, vice president of financial planning and IR. Bombardier wanted an event that would bring feelings of ‘belonging and pride,’ he says.
The online event showcased many of the newer elements companies have incorporated into investor days. Executives delivered concise presentations from key corporate locations, such as an aircraft hangar and a design center.
High production values were followed throughout, with B-roll used to show off new planes and their luxurious interiors. Corporate video helped to break up the different sections, including sections with employees who design and manufacture Bombardier aircraft. And it all ran to just two hours and 10 minutes.
The March event also underlines the growing collaboration between IR and marketing teams. With the bar raised on production, the two departments are increasingly working together to deliver investor days and other corporate events.
At Bombardier, marketing focused on making the viewing experience as dynamic and immersive as possible, says marketing manager Melissa Tait. For example, some content was filmed inside a Global 7500 aircraft, while another segment took place at the company’s Wichita site, a key operations center in the US. ‘It was about filming in dynamic locations to engage our viewers,’ she says.
The decision to run a virtual investor day – instead of an in-person or hybrid event – was down to a couple of factors, explains Richer de La Fleche. First, the company is in the process of rebuilding its investor base following the sale of its transportation business and it was felt that a virtual event would reach a wider audience. Second, an online event offered a strong vehicle for showcasing new products and locations to both investors and employees.
Having run three virtual investor days in the last three years, the evolution in approach is clear, adds Richer de La Fleche. In 2021, the aim was to ‘do a live event virtually,’ he says. ‘In 2023, you have content that is clearly prerecorded, except for the live Q&A. That elevates what we were able to do.’
Shorter, tighter, more engaging
The changing nature of investor days means companies have had to rethink their approach to format and messaging. The amount of information being communicated is often the same as before, but it needs to be delivered in a shorter time and with tighter messaging.
‘Investor days are certainly shorter than they used to be,’ says David Calusdian, president of Sharon Merrill Associates, an IR consultancy. ‘It used to be between four and a half and five hours. They’re becoming shorter now because of the importance of the online audience, [which has] a short attention span and is dealing with a million distractions in its home offices. You really need to grab the attention.’
Presentation training must adjust to the tighter formats, notes Calusdian. ‘You have to be super-crisp on your messaging, because you have a shorter amount of time in which to communicate,’ he says. ‘And you have to do that in a really engaging way. Because you’ve got people watching you at home with their email on another screen.’
Like Bombardier, many companies now make use of corporate video to boost interest and vary the experience. Calusdian says he believes this has become a ‘prerequisite’ for investor days. ‘You need to intersperse your day with some video that takes people behind the scenes – whatever that means for your company,’ he says. ‘[It could be] talking heads of customers, other management team members or employees. You have to incorporate video to make it more engaging.’
Higher expectations are affecting not just the online broadcast of investor days, but also the in-person experience. Investors today typically cover hundreds of companies, have tight travel budgets and need a strong reason to get out of the office for a couple of days to dive into a single issuer.
‘To get people to go to an investor day, you really need to convince them that they will experience the company, not just hear about it,’ says Calusdian. ‘You can’t just have management speaking to PowerPoint slides anymore. One way to help people get that experience is to offer different stakeholders, for example key partners or customers. And let people know in advance that they’re getting something they normally wouldn’t.’
Companies should look for other ways to take people inside the company, adds Calusdian. If the event is not at corporate HQ, he suggests bringing as much of the company to the external location as you can. ‘If you’re a toy company, bring the toys and games into different rooms and have people play with them,’ he says. ‘If you’re a food company, bring your food in and let them experience what it’s all about.’
One issuer that offers wide access to customers at its investor day is Snowflake. The cloud-based data company holds a large user conference each year called Snowflake Summit and includes an investor day as part of the agenda.
With more than 10,000 guests in attendance, investors have the chance to walk the expo room and really get to know the company’s ecosystem. Sell-side analysts, of which Snowflake has more than 40, organize walkarounds for clients, with the IR team helping to facilitate meetings.
