1.) When preparing your slides, always remember that PowerPoint slides are a tool designed to enhance your presentation, they are not your presentation. Your speech should be the focus. Not your slides.
2.) Your slides should NOT be a transcript of your speech with every point and sub-point. In other words, "you don't need to put all the dang words on the dang slides." I can't recall whose quote that is, but you get the point.
3.) In my experience you should always use at least 24-point type. Otherwise there will most likely be a number of people at the back of the room that can’t read your slides. If people can’t read the text on your slides, why have the text on the slides?
4.) Avoid detailed charts and graphs like the plague. If you must show a detailed chart or graph, hand it out as a full page print out. Don’t force people to try to read it on a slide. Better yet, have a slide with only the key figure or fact you want people to take away from the chart or graph.
5.) You can only convey so much information in a 20 to 30 minute presentation. Your audience will recall much less than that. The less you convey, the higher the recall – meaning the more effective your presentation. If you have a lot of supporting data, scientific data, charts and graphs, then you should prepare a white paper and upload it to your website. Then during the presentation, let the audience know that they can find the more detailed information in the white paper on your website.
There you have it. And, like most good presentations, the above rules have some repetition, or reinforcement, with number five more or less reinforcing the first four rules. So really just four simple rules to follow. That's not too much to ask, is it?
If you've been to a lot of pitch competitions you likely have been to at least a few that enforce strict time limits with a maximum number of slides allowed (sometimes five or less). These strict limits can work magic for presenters and slide decks alike - bringing out the best in them. Why? The limitations force them to become more concise, more exact. In other words, more compelling and on point.
A five-minute pitch isn’t just an expanded “About our Business” description. It is a short opener that shows how your company addresses a problem or market opportunity, why it’s unique and how it will serve your customers and make money. Your goal is not to tell the audience everything about your company or product in one sitting. The goal is to win their attention. Make them interested. Make them want to know more. The audience will then seek opportunities to ask questions or learn more about you.
Yes, to be effective within these time constraints you must distill an entire business concept down to a few minutes in front of a new audience. Make every word count but don't get bogged down in details. Save the detailed explanations for the followup questions or meetings. And keep your slide decks clean. Use big, bold text but with as few words as possible to get your point across. Use visuals wherever possible, but keep them simple yet compelling. Save the detailed, cluttered charts and graphs for more in depth conversations with those who request that information.
Now take a look at a slide deck we just completed for one of our clients for the 48 Hours in the Hub pitch competition in Boston. Five minutes, five slides. We added a sixth slide (a disclaimer slide) for the purposes of sharing the slide deck online.
Taking the time to understand who your shareholders (or other investors) are, what their needs may be, and why they invested in or bought your stock puts you in a stronger position to get their attention when you are looking for support, whether in the form of needing to raise more funding or in the form of a shareholders vote. This will establish a strong business/investor relationship and creates an environment of trust and comfort for mutual success.
Don’t just communicate with your investors when you need something from them. Keeping an open dialogue, or at least an open door, ensures that your investors are as up to date on the company as they want to be, and further strengthens the relationship.
If you have some shareholders that you haven’t seen in a while, or that you have only seen when you need money from them, it may be worth your while to go and meet with them. Provide them with an update on the business and see if they have any questions or concerns that you can address. Putting in the time to maintain and strengthen an investor relationship can be, and often is, the difference between keeping a long term supporter or not.
Over the weekend, our client, Critical Outcome Technologies, surpassed 1,000 followers on Twitter. For a small biotech company in Canada, this is further validation that the company has an interesting story and mission. For Heisler Communications it is further validation of the importance of using social media to help small companies gain more visibility in the markets.
Since the beginning of this past summer, Critical Outcome Technologies has been using multiple social channels to communicate with investors, potential business partners and other stakeholders. In addition to Twitter, we have helped the Company build a larger, targeted following via the Critical Outcome Blog, SlideShare, YouTube and Facebook.
There are many reasons why a public company should have a corporate / investor relations blog. Yet, many companies simply don’t have one – for various reasons. One of the most frequent reasons given, is that management is worried that they won’t have enough content for keeping their blog up to date, relevant, and blog worthy. That raises the question of how often should you post new content to your blog? While the short answer is there are no hard and fast blog post rules, the answer really comes down to as often as you can create quality content. In this post, we wanted to share just one great way that you can increase the frequency of adding great new content to your blog.
Like most public companies, you most likely receive inquiries from investors asking either about various elements of your business or for clarification on something you have previously disclosed. Why not use your blog to share answers to these questions posed by investors and other stakeholders? In other words, make use of investor inquiries to fuel your blog postings. Keeping in mind that the person asking the question may not want their identity and/or contact information shared, simply don’t include it. Also, you may want to wordsmith the question (and the response) to tie it back into your core messaging. Our client, Critical Outcome Technologies, uses its blog to provide answers to questions from investors on its ‘Ask Dr. Danter’ page (see below).
