INSIGHT. 01/29/19

The Art Of The Impactful Investor Presentation

By Simon Willcocks

One of the most frequently asked questions by new clients to ICR is – how can we be most impactful, to the largest audience, in the shortest time? Our answer is almost always your investor presentation – a core document in the IR world, vital to the appropriate delivery and comprehension of both your story and performance, and a vehicle through which to capture the minds, emotions, and hopefully portfolios, of your investors.

Too often, we meet companies whose investor presentation is pulled from the shelf in a last-minute panic the week before earnings, dust is blown off, revenue updates are scattered across ageing charts, and someone haphazardly auto-replaces “Q2” with “Q3”. We’re not saying you need a fresh update daily, gift wrapped and hand-delivered to your investors’ doorsteps, but with a disciplined approach and regular update, the latest version should always be close at hand – especially if your company is new to the arena, you never know when you’re going to need that ‘hot off the press’ copy.

As an essential document in every IRO’s toolkit, your presentation should be dynamic in its delivery, constantly evolving to best match the audience, updated regularly from stakeholders across the company, and crucially, if drafted correctly, able to stand alone without a supporting speaker. It’s a living, breathing, snapshot in time of your company: asset details need to be up to date, financials must be precise and auditable, your position in the macro needs to align with the latest fundamentals, but most importantly, the story within, the key element that makes your company both differentiated and investable, must be clearly demonstrable though a clear, relevant and attractive narrative. Very simply, your company’s presentation should be the most accessible (yet formalized and regulatory compliant) means you have of enhancing the outreach of your company’s message.

Before diving in, it should be noted that everything in this article is to be read in the context of the investor presentation “Gold Standard.”  Does this information stand alone? If an investor came across a copy of your presentation, is there sufficient, up-to-date information in the presentation for them to not only understand your story, the surrounding macro, and investment strategy, but also to actively consider investment in your company? You can’t rely on always being there to brief an investor, but if your presentation can meet the Gold Standard, sometimes, you won’t have to be.

Here is our Top 10 list of ways to ensure your presentation is truly impactful (with a bonus list of 3 things to exclude):

   1. Know Your Audience & Purpose

An essential piece of homework, too often missed. To whom is the presentation being delivered and for what purpose? An audience is a valuable thing – investors, analysts and the opportunity to share your company story with the world – but are the materials pitched at the right level? Are these new investors? Retail or institutional? What about the sell-side? Is this guidance or an operational update? The underlying message you offer to an audience may need to vary each time. Where industry-specialized investors will want to dive right into your latest facts and figures or thoughts on the surrounding fundamentals, a technical and sector-focused presentation risks alienating generalists not yet up to speed and in desperate need of education. Likewise, providing an industry 101 at a sell-side, sector-specific, conference is not going to engage the audience and simply, may just waste everyone’s time. Different groups can and will invest on different sides of your story, so cater your material appropriately to each discrete situation and audience. That said, always be sure to include a few core slides that ensure the delivery of your central narrative, linking back to your investment thesis – during any use of any variant of the presentation, never lose sight of the underlying goal of simply telling the company story.

     2. Headline Your Investment Thesis

Even the most industry-savvy investor will find themselves at a loss if they can’t pin down the details that make your company worth their time and money. Never make the reader work for it, right up front at page one needs to be the tear sheet, the cheat sheet, the investment thesis. You’d want to see this slide of 4-5 bullets on your analyst’s desktops and every FA’s office wall. Collate the key items onto one page, a simple summary of why your company represents the best investment in the space. Most often this will include reference to headline assets and underlying company financials such as balance sheet strength, but don’t be shy to include those aspects that set you apart, your differentiators. Is your leadership bench predominantly strong in the right area? Do you have the license to a particularly profitable technological solution? If it forms part of the story that will attract investment, build it into the thesis and celebrate the fact right up front.

    3. Financial Performance Summary

Not to be confused with financial structure and detailed financials, your performance summary is another one page cheat sheet for your investors, including the key information at your fingertips that ensures the sell-side has the right detail to build their models. Establish the right metrics for your sector and stick to them, adhere to the same method of reporting each quarter and develop your own style of charts – do pies work to display your revenues as a percentage of business sectors, or simple bar charts indicating how an important valuation metric has changed over the last year? This slide should be a historical review, updated quarterly to provide context to your current position and future growth – clean, simple, charts that summarize the latest quarter’s data alongside those prior make it easy for investors to track quarter on quarter performance. Then, next quarter, replicate and update the same charts with the latest data, your reader will recognize the slide and be ready to interpret your latest summary. This becomes a particularly useful tool when reviewing progress against our next essential, guidance tracking.

