How to present more engagingly and with greater impact
1. Consider the context
‘There’s a big difference between a rather synthetic quarterly release and an annual or strategic presentation,’ explains Severine Camp, a partner at IR consultancy Fairvue. ‘That’s simply because the latter gives an opportunity to be a bit more didactic, to highlight a company’s proof points of success, or to explain the external environment and the way a new strategy is evolving.’
A presentation’s format is therefore flexible, depending on the type of event that is held, which can last from one to three hours or even a whole day if there’s a site visit. But the length of presentation isn’t as important as its ‘content and flow, which should allow messages to be clearly and effectively conveyed,’ adds Jean Zhuang, a director at Tulchan Communications’ Singapore branch. ‘Keep slides succinct and avoid wordiness to ensure messages are not diluted.’ Additional information such as non-vital or supporting facts should be placed in appendices.
Tailor the content to your audience, keeping in mind that geographical location or cultural differences don’t count for as much as an investor’s profile or investment style. ‘Companies should present things differently and address certain subjects depending on what’s in there for their audience,’ highlights Camp. ‘So it will all depend on the strategy an issuer is pursuing and its investor base and targets.’
2. Be consistent and tenacious
Before starting the presentation, think about your storyline. ‘Investors don’t look at you as a firm, but as a stock,’ reminds Camp. ‘Instead of producing a deck of tick-the-box slides, try to put forward the important points that can be quickly understood by your audience.’ Performing a ‘skim test’ will verify what readers will remember when they scan the presentation quickly.
Getting an third-party view by enlisting expert IR and communications advisers can help define a cohesive message illustrating the firm’s investment story. ‘Sing the same tune,’ urges Zhuang. ‘Ensure the management team and all staff embody the company’s values and present a united front to the public.’
Perseverance will pay off so it’s important to reiterate your message at any available opportunity, bearing in mind that the key to managing expectations is to always ‘under-promise and over-deliver. Keep communicating in order to gain top-of-mind recall and support from key stakeholders,’ Zhuang adds.
3. Boost visuals and tech
Infographics will help with the understanding and retention of information, by presenting facts and figures in a more attractive and compelling way, explains Zhuang, also reminding that annotations are a useful addition to complicated graphs. ‘For presentations that rely more on visuals and verbal explanations, provide self-explanatory notes so any investor who reads it can still easily understand,’ she advises.
Videos are in general a more engaging way to deliver messages than pure text and PowerPoint documents, Zhuang continues. ‘Hosting webcasts of presentations or creating video indents of the CEO or senior management talking about significant developments to be stored and replayed on the corporate website can add color and help give a more human face to the firm,’ she points out.
‘Efficient IR communications are based on interaction and engagement but also accessibility for people on the go,’ says Camp. Creating a bespoke IR app for different types of mobile devices can definitely prove a valuable investment, as it allows for storing all downloadable presentations, ‘pushing’ information directly to stakeholders and also the live streaming of events.
While videos and visuals are regularly featured in annual presentations, the trend is spreading to interim releases as well. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me if quarterly reports became more interactive, with charts, video footage and the letter to shareholders read out by the CEO rather just in printed form,’ she notes.
4. Work on the body language
Another advantage of boosting presentations with videos and webcasts is that ‘they allow current and potential investors to focus not only on content but also on body language, the importance of which is often underestimated,’ says Camp, who used to work in equity research. ‘When my former colleagues came back from earnings meetings, they didn’t comment on figures but rather on their impressions about the presenter’s attitude.’
‘Be engaging and convincing, as the presenter is the key conduit of information,’ recommends Zhuang, also stressing the importance of properly rehearsing each appearance.
Good body language can be reinforced by the use of active headlines, as Camp recommends: ‘Rather than writing ‘key highlights for the quarter’, go for ‘solid quarter in a challenging environment’ instead.’
5. Don’t overlook cash figures… and the afterlife
American investors are known to be focused on the cash aspects of a business, so be prepared to include detailed information on the subject. ‘I’ve noted that while Europeans mainly concentrate on fundamentals, a US-based audience will also require an analysis of the sources and use of funds and cash generation for their valuation,’ says Camp.
Finally, think about your presentation’s shelf life. As it’s going to be archived, ask yourself whether the information contained is understandable without the related webcast or the speaker notes, and if it’s pertinent when read outside the meeting’s context. ‘When putting together your presentation, always consider the impact it will have as a stand-alone document,’ Camp concludes.