VICTORIA GEDDES, Executive Director and GILES RAFFERTY, Senior Adviser Corporate Communication
Following on from part 1, published in our March 2022 Newsletter, this second part of our overview of Virtual Investor Days looks at the complexities and advantages of managing online events and online presentation skills.
Managing Digital Logistics
For any Investor Day there are many logistics to consider, and virtual events are no different. Instead of things like catering, presentation printing and room reservations, the focus shifts to managing digital logistics like platform technical specifications, Q&A logistics and the presenter’s internet and video capabilities.
- Choose a strong technology partner – With a virtual event it is imperative that you vet your technology partner(s) thoroughly to make sure they can support your event goals and the interactive features that support your message. This means understanding the webcast platform’s capabilities, limitations and deadlines for functions such as video-based speaker presentations, integrating pre-recorded content, streaming product/demo videos, streaming live multi-speaker panels, and hosting live Q&A.
- When you can, pre-record – To minimise risk of technical issues, pre-record as much as possible. That goes for the speaker’s prepared remarks, customer panels, virtual tours and product demos.
- Work out how you will manage the Q&A – This is probably one of the most important logistical decisions you’ll need to make. You will need to make sure the Q&A sessions are well planned and tightly choreographed. Some issues to consider are:
- How will you take questions? For example, the IRO can announce questions submitted from analysts and investors through the email or chat function; you can open the event to allow analysts and investors to ask questions directly; or a panel of analysts can ask questions of the speakers.
- How will your team answer questions? Will you have a panel of speakers available by audio or video? Which speakers will participate in each Q&A segment?
- Who will moderate the Q&A? This may be the IRO or it could be a 3rd party operator, depending on the approach to Q&A you select.
- Will you give attribution? If you choose to ask questions that are submitted via chat or email, you will need to decide if you identify who asked the question.
Preparing speakers for the virtual stage
In delivering a presentation, there’s an inherent difference between communicating face-to-face and through a video platform. With a virtual presentation, you will need to consider speaker delivery and each speaker’s setting. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- Leverage the power of voice – Since the use of a small computer screen limits your ability to fully leverage the power of body language, your voice becomes that much more important. That means that each speakers’ enthusiasm for their subject matter needs to come across in the tone and tenor of their voice. It is important to speak loudly, clearly and most importantly, use vocal variety. During preparations for a virtual investor day identify the points in your presentation where you can use a different tone or pace when speaking to help keep you audiences’ attention and emphasize key messages.
- Maintain ‘Eye contact’ – Looking directly into a webcam when presenting is the best approximation of maintaining eye contact with the audience, which can help with keeping the audience engaged. A good trick is to place a bright sticker next to the webcam, so it is easy to look directly at it.
- Use of scripts and speaking notes – Ideally a presenter will have internalized their investor day script and can speak directly to the camera. If a presenter needs the help of speaking notes, it may be useful to have them displayed on a second screen, at the presenter’s eye level but at a distance behind the webcam they are presenting too. This will remove the need to look away to check a script or speaking notes and minimize the telltale eye movements associated with reading from a script.
- Use gestures with caution – Gesticulation is part and parcel of presenting and can lend more energy and authenticity to a performance. Webcams can, however, exaggerate perspective, which means things closer to the camera, such as hands, can appear disproportionately large. One trick is to sit a little further back from the webcam and try to use more muted gestures, closer to your body.
- Professionalism matters – If you’re using video, definitely consider using a professional production team. And if not, invest in high-definition cameras and good mics for all of your speakers to enhance the production quality. The quality of your webcast will inform an audience’s perceptions of the quality of your business and brand.
- Dress for success – While dress codes are decidedly less formal in this new virtual world, it’s still important to look professional and project the image you want to convey about your company and its culture. A good tip is to dress in a way that reflects your audience, so if you are presenting to suited and booted investment bank analysts, be suited and booted.
- Note backgrounds as they will be judged – In today’s virtual world, a backdrop is worth a thousand words. Each speaker’s background should convey the right image for your company. You may, for example, consider having each speaker against a similar, simple background or it may align better with your culture to have each speaker in their unique setting. Also consider using the virtual background function and feature your company logo behind the speakers.
- Room lighting matters – You don’t want your speaker to be either washed out or completely in shadows. Daylight is a great light source but a cloud passing in front of the sun can temporarily and dramatically change daylight conditions. Ideally you should be in control of the lighting. To do so, close any blinds in the room you plan to present from and then make sure you will face a consistent soft light source. If possible augment the room lights with a lamp directly in front of you. Avoid presenting directly beneath a downlight that can cast strong shadows on your features.
Don’t forget to Practice
For any Investor Day, it is imperative that you rehearse, but even more so with a virtual format that is likely to be a new experience for most presenters. You should hold at least two full rehearsals,at least one of which should be on the platform you are using, to ensure you iron out all of the logistics (e.g., transitions between speakers, driving the slides, mock Q&A, etc.). There really is no such thing as being over-rehearsed and greater familiarity with your subject matter and technology will help a presenter feel more confident and present more authentically. Avoid any sense of complacency because we are all using streaming technologies more frequently. Over confidence and under preparedness have been the undoing of many presenters. A two-to-three-hour online event with multiple participants, videos, pre-recordings, live Q&A and streamed panel discussions, often managed across multiple geographies, is a highly complex exercise that demands a high level of preparation and focus.