When we hosted THRIVE 2020, we purposely scheduled it early in the year knowing our clients would be gearing up for a busy annual meeting season in Q2/Q3. Then, COVID-19 suddenly grounded flights, altered travel schedules, emptied hotel rooms, and squashed in-person events. Investor relations and marketing teams immediately had to reimagine the mainstay of the stakeholder-firm relationship—the annual meeting. However, instead of the pandemic closing off communication, it opened up a new opportunity for investors and managers alike to lean into the flexibility and transparency offered by having a virtual annual meeting.
We spoke with a marketing director at a lower middle market fund of funds about how they traded in the Ritz Carlton for a ritzy online experience and wanted to share these tips to keep investors satisfied in 2021 and beyond.
1. Less is more in virtual annual meetings
Annual meetings are vital in connecting your team with all of your external stakeholders in order to network, talk about performance, and share ideas regarding strategic direction. That full schedule does not translate well to an online summit, so teams have had to quickly rethink the best use of the available time.
One thing that our client mentioned was that instead of the traditional two-day, “all-in” program, they set up a virtual annual meeting as a series of 45-to-60-minute webinars spaced three to six weeks apart. This allowed them to reduce the risk of webinar fatigue because each event had a concise, tailored message. In fact, in their first pre-annual meeting COVID-19 check, they actually saw a 30% increase in registrations because people didn’t have to block days on their schedule and book travel.
2. Focus on what investors really want
While some people like a steak dinner and schmoozing, ultimately, what matters most to your investors is the meat of your firm’s performance. They come to annual meetings to understand where and how value is being created in the portfolio and to better understand how you’re positioned to take advantage of opportunities and/or avoid risks. You want to be able to provide that information to your investors, but you don’t have to wait until they are with you at a conference table.
Creating a track record dashboard to securely share information with your stakeholders can accomplish many of the same goals and also make the data easier to consume than on a slide in a presentation. While there may be fewer opportunities to answer questions during the meeting, interactive data access like this allows the investor to ask any questions they have on their own time when it’s convenient for them.
Additionally, as uncertainty about the pandemic and its aftereffects lingers, investors remain hungry for your firm’s updates. You can meet that need and increase your touchpoints with them by storing your presentations, videos, and dashboards before or after your meetings in a secure portal or data room.
3. Find the right technology to support your virtual meeting
The sudden switch to online events is a major paradigm shift. Beyond the simple things (like not having anyone flush in the middle of your presentation!), you also need to make sure that the communication platform you select is secure, protects your data, and has clear audio streaming features.
While many people have moved to Zoom Webinars, we have also seen success in some of the advanced solutions from On24, BrightTALK, and BigMarker.
A few things to consider for your annual meetings include:
- Does the software require you to download to view or is it in-browser?
- How does the webinar solution help you manage event marketing and registrant tracking?
- What is the breadth of viewer analytics you receive during and after the event?
- After the presentation ends, how is view-on-demand access controlled?
4. Get “all hands on deck!” to prepare for your annual meeting
Your investor relations team and fund managers are always involved in preparing for an annual meeting, and moving to an online format doesn’t mean there is less work to do. In fact, it might actually increase the amount of effort needed and require resources from across the firm. As our client stated, “We are going to over-communicate until they tell us to stop.”
In order to host a successful virtual annual meeting, team members from each department will have to connect with LPs to make sure they are well informed about market changes, investment performance, and how your firm is adapting to new business requirements. And others in the organization will have to get involved, as well, to provide the kind of white-glove service participants receive during an in-person event throughout the extended virtual event.
Ultimately, the expertise firms have developed in coordinating virtual annual meetings will benefit them in many ways in the months and years ahead.
Will you be hosting virtual annual meetings? If so, how will you ensure they are engaging and effective? We’d love to hear from you and are happy to explain how our suite of products can help. Send us a message here.
And annual meetings aren’t the only activities that have gone virtual. Fundraising is being conducted largely remotely these days, too. Get insights on how the most successful firms have adapted to this approach in our information-packed webinar The Art of Virtual Fundraising.