If you post answers to questions regularly, you will not only have more frequent blog content, but you will also have a database of answers – creating a valuable resource for investors and other stakeholders. This can be a great time saver if you find yourself being asked similar questions time and again by phone or email. Simply point these people to the blog where they can find all of the answers and other great content about your company.
Last week, Critical Outcome Technologies (TSX-V: COT) issued a news release with what was not only a material announcement, but promising news in the fight against cancer. As a micro cap life sciences company listed on the TSX Venture, its news did not garner coverage from any of the traditional media outlets in Canada. While the story was shared on a few online news portals and the Wall Street Analyst, it was social media that ensured the story got noticed.
In mid-June, based on their early progress in using social media for investor communications, Critical Outcome Technologies launched an investor relations blog called the Critical Outcome Blog. The blog features a landing page with introductions about the company, including a YouTube video embed and a SlideShare embed. The blog site has separate sections for blog posts, multimedia, and a page where the company's founder, Dr. Wayne Danter, will provide answers on subjects ranging from the company's business, to drug discovery and development, and other relevant industry news.
Between Twitter, Facebook, SlideShare, YouTube and now an IR blog, Critical Outcome provides investors with many avenues to research the company, receive the latest updates and additional context around the company's business and industry, and provide feedback to the company.
Back to Part 1.
If planned and implemented correctly, social media communications as part of your overall investor relations program can be an effective and inexpensive way for attracting new audiences to your investment story. Social media helps level the playing field for smaller public companies, offering a cost-effective opportunity to build deeper relationships with investors and other investment community stakeholders by facilitating interaction and feedback.
The following is a snapshot of Critical Outcome Technologies' use of social media for investor relations and attracting new audiences.
When looking at Critical Outcome's followers on Twitter, it is interesting to notice how targeted the audiences appear to be. A very high proportion of the company's Twitter followers are either identified as investors (brokers, traders, VC or bankers), life sciences companies, doctors, researchers and/or cancer centers - all very relevant groups for this company.
Given the (on average) more affluent and educated masses on LinkedIn compared to Twitter and Facebook, and the fact that LinkedIn appears to be the preferred social networking site of registered investment advisors, it would appear that LinkedIn should be a prime target for IROs. However, we have not seen LinkedIn being used to the same effect as Twitter and even Facebook for public companies’ investor relations.
So the question becomes, how can a company use LinkedIn as an investor relations tool? Here are just a few ideas to get started:
You have a day full of investor meetings planned and you just finished several hours updating your PowerPoint presentation and have now sent it for printing. Like in the past, you were planning on uploading the slide deck as a PDF to your website following your meetings to share with other investors; however after all that time and effort, you wonder what else can be done to maximize the return from your investor presentation. How can you expand its reach?
For starters, rather than uploading the presentation to your website as a PDF, upload it instead to SlideShare.net and embed the SlideShare presentation into your website. Then use Twitter and an email blast to your distribution list to let people know that your presentation is available on SlideShare and your website.
SlideShare is the world’s largest online presentation-sharing site with over 55 million visitors and 120 million presentation views per month. Uploading presentations to SlideShare is quick, costs little or nothing, and allows presentations to easily be shared or embedded almost anywhere online. The popular presentation sharing service, is becoming an increasingly important way for investor relations departments to publish their investor presentations, fact sheets, annual and CSR reports, and corporate videos.
Add a synchronized audio recording
Augment your online presentation further by making an MP3 audio recording when you deliver the presentation. Then, upload the MP3 file to SlideShare, link it to your presentation, synchronize the audio with your slides and viola, you have a slidecast!
In today’s environment of increasing scrutiny of publicly traded entities, it can be advantageous to post corporate governance information on your website where it is easily accessible to the investment community.
Transparency is a cornerstone of credibility
For many investors, the strength of a company’s leadership team will be a key investment criterion. While posting management and board biographies is a good way to introduce the people involved, biographies do not provide much insight into how critical decisions are made and/or disclosed. In addition to listing all of the directors and providing their bios, best practice is to include details of key charters and policies (or, preferably, the actual charters and policies in their entirety).
Your website should be a convenient source of information for investors
Rather than asking investors to search for corporate governance materials elsewhere on their own, or making them leave your website by providing a link to SEDAR, these materials should be included directly on your website. Moreover, corporate governance information should be easy to find through the company’s website navigation, and preferably be included in the main navigation. Investors will appreciate the convenience afforded and, as an added benefit, you keep them on your website rather than losing them to a third party site.
Welcome to our blog. We will use this space to discuss and promote evolving best practices in the fields of public relations and financial marketing.