Just 12 weeks ago video conferencing and virtual meetings were relatively rare. Now they are a daily occurrence and could well be for some time… if not forever!
COVID-19 has forced major changes to the way we do things in business and that includes investor relations.
With heightened travel restrictions and appropriate physical distancing, industry and investor conferences have been significantly impacted and may be for some time longer; so are physical roadshows, and even annual meetings are being re-thought.
But we have quickly adapted and found that virtual investor meetings, conferences and roadshows can work extremely well and bring significant additional benefits – and what could be more valuable than the time saved from not being away from the office and family? Other benefits include significant cost savings of a virtual roadshow, while a recorded presentation can have a long shelf life, on websites, social media channels, and through sending it to subscribers.
There are some things about virtual investor meetings that are quite different and may take some time to get used to. A minor difference is you may find your meetings are somewhat shorter as the usual pre-meeting banter tends to be less in a virtual meeting. The nature of technology may also make the meeting less conversational, so be prepared to keep powering through with your story, rather than just waiting for questions to come.
More significantly though, with group meetings and investor conferences, the trend seems to be for viewer participants to not turn on their video cameras. This means you can be left effectively talking to a black screen without any real sense of audience involvement, which can be somewhat daunting.
Regardless of these differences, the core principles of presenting have not changed in the virtual world.
Your key messages need to be on-song. Ensure you have a succinct and clear takeaway for each slide you talk to. In addition, have a comprehensive, well-rehearsed list of issues and questions so you can answer promptly and with confidence.
For an added professional touch, make sure you think about the background. Have some signage or branding behind you, ensure the light is coming from in front of you and not from behind. If you’re presenting from home or your background is not up to scratch, have a customised digital corporate background developed. They are simple to do, cost effective, and take your online meeting to another level. And they sure beat the standard Lego or space themes offered by Microsoft Teams and Zoom!
With virtual conferences becoming the norm, the Australasian Investor Relations Association (AIRA) has updated its Investor Relations Best Practice Guidelines to cover guidance for lodging presentations and information from virtual conferences.
If you give a presentation to a virtual conference it should be lodged with the ASX along with any pre-prepared scripts or speaker notes. If it contains market-sensitive information, that should be separately highlighted with a cover note or announcement.
It is also recommended that if it is a third-party hosted event you should request if there is live webcast availability for other shareholders, or if a transcript can be provided that, in turn, you can make available on your website for all shareholders.
The reality is virtual presentations are going to be with us for some time, if not as part of the “new normal”, so embrace the technology and present yourself as professionally as possible.