Investor days can determine whether your company sinks or swims. These events are crucial for communicating big changes, laying out medium-term goals, and answering hard questions from shareholders and analysts. A good or fine investor day does no harm. A great investor day can take you to new heights: it can be a trampoline you can bounce on and a platform to jump off.
The difference between a boring, good, and great investor day is about how you prepare your story and how you capitalize on what investor days are really about. Read on to hear about how we’ve helped our clients nail investor days over the years.
Investor Days: Opportunities and Challenges
Investor days are invaluable, especially for publicly traded companies. They bring together larger shareholders as well as the sell-side analysts who help make sense of your company’s financial trajectory. While research analysts provide reports on future opportunities and challenges, investor days give company leaders the chance to engage a wider audience in more detail.
Many companies do investor days once a year, where senior management meets with key investors and analysts to discuss the company’s objectives and strategic priorities for the following years. But investor days can also offer opportunities in the context of a larger event: a merger or acquisition, new corporate leadership, an IPO, or a massive new product announcement (think: new iPhone). These events are especially valuable at moments when there is potential to change the trajectory of the company.
If it isn’t already clear, investor days can be high-stakes. While smaller updates are reported during quarterly calls, investor days are an opportunity to dive deep into your longer-term strategy, show off new technology, and give medium-term financial projections. It’s an opportunity for attendees to ask their hard questions, get answers, and check out the body language of the executives that answer those tough questions.
Executed well, investor days can raise a palpable air of excitement for the future of your company and shift shareholders into the role of allies. Everything hinges on how you tell your story.
We all know what dull investor days are like:
- Presenters read their presentation slides to the audience—or worse, read a script from a podium making little to no eye contact and zero engagement with the audience.
- The material is absurdly technical for a general and financial-focused audience.
- C-suite executives give half-answers to hard questions.
- Audience members sit there scrolling on their phones.
In the worst-case scenario, investors can walk away with a bad impression. As we shared in the Harvard Business Review, how leaders speak to investors can make or break a deal. If the executive is dismissive, harsh, rude, or awkward, investors might feel under-appreciated by the company. Charisma alone won’t cut it, and might even give investors the impression that the CEO is overconfident or inauthentic.
It matters that leaders genuinely connect with their investors, and even more importantly, that there is a coherent narrative. If the narrative doesn’t work, investors might leave with the impression that the CEO doesn’t understand the market. Thankfully, with a bit of forethought, planning and preparation, you can avoid these outcomes and seize the opportunity investor days offer.
The Real Reason We Have Investor Days
While it might seem like stakeholders go to hear about earnings, projections, and new announcements, the real reason anyone goes to investor days is for the Q&A. It’s a rare chance to be in the same room as the extended executive team. On quarterly calls, it’s typically only sell-side analysts who ask questions, and generally, only a few top executives respond.
Investors and analysts want to see and hear from those charged with executing your corporate strategy. Beyond hearing your answer, they want to see your body language. You can’t get away with simply reading canned remarks. Your shareholders instead get to see how you think on your feet. This is a huge opportunity to showcase your company with poise, competence, and coherence.
When we work with clients, we prepare our executives and ensure their presence, their words, and their story serves the purpose of their investor day. Here are a few of our tried-and-true tips:
1. Know Your “Why”
Think about what you want to accomplish at the outset. Why are you holding this event? Whether it’s achieving an outcome, establishing relationships, or communicating numbers, know how you want your audience to feel, think, and act after your event. Let this be your north star as you plan the strategy, the narrative, and the timing.
2. Construct a Consistent Narrative
These events can get really complicated depending on the industry. Here’s how some of these events go. The CEO gets up, then the strategy person, then five business unit leaders speak about how wonderful their widget is, the CFO closes the day with the financial projections, and then everyone takes questions. By the end of the event, investors are drooling and they’ve lost the thread that leadership really wanted to hit home.
We want to keep your investors drooling—in a good way! So start with the end in mind. Why should investors invest in your company? You should have an investment thesis based on your strategic narrative, restate it, and ensure every speaker’s points support your thesis.
3. Prepare for the Q&A
Q&A is the main event for attendees and it deserves your full attention and preparation. Prepare your executives to really listen to the questions and consider what is behind the question. As an example, a question about your R&D number for next year may not just be about the number. It’s also a question of your corporate priorities. Are you reinvesting profits or returning capital to shareholders? There are choices about where you put your cash and why you make those decisions. By preparing for the questions that might come your way, you can understand and respond to what your audience member is really asking.
It’s not enough to have a great story. Your delivery should also be compelling. Don’t wing it. Build in plenty of time for practicing both as individuals and as a team. At a minimum, we advise our clients to have a table read 6-8 weeks before, dry run 2-3 weeks before, and a dress rehearsal the week of the event. This cadence helps to suss out the flow between presenters and is a great forcing function for individual preparation.
While this seems obvious, many executives avoid practicing their presentations because it can be vulnerable to practice in front of their colleagues. Not every presenter is a dynamo but with practice, everyone can own their story in their own way to keep an audience engaged and curious. Use the core tenants of storytelling.
5. Executive Presence
How your leaders show up matters. How they make eye contact, how they talk to investors, and even how they’re seen talking to their team makes a difference in how the world sees your company. You want to make sure the CEO is confident, but not overconfident. And, of course, the words matter too. Narrative development for a financial audience should be different from narrative development for a general audience of investors; perfect this narrative so that it aligns with the overall value proposition for your company.
6. Murder Boards & External Input
It can be helpful to have a third party to walk you through the process of preparing. Whether you have a murder board strategy session or hire an external communications team, it’s crucial to make sure leaders get honest feedback and can answer the hard questions ahead of time.
The Q&A can be ruthless. Why are you on your fourth CEO in five years? If you’ve missed the last five quarters, why should I believe that you’ll hit your revenue goal this next quarter? Trust us—these questions sting less when you hear them the second time. Plus, being prepared means that you’ll be able to answer these questions with attention to what the question is really about.
Investor Days Matter For Your Firm’s Future
The most important takeaway about investor days is that they are often about much more than meets the eye—ultimately, how you prepare your story and how you engage your audience will determine the outcome of the event. We’ve seen companies on the rocks have incredible investor days that leave shareholders starry-eyed for the future, and we’ve seen companies on a steady incline blow it. The right orientation, attitude, and preparation can make all the difference.
Investor days can shift the perception of what your shareholders, and your team, believe is possible for the future. If you’re ready to put on your best investor day yet, our bench of seasoned professionals would love to schedule a consultation to discuss how we can help.
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