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Aug 11, 2016

Pre-recorded earnings calls: Pros and cons

Advocates say the practice leads to a more relaxed management team and better Q&A

Although it is still something of a rarity, some companies today release pre-recorded earnings calls. Traditionally, management reads out scripted comments live before diving into the Q&A. But with pre-recordings, the scripted comments are taped in advance. They can be released immediately before the Q&A or further in advance. Some companies even do away with the live Q&A and simply post pre-recorded comments.

Franklin Templeton Investments, for example, provides its pre-recorded comments via dial-in replay and audio webcast at the same time its earnings press release is filed. It then follows that up with a live Q&A call two-and-a half hours later. Other firms that utilize pre-recorded earnings comments include Walmart and Sears Holdings. Below we outline some of the pros and cons to help you decide if it is right for your IR program.


  • Improved Q&A. By taping the prepared remarks in advance, senior management can focus their energy and attention on the Q&A portion. Some also think CEOs and CFOs benefit from listening to their own remarks; this helps to put them in the shoes of the listeners on the call
  • Avoid gaffes. With a pre-recording you can ensure that nothing unscripted is said, which could cause embarrassment, or, far worse, necessitate the release of a filing to satisfy fair disclosure rules
  • Fine-tune the delivery. Beyond cutting out gaffes, prerecorded calls also allow management to go back over sections to tweak the tone, volume and other aspects of delivery as required. ‘If presenters are nervous and stumble over the script, you can have a do-over,’ says Braden Maccke of IR SMARTT, a consultancy offering digital IR solutions
  • You can manage the process internally. ‘We are quite fortunate that we have an internal team that manages our own TV studio that we are able to leverage for the recording and editing of the commentary. We then work with our conference call vendor to upload,’ says Brian Sevilla, director of IR at Franklin
  • Early access to commentary. For Franklin, the introduction of prerecorded comments meant investors and analysts heard management’s thoughts more quickly.They ‘no longer had to wait an entire market day of trading to get additional color on results as we structured the commentary to include answers to anticipated questions of a material nature,’ says Sevilla.


  • Loss of authenticity. Understandably, many analysts and investors prefer to hear management live. They want to get a feel for management’s mood and that’s harder to do on a polished pre-recording. Another area to consider: not all companies are open about their use of recorded remarks on calls, which some admit can be a bit awkward
  • Logistical challenges. ‘You need to allow enough time to record and upload the file to the vendor, which means you need to finish your review of earnings a few days earlier than you did previously,’ says Sevilla. There are also challenges working with vendors to make sure the recording is available on time, he adds
  • Additional prep needed. Many feel pre-recordings are hard to organize, says Maccke: ‘There is a lot of ‘last minute-ism out there and a pre-recorded call requires a lot more preparation’
  • Extra time listening to calls. Sevilla says Franklin has received some complaints about analysts ‘having to attend two calls’, though it is possible to listen to the pre-recorded call right before the live Q&A if that’s what analysts want
  • The ‘why’ factor. There is also a significant ‘why change’ feeling out there. ‘With a live call, you have to be there anyway. People are just used to doing it the old way,’ says Maccke.