Analyst presentations probably rank among the most important presentations a publicly traded company delivers. Typically, the CEO, CFO, and usually several additional executives are the individuals involved in the presentations, which often are held in New York and may run a half-day or more in length. In short, they’re a big deal.
We’re keenly interested in these presentations – in part, because many of our clients conduct them, and because we have some expertise in investor relations and are frequently involved in the preparation process. Some companies give short shrift to their analyst day efforts. And the results are often predictably disastrous. Others have figured out the why and how of good preparation.
One of our clients in particular stands out as a model of effective preparation and execution. We won’t identify the company, other than to say it’s a Fortune 500 energy company. This year, eight of its executives participated in the annual Analyst Day event in New York. Here’s a look at what this company does to prepare:
First off, it recognizes the importance of the event and is willing to commit the resources necessary – time, effort and money – to ensure that the event is a success. As with most successful efforts within a corporation, the CEO is the driver. And in this firm, the CEO leads by example – meaning, he himself takes part in the preparations. No “Do as I say, not as I do” here!
One of the most common mistakes associated with analyst presentations is that companies don’t start to prepare early enough. So a few days before the event, they’re scrambling to cobble together some remarks. The content is neither thoughtful nor well rehearsed. In contrast, our model client wisely starts the process more than a month before the event. That process has a number of elements:
Understandably, individual presenters are responsible for determining the content of their presentations. They’re assisted by staff members within their function who understand the big picture, but also can track down facts and other details that make their way into the presentation. Two other individuals play an important role in developing the messages. One is the head of Investor Relations, who tends to focus on factual content. The other is one of the company’s communications professionals assigned to the presenter; this individual is typically the advocate for emotional content. Together, all these individuals craft the key messages. An outside resource then develops the PowerPoint visuals that support the presentation.
In a survey conducted by Distinction, only 25 percent of executives surveyed said they invest more than two hours into preparing for very high-stakes presentations. Our client understands that a high-quality presentation takes time and planning.
When each presentation is complete or nearly complete, a session is scheduled so the presenter can get feedback from the CEO. Several other individuals are usually involved in this review: the CFO, head of IR, general counsel, head of communications and any of the presenter’s staff involved in developing the presentation. Rather than simply deliver the presentation, the presenter “talks the reviewers through the presentation.” This is an opportunity to ensure that the overall message is on target, that the facts and other details are accurate, and that the presentation meshes well with the other presentations.
The Ammerman Experience also participates in this review. It’s an opportunity for the client to get an “outsider’s” perspective on such things as messaging, organization and idea flow, length, effective use of PowerPoint, and whether the presentation captures and holds audience attention.
These reviews take place over a number of days, and are conducted in person or sometimes via teleconference (for executives who are based in various regions around the country).
The best messages are less than effective if they are poorly delivered. So The Ammerman Experience conducts a series of one-on-one coaching sessions over several weeks with the presenters, including the CEO. These sessions typically run a half-day (for new presenters) to several hours (for returnees or stellar performers). The focus is on delivery or “platform” skills. In this particular company, the execs do not read a prepared script; instead, they use notes and their PowerPoint visuals as an aid to discussing their material. This approach, which is not typical of most companies, can be very engaging, but it takes skill to make it work. Several other skills addressed during the session include having a powerful opening (in terms of both content and delivery), using a few “sparklers” throughout the presentation (i.e., stories, analogies, examples, anecdotes, illustrations, compelling data, memorable lines) and some tips for fielding questions.
These sessions vary greatly – depending on the presenter. But the 2-4 hours always include recording and critiquing the delivery. Showing the presenter clips from our video archives – to drive home key concepts of effective presenting – is another typical element. Some presenters request a second coaching session.
After more than four decades of experience, we’ve learned that executives have limited time, short attention spans but are quick studies. So we pack a lot of information and feedback into just a few hours of coaching.
This year, our coaching included a special media training session for the CEO – to prepare him to participate in media interviews (including satellite interviews) with business reporters based in New York who follow the company.
The afternoon before the event, all presenters gather together at the hotel where the event will be held to run through their presentations. It’s one final practice and sometimes an opportunity to fine tune comments, based on suggestions from the other presenters.
Although the presentations are not recorded, The Ammerman Experience coach does provide a general assessment of each presentation, along with a few key suggestions. There’s real benefit in having all presenters hear these comments; they pick up a wide variety of tips regarding presenting.
The rehearsal is also an opportunity for the presenters to get a look at the space where they’ll be speaking, and familiarize themselves with the lectern, monitors and other equipment they’ll be using.
This client has asked us to attend their Analyst Day. So we submit a detailed critique of all aspects of the event – from agenda, to handouts, to the performance of each executive. That report is then circulated among the presenters and usually resurfaces the following year during preparations for the company’s next presentation.
Great presentations don’t happen by accident. They require effort. Make that effort and you can hit a communications home run for analysts who follow your company.