The CEO had just delivered a subpar presentation to an institutional investor, losing track of time—and much of the audience—in the minutia of biotechnology. After the meeting the investor relations officer (IRO) told him: “The next group we’re meeting doesn’t know us very well. You should stay high level and emphasize the market drivers.” The CEO objected: the scientific details were very important to understanding their business. Taking a deep breath the IRO replied: “Yes, but you only made it through a third of the presentation that time.” At the next meeting, the IRO recounts, “His pacing was great, he stayed on track and he absolutely nailed it.”
That interaction perfectly illustrates the nature of the best working relationships between experienced IROs and CEOs during investor marketing trips, or “roadshows.” During these daylong performances, the IRO is the producer, director, writer and stage manager: the CEO is the marquee star who everyone’s there to see perform. With experience and maturity, the IRO takes on a behind-the-scenes leadership role and the CEO accepts taking reasonable advice. When IROs and CEOs work together at this level, it spells the difference between mediocre and excellent presentations and helps win over investors.
To build trust with the CEO, the IRO must basically handle everything, from strategic communications considerations to the most mundane travel details. Here are key elements to consider:
>Planning who you’ll meet. The typical 45-minute, one-on-one meeting with an institutional investor should not be regarded as “marketing,” but as a multi-million-dollar sales call. IROs must work closely with the institutional sales team at the sponsoring bank or brokerage to determine which accounts to meet with and which to avoid. IROs can help by providing sales with a list of the accounts the company has recently seen. In return, they should expect a fresh mix: nothing bores most CEOs more than a day of meetings with people they’ve already met.
>The art of the PowerPoint presentation. PowerPoint is here to stay and working on “the deck” is a never-ending task. IROs know that successful presentations are predicated on continuous improvement.
>Planes, hotels, restaurants. Managing airline connections, staying at well-located hotels, eating at good restaurants—IROs should work with whoever is responsible for travel to ensure everything goes right. They should also know how to pack, including: extra CEO’s business cards, spare power cords, cash, transit tokens and an umbrella.
>The ultimate “advance man.” IROs must know exactly where all the meetings are and how long it takes to travel between each one—be it by cab, limo, public transit or walking. A city map with major buildings marked is ideal, and precise meeting locations are mandatory. Always double-check company locations by phoning ahead.
>Before the curtain rises. It’s up to the IRO to make sure the CEO is presentable. The IRO should feel comfortable enough to tell the CEO to straighten his tie or collar, brush his jacket—or even his teeth. When the boss looks good, the company looks good.
>During the meeting—the subtle director. It’s senior management’s show, so the IRO is typically a silent observer during meetings. But they may also be subtle directors, augmenting the speaker’s directions to the audience or, most importantly, preventing the inadvertent disclosure of material information. Says one analyst: “I’ve seen an experienced IRO interrupt the CEO or CFO and say something like, ‘I don’t think we’ve disclosed that information.’ The best IROs aren’t afraid to keep the boss in line if that’s what’s necessary.”
>Ending on time. Being late to the next meeting is verboten, so the IRO is responsible for ending the meeting on time. Best tactic: give the speaker a countdown. When it’s time to go, act like a polite drill sergeant and announce: “Ladies and gents, you’ll understand that we need to keep to schedule. Please get in touch with us for follow-up questions.”
>After the roadshow. A post-trip report is essential. It will include the IRO’s own meeting notes and observations on management’s performance, as well as client feedback from the roadshow sponsor. This is the best way to capture lessons learned, and is critical in helping you refine the presentation for the next trip.
Michael Salter is senior director of investor relations and corporate communications at MOSAID Technologies in Ottawa. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.