    4. Guidance Tracking

A logical segue from the past performance summary is how you guide forward, for the future – how do you report guidance? Whether your company announces their expectations annually on a specific conference call, or quarterly with earnings reporting, it’s essential that your preferred metrics and latest guidance expectations are clearly and consistently displayed. Again, a single slide that is easily referable and trackable, updated periodically with latest performance metrics and run rates as appropriate, will build trust and respect from both the sell-side and buy-side communities – transparency and accountability around guidance is a significant contributor to your company being recognized as a credible communicator. The pertinence of additional commentary explaining any beat or miss will depend on the surrounding performance or industry messaging, but it’s often worth considering ‘getting out in front’ of any fundamentals that may drive your performance away from published guidance.

5. Financial Structure & Commitments

Often buried in the detail at the back of a presentation, somewhere between a copy of last quarter’s balance sheet and an appendix of GAAP reconciliations, you find a swiftly thrown together collection of some of the most important financial information – especially to your fixed income investors. This is crucial information that informs the market of precisely how your company is capitalized and its ability to fund future projects, invest in R&D, and maintain a good credit to customers. Be sure to lay out your corporate financial commitments, known upcoming expenditures, and any bond offering maturities in an accessible manner. And don’t shy away from discussing debt, regardless of how well levered the company may be, keep it simple, again, with a clear overlay to explain any recent activity such as refinancing. Especially if your CFO is presenting this slide, you need it to be clean cut and precise, think less emotion and promotion, more precision reporting. You may feel that a strong cash story is eroded by any reference to significant debt, but attempts to hide your future obligations from surface-skimmers or lay investors will earn you a swift slap on the wrist from the market. 

6. Comprehensive Asset Map

You’re likely starting to notice a theme in our commentary here – simplification and familiar presentation of your company’s information is key. This is especially the case with multi-asset corporations – whether your company is an energy E&P with a global portfolio, a retail chain with outlets across the U.S., or a regional trucking distributor, many companies lose sight of the complexity of their asset base and focus too much on the latest product line addition or highest margin facility. What do you have where? What is your company’s footprint, visually? Ensure those analyzing your company know, to the relevant level of detail, what assets you have, and where they are located. Yes, your key and most profitable assets should always be highlighted to ensure that the audience recognizes their importance, but always be prepared to receive questions on the full range of your company’s positions and locations. A comprehensive visual display of your asset base is useful for your investors, but vital for the sell-side analyst trying to build models for the 25 or more peer companies under their coverage.

  7. CSR & ESG

Your company’s role in society, its environmental impact and its corporate governance have always been important to the regulators, but since Larry Fink of BlackRock penned an open letter on the subject last year, the world (particularly index funds) has started to take a closer look at exactly how your company operates before making an investment. The perception of transparency has since become essential. For energy and industrial companies, the inclusion of slides in your presentation that cover your Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) performance go a long way in demonstrating your commitment to the world around you. Similarly, for financial institutions, detailing your governance plans, due process, and commitment to wider society through Corporate Social Responsibility programs (CSR) can provide investors with the surety that they are making an investment into a company that shares the same values as them. For more on the growing importance of ESG, CSR and how best to address, we’d encourage you to review our prior blog post: The Business Case for Embracing ESG & Communicating the Results

   8. Leadership & Executive

This one is highly dependent on your current positioning – do your investors need to be introduced to or reminded of who makes up your team? If you’re a large cap with a globally known C-suite, regularly in the public eye, you may feel that this isn’t of high value to you. However, if there has been a recent change at the top, introducing a new team member whose experience and history bring something valuable to the team can be a key flag for investors to take note. If you’re a smaller, recently public company, or undergoing significant corporate change, a reminder of who sits on your bench can be exceptionally useful to highlight where your leadership are value-additive to the whole enterprise. Details and bios should clearly lay out who is calling the shots, what experience and skill sets they bring, and importantly, provide a sense of reliability and security.

   9. Technological Advantages and Differentiation

Effective discussion of any technical advantage vs. your peers is particularly important where your company operates in a tight market. Any way that you can demonstrate differentiation through technological solutions that either enhance efficiency or positively impact margins will be key to catching your investors’ attention. Be sure to educate your audience on why your solution is value-additive, leading-edge, and sets you apart from the competition.

   10. Contacts

It’s amazing how often this is omitted, leaving an audience of potential investors unclear on how to actually engage with your company, without running a separate contact search in a multi-layered website. Yes, the sell-side analysts you chat with several times every quarter know how to get a hold of your IR team and C-suite, but what about investors, retail players and those new to your company? Closing a presentation, particularly a physical copy, with a slide of investor relations contact details is a sure way for investors to be able to reach out when they have questions. If your company is inundated with waves of inbounds each day, consider the use of an IR email and voicemail inbox, monitored, filtered and triaged by IR. This provides the opportunity to catch every enquiry, record the key themes in question, and crucially, reach out and respond to everyone who has an interest in your company.


