How large-scale investor events are changing with the times
If 2020 led to a whole slew of companies cancelling their larger-scale investor meetings, then 2021 was the year in which many of the world’s largest-cap corporations came back fighting.
We’ve seen a whole new desire to experiment in 2021 as companies have truly got back into the investor relations saddle and taken their story out to investors – often in virtual formats. That has led to a wide range of best practices developing and various trends emerging. We expect to see even more in 2022, some of which we highlight below.
TV production values
Many larger-cap companies have realized that the competition for capital is now being fought out on screens, so they have become much more adept at putting on a ‘show’ for investors. Sure, standardized formats and commoditized webcasting screens remain de rigeur for run-of-the-mill results and the like, but if there is a big announcement, strategy roll-out or more detailed investor day, then more premium, bespoke ‘TV-like’ approaches are starting to be favored.
These range from pre-recorded sets to films, animations, stings – everything that might keep the attention of an audience that is fast-becoming Zoom-fatigued. Production values are increasing and the quality of some of the events is akin to a news program.
To pre-record or not to pre-record?
CEOs and C-suites have been wrestling with this problem. Several big players have chosen to pre-record core segments of larger investor presentations and then move into a ‘live’ format for Q&A. Others have become more confident with the format and recognize that striding about a stage while being filmed ‘live’ is just the same as being on the stage with the audience in the room – that audience is now just dispersed across the globe.
Clearly, compliance and legal are often playing a role here, too. Whatever route is chosen, we’re finding companies being much more open about a ‘recorded’ segment if they use it and much more professional about live staging if they choose that route. The key for the latter lies in mapping out core movements so that any production team knows what will happen next. That has certainly contributed to the next trend, too.
Rehearsing on the up
If you’re trying to run a live TV show, everyone needs to know what he/she is doing – and when: you cannot do a retake. We are seeing a significant rise in teams rehearsing ahead of an event. Some of that is the more traditional messaging development and Q&A practice but some is also knowing when to ‘enter stage left’ and the like. All of it becomes more crucial to tie a grand event together.
Creating a narrative
The larger ‘shows’, such as capital markets days, are also spending more time creating a narrative for their event: ensuring that all contributors are more clearly adding to an overriding story rather than it appearing to be six or so disjointed segments. That requires more pre-planning and ensuring that contributors remain on message or return to core thinking at various points in their presentations.
The advantage for the audience is greater clarity on the takeaways and reiteration of the main points that they should be remembering. Slides have accordingly become clearer and less cluttered with multiple messages, too.
Mixing it up with content
We are fast seeing the days of a long-lasting preach from a podium by a CEO disappearing. In virtual presentations, longer speeches need to be cut up, interspersed, deliberately interrupted, formats changed – anything to maintain audience attention. So while longer investor days may still be dominated by a CEO, they are cut up into much smaller segments.
The content that separates these segments varies from video documentaries and animated explainers to short video stings and mini-interviews with another contributor, and more. In essence, anything that breaks it up and wakes ‘them’ up – ‘them’ being the investor and analyst audience.
My screen’s bigger than your screen
Backgrounds are getting bigger and more impressive. Large digital screens enable content to be dropped in behind presenters and for them to indicate key trends with their hands as they speak or for the production team to animate graphics as the presenter talks through key points. Large screens are no longer that expensive to hire and can make an easy difference to professionalizing the look and feel of an event.
This way, please
Some companies are getting much better at grouping materials together on their website and signposting to key parts or to the event as a whole from the homepage. Time and again, however, we see companies putting lots of effort into running a large-scale investor event and then downing tools immediately afterward, forgetting to cut up content and make it easily accessible for investors.
Home or away, not both
Last and certainly not least, we foresee a real split in investor events in the coming year – somewhat determined, once again, by what is going on with the pandemic. We’ve seen companies holding hybrid virtual and face-to-face events and then realizing that no-one turns up in the room.
The result has been companies deciding to do either a full-scale face-to-face event for a large announcement, say, but not broadcasting it out to a virtual audience, or keeping it virtual-only and doing away with the on-the-ground invitees. It’s either/or, in other words – in-between can lead to a mess. Clearly, there are ways around this problem but we expect more division along these lines in 2022.
Richard Carpenter is chief executive of Bladonmore