By Megan McGrath for Nasdaq
It’s back-to-school season for the kids (can I get a “heck yeah!”), which means it’s also conference season for public companies. By our count, there are 193 sell-side sponsored conferences in September alone. Calendars are busy and time is a commodity, and although virtual options have made some conferences more efficient, it is still important to make sure you are getting the best out of your conference attendance. Whether in-person or virtual, conferences are a great way to meet a large number of investors in a short amount of time.
Success isn’t guaranteed. But with a little preparation and strategy, you can maximize the ROI for time spent at a conference. Here are a few tips:
- Know the attendees. Although there is always the occasional surprise attendee in a meeting, don’t walk into meetings not knowing who will be there. If this information isn’t provided by the conference host, ask your IR team for some background on the accounts you are meeting with. What is their investment style, their size, do they own you or your peers, and are you meeting with an analyst or a PM? And don’t be shy about managing this process – if you’re targeting new investors and see only a list of existing holders that you have met dozens of times before, don’t hesitate to proactively reach out to corporate access teams to switch things up.
- Ask for opportunities. Many sell-side and even some industry conferences consist purely of 1×1 or small group meetings. However, check in advance to see if there are other speaking opportunities, such as panels, fireside chats, presentations or media interviews. These are additional opportunities to increase awareness of your company and management team.
- Quick prep. Sure, you know your company and your story backward and forwards, but a quick 15-minute prep meeting with the attending team and the IR team ahead of the event to level-set and review messaging is one of the keys to conference success. Review the type of conference you’re attending, the messages you want to get across, and any recent issues or current events that you believe are likely to come up in meetings.
- Make it a conversation. Just like in a job interview, the best investor meetings are conversations. Don’t hesitate to begin the meeting by asking about the investor or fund you’re meeting with if you haven’t met before. This can provide valuable information on how to deliver your message in a way that resonates with a potential investor. In addition, ask the investors for their opinions on topics such as investor sentiment, valuation, and key industry themes. This is a golden opportunity to gather intelligence on how your corporate messaging could be enhanced going forward.
- Have a cheat sheet. It’s always wise in any investor meetings to have a “cheat sheet” handy – this might include top messages and data points that you have provided on recent earnings calls. This is also good practice from a Reg FD standpoint so that you can remember what has and has not been disclosed publicly.
- Listen and absorb. In my time as a sell-side analyst, I used to say that if I got a question more than twice from the buy-side, I should write a note about it. Similarly, companies should compile themes and frequently asked questions at conferences. If a new topic comes up often, consider adding a slide to your investor presentation or content to your earnings call script. This responsiveness shows you are paying attention and up-to-date with current themes.
- Follow up. If possible, have a note-taker in attendance that is collecting names, themes and items for follow-up. Don’t hesitate to say you’ll get back to an investor on a question you don’t know the answer to but do so as soon as possible once you return. Sending a thank-you email to investors offering to be available for any follow-up questions and providing a link to recent presentations is also a best practice. You will be surprised how much this is appreciated and can lead to follow-up meetings that result in new investors.
Conference days can be long and grueling but are an opportunity to meet intelligent investors who are truly interested in you and your company and can provide you with valuable insights. With a little prep work and a mindset of information-sharing and data gathering, you can get a great return on your investment of time and energy.
Megan McGrath is Senior Vice President of Financial Profiles, a national strategic communications firm that builds long-term corporate value.