Webcasts of conference presentations and quarterly earnings calls have become a routine part of most public company IR programs. They offer a means for ensuring Reg FD compliance, extend the reach to those who can’t attend the event, reach investors in regions that aren’t on their regular NDR schedule, and provide a resource for new investors/analysts who want to get up to speed on the story. But how often do you consider the content and delivery of a webcast, beyond recording the live event?
Keep in mind that the material you present in person is the same as what you are presenting to your virtual audience, but capturing and maintaining their attention can be a challenge for a variety of reasons:
Distractions – As captivating as your remarks might be, your virtual audience is most likely doing something else while listening to your presentation.
Presence – Because the listener can’t see you speaking, body language is not an available cue, and some of the subtlety of your remarks may be missed (especially if they are multi-tasking as noted above).
Visuals – If you are using slides, there is no guarantee they are displayed properly or in sync as you show them live. Furthermore, there’s a chance they do not include the fancy transitions, builds, and embedded graphics you worked so hard on.
As you prepare for any presentation that will have a webcast component, keep these tips in mind to optimize and enhance the quality of delivery for the audience:
1 | Determine if the material you are presenting requires a visual component to get the message across to anyone who is not in the actual meeting room with you. If so, check if the webcast has the capability to add video. If a visual component is not necessary, determine if any slides should advance with you to get the message across. In that case, opt for speaker-controlled slides rather than user-controlled.
2 | Script or outline your remarks, and then practice all the way through as you would for the actual call. Time the presentation. Remember, speakers tend to speed up when talking on the phone, especially if they are nervous. Listeners expect that you are reading from a script, but there is no reason to sound like it. Underline or bold phrases to emphasize; add gaps or commas in the text to take a breath; even written cues to “slow down” can help manage your presentation cadence.
3 | If you are not giving the presentation to a live audience, then select someone from your team to be in the room when you present. This will help you speak more conversationally rather than robotically, which often happens when reading from a script.
4 | At the start, provide an outline of the presentation– who will be speaking and in what order, and when there will be an opportunity to ask questions. This helps audience members who aren’t in the room know when they will have the opportunity to ask questions.
5 | If you are doing the call on your own from your office, conference room, or hotel, be sure to use or rent a good speaker phone, and find a very quiet place where there will not be any distractions. If your only option is a cell phone, use the handset and not the speaker phone. Don’t forget to check the sound quality before the call starts.
6 | Have a team member log in to the webcast and monitor the quality of the audio. Then, have a way for them to reach someone in the room with the speaker to adjust the quality of the audio, notify the webcast service provider, or signal to the speaker to move closer or further from to the microphone.
7 | Determine a protocol for taking questions, especially if everyone isn’t in the same room. For example, we often suggest that the CEO acknowledge the question, perhaps even repeat it for clarity, and then turn it over to the CFO or management on the call to answer. This enables one person to maintain control over the call and keeps people from talking over each other.
8 | Longer is not better. We’ve never had someone complain that a presentation was too short, provided all the key messages were covered. There is no need to rehash the details of press releases or bios of new hires. Brief comments with highlights and how they are important to the big picture are typically what’s most important. Remember, your audience can leave or tune out whenever they want, so keep the remarks crisp, and use plain English.
9 | If you do decide that slides are necessary to augment the remarks, keep them simple and remember not everyone will have access to them. Often, because they are multi-tasking or listening to the replay on their way home from work, listeners may not be viewing the slides as you are speaking. If they are, the device they are using could be very small. Simplify the content – one or two messages per slide – and try to keep the font size at least 24pts. Detailed graphics, embedded files, and slide transitions may not come through as you planned.
10 | If you have opted to have user-controlled slides, be sure to give cues to your audience as to which slide you are on. There’s no need to say “next slide” after each section, but try to include comments that help the listener stay on track, such as, “I’d like to talk a bit about our technology. As we’ve noted here on slide 6….” Or consider putting transition slides into your deck and referencing those slides verbally in your script.
A lot goes into preparing quarterly conference calls and conference presentations. The content lasts a quarter or more and is accessed by a much wider audience than you might engage on the day of the event. Maximizing that reach and delivering a presentation that suits many audiences and has a longer shelf life is a valuable tool in any quality IR program.
Leigh Salvo, Managing Director