NIRI 2014 roundup: part two

Jun 12, 2014
<p>Hear what happened on Tuesday and Wednesday at NIRI&rsquo;s 2014 conference</p>

At NIRI’s annual conference on Tuesday morning, the audience got to enjoy another reimagining, if that’s the right word, of a Vegas-based movie.

The day before, conference co-chairs Mark Donohue and Laura Graves had been superimposed onto a clip from Ocean’s 11. On Tuesday, they appeared as extra characters in the morning-after scene from The Hangover, a film about three friends who wake up in a Vegas hotel room with no idea what happened the day before.

It was a fitting skit given that Monday night featured a number of drinks events and parties, including one put on by NIRI called ‘Extremely happy hour’, a reference to the ‘extreme IR’ theme of this year’s conference.

Prior to the Hangover snippet, the audience watched a chat between NIRI president and CEO Jeff Morgan and NIRI board chairman John Chevalier about the state of IR and the association. Morgan talked about NIRI’s plans to launch an IR certification, which he said would have ‘charter’ in the name and allow recipients to put an IR designation after their title, in a similar fashion to the CFA credential. [To read more about this topic, see the roundup of days one and two.]

Morgan then discussed NIRI’s international plans. Along with IR certification, which is to be offered globally, Morgan said the association would continue to conduct roadshows in Asia and was also exploring how it could help other overseas markets. For example, NIRI is testing an approach in South Africa where it is going to run a LinkedIn group for the local IR community.

During the morning, attendees also got a briefing on the global economic outlook from Dr Christopher Probyn, chief economist at State Street Global Advisors.

Toward the end of the day, your correspondent moderated a session with an unusual format: an IR services shark tank. In the session, IROs debated how a hypothetical budget surplus should be spent in three different areas of IR practice, while a panel of IR experts – the sharks – grilled the IROs on their arguments.

The audience then voted on where they would put the money. They opted to allocate the surplus budget to in-person meetings rather than virtual meetings, newswire distribution over web-only disclosure and social media tools rather than IR apps. After that, it was time for cocktails and the last chance for delegates to browse the booths in the services showcase.

Service providers often use NIRI’s conference to launch new products and this year was no exception. Among the new launches, two IR website providers – Investis and Q4 Web Systems – both revealed new surveillance tools. Investis’ clients can now identify which banks, law firms, hedge funds and other organizations have looked at their corporate website, and also what type of content they were interested in.

Q4, meanwhile, launched a surveillance tool that monitors social sentiment and sends an email alert when the online mood about a company shifts from the norm, or if chatter about a company suddenly spikes. The firm also released an analytics tool that breaks down how investors are using the corporate website, as well as which institutions are making visits and what they are looking for on the site.

[The following paragraph has been updated to clarify how Investis' and Q4's tools work for identifying website visitors.] Investis’ and Q4’s new products identify which firms are coming to the corporate site – potentially highly useful information for an IRO, as well as others within the company. Both firms use Google Analytics as their primary source, and then combine this data with proprietary research. Investis spent 18 months building its database so it could match website visits to different organizations.

The conference crowd tends to thin out a bit on Wednesday morning but for those who stuck around this year there was a thought-provoking keynote from author and emotional intelligence expert Steve Smith. In a wide-ranging speech, he covered areas such as the reason our brains often freeze up when we feel under pressure and why confidence and competence are not the same thing.

Smith’s overall point was that by better understanding what confidence is and how it works, we can carry it with us and make the most of our potential. He didn’t go into details about how to apply his theories during the talk, but that information is contained in his new book – and all those in attendance received a free copy. As is traditional, the conference co-chairs wrapped up the final main session by revealing the location of next year’s conference: in 2015, NIRI is swapping Sin City for the Windy City, and heading to Chicago.

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