Last word: Phase two of virtual IR events brings the potential for more flair

Oct 05, 2020
Laurie Havelock recommends you look no further than the English Premier League for inspiration

Readers around the world will have been relieved that, as global Covid-19 lockdowns eased, the very serious business of English Premier League football was allowed to resume in June, albeit with a few key changes.

Given the worldwide appeal of the soccer league – home to household names such as Paul Pogba, José Mourinho and Mohamed Salah – it’s perhaps no surprise that organizers were keen to get things going again, even if games have to go ahead with empty stadiums, disinfected footballs and other precautions.

But given that the world’s second-most popular spectator sport – investor relations – is also hoping to get its own show back on the road, perhaps there are a few things the beautiful profession can learn from The Beautiful Game.

Contactless conduct
While soccer remains a contact sport even during the pandemic, care has been taken to minimize unnecessary risk of transmitting the virus from player to player. 

Pre-match rituals of handshaking or huddling have been replaced by a friendly fist-bump or clash of elbows, which has the dual benefit of reducing the risk of Covid-19 transmission and looking a little cooler for the cameras. Elaborate goal celebrations have also been discouraged.

Taking a new greeting format into your next in-person investor meeting is an easy way to make it look like you’re keeping up with pop culture. Just make sure to warm up first.

Improve the atmosphere
With no fans allowed in stadiums, broadcasters were worried that home viewers would miss out on the frenetic atmosphere typical of Premier League soccer games: roars of excitement, groans of frustration, regular comments about how much better the speaker could do than any of those overpaid idiots on the pitch. 

The solution? Computer-generated crowd noise that is played into television broadcasts over the eerie silence of stadiums.

It could be a winning formula at your next roadshow date, whether in-person or virtual, especially if you are ‘blessed’ with a C-suite that inspires less-than-fanatical support from your investors. Be sure to match appropriate reactions to your prepared comments, however: as in football, a round of applause for a disappointing disclosure will only come off as sarcastic.

More substitutions
Given that the restarted season coincided with the UK summer – a heady mix of 86-degree heat and torrential rainstorms – teams were permitted to make two more substitutions than before, for a total of five across the course of a game. This saved tired legs and, organizers hoped, made injuries rarer in a compressed fixture list.

The idea of bringing more team members along to events is hardly a new one for IROs, but you might consider signing a few more specialists to your roster for a last-minute swap.

Water breaks
Though American sports have long embraced a quarterly approach to games, soccer has maintained just a half-time break in living memory. This summer, organizers put in extra drinks breaks – partly to ensure players remained hydrated in the summer months and partly so that individually sanitized bottles could be handed out and kept separate – during which players could also catch up with their coach (like a basketball time-out).

Consider bringing this in for events with external stakeholders, or even internal teams, at times of intense pressure. A no-questions-asked opportunity for a water break is a great time to check on strategy, admonish any underperforming team members or just to stare in a bathroom mirror and declare, You got this.

This article appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of IR Magazine. To continue reading, click here to open the full digital edition of IR Magazine  

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