‘It’s incredibly important for investors to get in front of our customers,’ says Jimmy Sexton, Snowflake’s senior director of finance, whose role includes responsibility for IR. ‘We can say what we believe, but hearing from the customers’ perspective is much more credible.’
Access to customers is part of every Snowflake investor day, but this year the company also wanted to focus on innovation in its product pipeline, especially around the potential of generative artificial intelligence tools.
‘Investors have been hearing a lot about this opportunity, and many questions have been centered around how Snowflake fits into the longer-term picture,’ says Sexton. ‘Fortunately, our product team has been working on functionality and capabilities around this for quite some time.’
Based on investor feedback, Snowflake decided to keep the investor day to less than three hours to give investors more time to roam the user conference. But a lot was still packed into that timeframe. Content included a customer Q&A with Disney, a prerecorded video chat with Satya Nadella, executive chairman and CEO of Microsoft, and a close look at Snowflake’s recent acquisition of search engine Neeva, plus the usual executive key notes and audience questions.
Snowflake’s event mirrors others in the growing collaboration between IR and other departments. ‘I’m not an events or audio-visual expert,’ says Sexton. ‘So partnering with our marketing and events team – as well as our internal IT team – on the broadcast has matured tremendously over the last three years.’
Choose the right tool
Whatever format companies choose for their investor day, the required time and investment are likely to be high. Many events today have substantial in-person and virtual elements, meaning it can feel like two events are being worked on instead of one. And, with higher expectations around online production values, there isn’t necessarily a large cost benefit to avoiding a physical element.
All of which means companies should think carefully about whether an investor day is the right tool for their specific needs, says Alex Jorgensen, who leads the IR advisory practice at marketing and communications firm Prosek Partners.
‘What if, as an alternative, you did three lunch-and-learns over the next year?’ he says. ‘They could be intimate settings with eight to 10 investors where you leverage the presentation you would have used at the investor day.’ That approach would save significant resources, while still providing investors with an update on the story and highly valued access to management, he says.
Jorgenson encourages companies to shift their mindset and view the most important aspect of investor days as refreshing their investment thesis for the next two or three years. IR teams can then decide whether a big set-piece event is the right channel for communication, versus alternative routes. ‘It’s about choosing the most impactful way to tell your story,’ he says.
Siemens Healthineers, the German manufacturer of medical equipment, opted for a mid-sized investor event in December. Head of IR Marc Koebernick didn’t call it an investor day, but rather a meet-the-management event at the company’s campus in Forchheim, northern Bavaria.
The IR team included different elements to encourage people to attend in person. For the sell side, there was a dinner the night before with the CEO and CFO. Small factory tours of just four or five attendees were available to showcase new facilities. And the presentations – of which there were four, covering each of Siemen’s business segments – took place in the afternoon to make it easier for people who wanted to fly in on the day.
The last time Siemens did a similar in-person event was back in 2019 in London, which posed several logistical challenges given the need to work with a remote location, says Koebernick. It then held a virtual get-together two years ago. This time, the company was able to make use of its own experience center, where people could ‘touch and feel’ the most up-to-date imaging and advanced therapies equipment, he says.
In preparation for the event, Siemens conducted a survey of investors and analysts to find out which parts of the story it would be good to focus on. Koebernick says he likes using questions that deliver quantitative results so you can clearly show management which areas are of most concern and should be addressed.
One mistake companies can make, notes Calusdian, is thinking the investor day is an opportunity to talk evenly about all the key areas of the business. He advises IR teams to conduct investor perception studies or other, less formal types of outreach to gauge what investors want to hear about.
‘Companies should zero in on a particular area of interest, such as a business segment or product roadmap, and let investors know in advance that they’ll be doing this,’ says Calusdian. ‘That gets attention. Investors don’t want to go and hear the same old thing. If you establish a reputation [for providing value], success will breed success and people will go the following year.’