The Street Is Game for Online Updates. Here’s How to Make the Most of the Opportunity.

It has been nearly nine weeks since WHO declared the coronavirus a global pandemic. While the situation is weighing heavily on businesses and individuals in countless ways, one possible bright spot is that investors and analysts—who are working from home and spending less time traveling, commuting, and attending live events and conferences—now have more time available to interact with you. And they are more than willing to do so online. A recent survey Clermont Partners conducted with more than 115 investors and sell-side analysts,  found that 88% of respondents are likely or very likely to attend a virtual investor day via webcast or video conference.

Clearly, now is a prime opportunity to log some facetime with an investment community that is expecting you to provide pertinent business updates and that is more than willing to engage virtually.

Create an event that keeps investors engaged.

Creating a high-impact virtual investor day takes careful planning and preparation, just like a traditional investor day. However, it is not a one-size-fits all formula. Given the new medium, many of the rules have changed. Here are some keys to optimizing the opportunity and creating a virtual event that makes the most of your executives’ and your audiences’ time:

First, make your agenda work harder.

With traditional investor days, you typically have four hours to fill. That’s not going to happen online. Aim for 90 minutes to two hours tops, and then rework your agenda to fit the condensed timeframe. To make every minute count:

  • Prioritize critical information and keep it brief. Think of the event not as a full investor day, but as an investor update. Highlight the most pertinent information and business performance the Street wants to hear in succinct, crisp presentations. Talk about the current state of the company and highlight your liquidity. Most importantly, control the narrative by discussing how you are continuing to carry out the company’s long-term strategy.
  • Don’t ignore the elephant in your virtual room. You will, of course, need to address your current plan of action for the COVID-19 pandemic and discuss how you are prepared for the near-term challenges. Following Square, Inc.’s March investor update, Tori Bertschy from the Investor Relations team noted, “After sharing current and potential COVID-19 impacts on Square’s performance, investors appreciated the transparency we provided in an uncertain and volatile environment.” Getting ahead of the Street will give you the ability to lay out the potential implications. It’s a good idea to outline the impacts by issuing a best-, medium-, and worst-case scenario. That way, you can give the guidance investors and sell-side analysts need for their models without being forced to predict the future in such uncertain times.
  • Plan to fully engage your audience in the conversation.  While investors may log on, you are not going to hold their attention if you spend the entire two hours speaking at them instead of with them. Remember, it’s very easy to multitask when you are working from home. To keep the audience involved, considering including frequent Q&A sessions. You can take questions via chat in real time and then schedule a few minutes after each presentation to address the queries.  You can also increase participation by incorporating one-on-ones with members of the management team in lieu of a formal Q&A or by using polls throughout the presentation to ask the audience questions and allow them to actively contribute to the conversation.
  • Include updates from business heads and key managers. In addition to presentations from the CEO and CFO, involve other members of the management team in the event. Investor days are often the only time investors have access to managers outside of the c-suite, and, according to our survey, the Street increasingly expects business leader participation, even in a virtual environment. Especially if there are significant updates to share, investors will want to hear from the business heads directly. To facilitate these conversations, some companies are using the second half of a virtual event to host small breakouts with business leaders. Or, they are filling breaks with discussions, interweaving them throughout the course of the event to keep the audience hooked.
  • Highlight new products and facilities with video and virtual tours. Remember that traditional investor days usually include facility tours and hands-on interaction with new products or services. You can mimic these experiencesand make your online content more dynamic by incorporating graphics, pictures, videos, and live demonstrations. With new products or product features, consider showing live, physical interaction with the product to enhance the audience’s understanding of new offerings. You can also incorporate customer video clips illustrating how the product works in the real world to add insight, increase credibility, and emphasize the value of the offerings you provide. For facility tours, you can weave videos into the presentation, where most relevant, or you can make facility tours a separate agenda item. The amount of footage shared should correlate to the significance production has to your business operations.  

Second, make preparation a priority.

Just as you would prepare for a traditional investor day, you have to be ready for the online show. All of the typical considerations apply, and presenters should practice their individual parts as well as ensure a basic level of agreement on key issues across all members of the presenting team. As always, it’s a good idea to anticipate investor questions and plan out responses in advance. On top of this, your presentation team will need to prepare for the special circumstances presented by a virtual environment:

  • Send out materials in advance so audience members have time to get ready. The number one ask from our survey respondents was for companies to provide a copy of the materials prior to the start of the virtual event to allow time to download and print the presentation. While you don’t want to give away the entire presentation, providing some highlights can help build interest and anticipation while also giving attendees a place to take notes and an aid for following along and staying engaged.
  • Do practice runs and make sure you are sticking to the schedule. Assuming you give your audience a snapshot and timeline for the event,  it’s up to you to stick to it. At home, there are more distractions and you don’t have the luxury of keeping your audience in the room. Practice to make sure you can get through the critical content in the predefined timeframe.
  • Beware of technical glitches.  Nothing can turn off an online audience more quickly than technical problems. Don’t waste precious seconds of your event working out the logistics of the virtual meeting platform you are going to use. As much as possible, have these issues ironed out beforehand and consider designating an A/V or IT expert to be on hand and stay on top of any difficulties that could arise while presenting. Practicing with the presenting team several times in advance will get everyone comfortable with the platform.
  • Coordinate your Q&As. If you will be hosting a Q&A after the presentation with participants, coordinate in advance who will be asking what questions and in what order so you can have the right people on video at the right time. Be especially sure to practice this part of the presentation during your run of show, flexing the ability to temporarily turn on the microphone and video of an attendee. Since participants will be muted throughout the presentation, allowing investors to submit questions via chat is a great option. Determine who will be responsible for monitoring the incoming questions and communicating them to the presenters. Since the management team won’t physically be together, you will also need a private, online chat platform to keep everyone on the same page and determine who will respond to each question. Again, use this technology as part of your practice sessions. 
  • Cover your legal bases. It’s important to loop in your legal team during the planning phase of your virtual event. Specifically, you will want to clear a few things with these experts, including:
    • Can you post a presentation primer prior to the event, and if so, how far in advance?
    • Are business leaders well-versed on what information can and cannot be shared with investors or sell-side analysts? You will want to make sure they are up to date prior to involving them in the Q&A or any small group discussions.
    • Can you post the Q&A on your IR website post-event? If not the actual Q&A, can you post an approved document that summarizes some of the key questions asked?

Finally, plan to continue sharing your messages post-event.

One of the great things about a virtual investor day is that you can leverage the materials long after the live event. Make sure to update your investor presentation and IR website with new imagery and videos from the event. In addition to posting a replay of the webcast, ensure investors have easy, ongoing access to new and dynamic content, including video facility tours, product demonstrations, customer testimonials, and (as long as legal approves) Q&A sessions or highlights from those sessions. Finally, upload a transcript of the event for search engine optimization purposes—you don’t want to miss out on any potential investors who are looking for the kind of information you shared.

The time for virtual updates is right now.

Even after it is safe to return to business as usual, virtual investor days may be here to stay, at least in some capacity. But even if they are only a temporary solution, they offer tremendous opportunity for your business to carry out its 2020 investor relations program, connect with the Street, and share updates with both current and potential investors in what is a crucial time for investor communication. For additional best practices, see our recent article which outlines rules to follow for a successful investor day. If you’d like to learn more about planning for a successful virtual investor day, give us a call.