When we hosted THRIVE 2020, we purposefully 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 instantly grounded travel schedules, emptied hotel rooms, and squashed day-long events.
Investor Relations and Marketing teams instantly had to reimagine the mainstay of the stakeholder-firm relationship, the Annual Meeting.
However, instead of closing off the communication, it opened up a new opportunity for investors and managers alike to lean into the transparency and opportunity offered by virtual annual meetings. We spoke with a Marketing Director at a Lower Middle Market Fund of Funds about how they are trading in the Ritz Carlton for a ritzy online experience and wanted to share these tips to keep investors satisfied in 2020 and beyond.
Less is More
The annual meeting is the primary opportunity to bring together your team with all of your external stakeholders to network, talk performance, and coalesce around the strategic direction. That full schedule does not translate well to an online summit, so teams have to quickly rethink the best use of time.
One thing that our client mentioned was that instead of the traditional 2 days “all-in” program, they are setting up a virtual series of 45-60 minute webinars spaced 3-6 weeks from each other. This allowed them to reduce the risk of webinar fatigue because each event had a 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.
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 it doesn’t need to wait until they are in-person at a conference table.
Creating a track record dashboard to securely share with your stakeholders can accomplish many of the same goals and be easier to consume than on a slide in a presentation. While chances to dig into questions may be less abundant during the meeting, interactive analysis like this allows the investor to ask any and all questions and do it on their own time.
Additionally, with the immense change that has occurred over the past few weeks and months because of the COVID crisis, investors are hungrier than ever for your firm’s updates. Increase the touchpoints your firm can offer by storing your presentations, videos, and dashboards before or after your meetings in a secure portal or data room.
Technology and Security Is Paramount
This sudden shift to hosting online events is a big transition. Beyond the simple things (like not having anyone flush in the middle of your presentation) you also need to make sure that the 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 the following:
- Does the software require you to download to view or is it in-browser?
- How does the webinar solution help you manage marketing the event and registrants?
- What is the breadth of Analytics you receive during and after the event for viewers?
- After the presentation ends, how is access controlled to view on demand?
All Hands on Deck
While your investor relations team and fund managers are always involved in preparing for the annual meeting, moving to online doesn’t reduce the burden on the teams, it might actually increase the responsibilities from across the firm. As our client stated, “we are going to over-communicate until they tell us to stop.”
To be effective during this crisis and with the annual meetings, it means that team members from each department will need to connect with the LPs to make sure that they are informed of the changes, performance, and how you are managing through this time. Teams are tapping the rest of the organization to keep that white-glove service and constant communication throughout the entire time as opposed to those few days in-person.
Ultimately, while there are many tough challenges we have endured over the last few months and likely for months to come, there are positives that we can find in this move to online annual meetings, changes that will benefit us in years beyond 2020.
How are you changing your annual meetings? We’d love to hear from you or see if there is a way we can help. Send us a message here.