A few weeks ago, we attended an IR Magazine webinar on structuring your IR calendar. Three panelists discussed their views on virtual events and what course they expect events to take over the rest of the year.
Benefits of in-person events
Even if only the presenters/panel are in the same room, the consensus from this panel was that it is beneficial to have eye contact with the people you are sharing the event with e.g. for the Q&A session on earnings calls. However, they have only done this on specific occasions such as for earnings calls, taking all the possible precautions including being in a large well-ventilated room and using masks at all times except for when speaking.
One argument against holding virtual meetings is that the buy side has always wanted to look into the eyes of management and see their body language. However, we are now a year in to holding virtual meetings and events, and the buy side has continued to operate and make buy and sell decisions without meeting face to face. None of this has stopped them directing capital to the companies which they think will give the highest return. The panel also commented that the churn of the top shareholders over the pandemic period has been in line with previous years, which suggests that virtual meetings are not having an adverse effect on investment.
Advantages of virtual
We suggest that you take advantage of the benefits of virtual events. For example, 3-5 day roadshows can be condensed into one day e.g. Zurich and London in the morning and Boston in the afternoon. One panelist commented that they took part in the Jefferies and Credit Suisse “London” healthcare conferences, but people were able to join virtually from all over the world, so it didn’t feel like a London conference as such. Another panelist noted that hybrid events should be considered in the future with an in-person event in one location and the option to dial in. For example, a couple of years ago they did a New York Stock Exchange event and flew to London the following week to do the same again; so the great thing about virtual events, or even hybrid events, is that you would only have to hold the event once, in one location. Virtual events also solve the problem of getting management to secondary cities, putting them on a more even playing field, and also leave management feeling fresher at the end of the day as they have not had to travel, stay in a hotel, etc.
One very clear advantage to virtual events is the time and money saved through not having to travel, as well as being more environmentally friendly. With people not having to make the same time investment to travel, you may attract more attendees to your event, which is not a problem as virtual events don’t have the same capacity restrictions as in-person events. For the same reason, there is less need to pack everything into a short timeframe – this gives the opportunity for more frequent, shorter events. For example, you could pick a particular subject for a 1-hour slot followed by a Q&A session, without needing to block out someone’s calendar for half a day.
Virtual events can provide greater flexibility to do things a bit differently. For example, if you wanted to bring in an expert on a particular topic, this is an option, as Rotoplas did for their Agua Day 2020. It also enables the pre-recording of the presentation section, whilst keeping a live Q&A session, as Traxión did for their Traxión Day 2021. One panelist noted that they did their pre-recording well in advance to allow time to add in multimedia. Think outside the box when planning a virtual event – for example, you can’t take your attendees on a tour of your headquarters, but why not make a video that you can show at the virtual event and then use in other IR and marketing materials, such as the website homepage.
Some companies may worry about the extra risk involved with using video during these events and having everything recorded, but the panel discarded this notion as in most cases a transcript of the event would have been published anyway so they see no added risk with management appearing on video.
Expect there to be more meetings in the first half of this year vs. last year
According to John Nunziati from the company Q4 there were over 350 investor events planned for 2Q20, many of which will have been cancelled. He commented that he is surprised that there are not more events planned for 1H21, with expected events down 33% compared to the same period in 2020. He was also surprised that ~20% of 2Q21 events had not yet been confirmed as virtual events.
Looking at the second half of the year
According to an IR Magazine survey, only 20% of those surveyed expected a return to in-person investor meetings in 2021, whilst 40% disagreed and 40% were unsure. One panelist was cautiously optimistic that there may be a return to some in-person meetings, but that this would depend on various factors, including the vaccination situation. The vaccination program in Mexico is currently lagging behind that of countries such as the UK and the US, so there may be more of a delayed return to in-person meetings here. The panel pointed out that they would not be taking any unnecessary risks, mentioning that for in-person meetings/events to take place again, risks needed to be assessed, safeguarding measures put in place and the legal department and possibly the CEO and the Board would have to give their sign off. In addition, they would adhere to guidance from governments; and it is possible that antibody or vaccination documentation may also be required. One panel member said that they expected it would be a long time before management would feel comfortable sending their CEO and CFO off to events and inviting people onto the campus where their employees are.
So how do we plan?
This uncertainty makes it difficult to plan 2H21 events, but given the success that virtual events are having and the relatively low impact that the move to virtual has had on investors so far, we see no reason not to go ahead and plan virtual events for the remainder of 2021, moving to a hybrid model when this becomes possible.
The panel agreed that in one form or another virtual meetings and events are here to stay. This could be via a hybrid model with some people attending virtually and others in-person or by alternating between virtual and in-person events. However, one panelist made the point that sessions at hybrid events would have to run to time and not have any last-minute changes to representatives or the schedule as often happens, as this wouldn’t work for the virtual attendees.
We suggest that you include the following in your IR calendar for 2021:
- Attend approx. 2 (virtual) conferences per quarter
- Host at least 1 non-deal (virtual) roadshow per quarter
- Hold an investor day (virtual)
Ensure that you position these events well, especially the non-deal roadshows and the investor day, so that they are not too close to your annual general shareholder meeting, or quarter end reporting.
Miranda IR is here to help with planning any virtual and hybrid event, covering content, materials, filming and running the event including technical support. Next week we will continue our virtual events theme and bring you more detail on virtual annual general shareholder meetings.
Contacts at Miranda Partners