What to Exclude?

With the above elements in mind, your investor presentation should be well on the way to a fit for purpose Gold Standard, but what about items to leave out? Perhaps counter to logic, bad news and poor performance details should always be addressed and never left out – provided your presenter can talk to them strategically and effectively. There are, however, a few common slides worth cutting from your latest presentation.

1. Details on Your IPO and Too Much Corporate History

Unless you took your company public in the last twelve months, or are comparing some well-timed, favorable industry macro, don’t include specifics on your IPO, especially if you’ve changed leadership since then. A grinning photo of your since-departed COO ringing the NYSE opening bell alongside pricing day metrics does not make for a helpful image. Likewise, unless there is a justifiable reason (e.g. your historic M&A activity to demonstrate execution successes), keep things current – historic details highlight past performance and capabilities, future projections exhibit growth potential. Lean forward on the demonstration of your successes and guide to your path of future progress.

   2. Too Many Stock Pictures

A picture tells 1,000 words, but only if it anchors a memory. We all love visuals, they tie a presentation together beautifully and provide education into your company’s operations. But don’t just drop in generic shots to fill a gap. After the third picture of a zoomed in hand, whether holding a wrench, a spatula or a slide-rule, readers may be left with a sense of corporate identity, but little impactful memory of the real operations behind the company name. Be sure to include photos of facilities, showcase your products, associate your brands with their advertising placement, and show equipment in-field, doing its job.

3. Excessive Technical Information

In hand with the above section on including your technological differentiators, be cautious around how you tell the story of your specializations. Don’t fall into the trap of including multiple slides that deep dive into the technical story behind your operations. Educating your audience is important to ensure they appreciate the advantages of your solutions, but proven results from the deployment of that technology are more important than multiple slides and excessive process detail that risks alienating lay investors.


As with all things in the IR world, keeping things clear, simple and accessible are key to keeping your investors engaged with your materials. There is no replacement for a charismatic and knowledgeable presenter, but by taking the time to ensure you include the elements above, our experience suggests that you will end up with audiences that take interest in your materials, have an understanding of your company operations and differentiations, and importantly, have sufficient information and opportunity to reach out to you and your leadership with questions and access to investment


Key Takeaways from Annual Tulane M&A Conference

Each year, leading lawyers, bankers, PR professionals and other advisors focused on M&A and shareholder activism convene in New Orleans for the annual conference of the Tulane Corporate Law Institute to discuss the latest developments and trends transactions and corporate securities law.


The Changing Landscape for Financial Communications within the Restaurant Industry

Keeping pace with investor priorities is critical for financial communications


Keys to a Successful Conference Call: Don’t Dump Data; Provide Insight and Control the Narrative

Cardinal Rule: Do Your Own Analysis


ESG Lessons for the Cannabis Industry

BY PHIL DENNING, DAN MCDERMOTT Medicinal marijuana is legal in 30 states and as the cannabis industry continues to mature and more companies are publicly traded, there will be an increased focus on their environmental,…


The Board’s Oversight Role in Corporate Culture Definition

Lyndon Park, head of ICR’s Governance Advisory Solutions practice, was published in Financier Worldwide magazine discussing the board’s role in overseeing corporate culture.


The Art Of The Impactful Investor Presentation

One of the most frequently asked questions by new clients to ICR is – how can we be most impactful, to the largest audience, in the shortest time?


5 Important Communication Tips Cannabis Companies Should Follow

“‘Hype vs. Reality’ – Managing the Delicate PR Balance for Innovation-Driven Businesses,”


Hillicon Valley: What the Internet Bill of Rights Means for the Tech Industry

When it comes to reconciling free markets, technological innovation and personal digital privacy, it’s clear that Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Capitol Hill have a long way to go.


The Allure of 1.4 Billion Customers

“Go West, young man, go West, and grow up with the country.” So urged Horace Greeley in 1865. Today, many business leaders are telling their underlings, “Go East, young men and women, go East, and grow up with China.”


Using Common Sense in Change Management

In our business, clients seek our advice on how to handle these unfortunate events. In recent years it has adopted its own jargon: change management.


Navigating ESG Ratings Agencies

BY DAN MCDERMOTT As ESG matters have grown in importance to investors, so has the influence of ESG ratings agencies. Issuers often struggle to navigate which ESG issues to disclose, the best practices for disclosure,…


Emerging Biotech Company Looking to Raise Money? Start by Raising Your Visibility

In the biotech arena, raising capital to fund R&D is mission critical. Thus implementing a strategy to raise your profile is more critical than ever.


ICR’s Phil Denning featured in 13D Monitor’s October issue

Phil Denning, Partner, ICR, and co-head of ICR’s special situations group, sat down with 13D Monitor and is featured in their October issue.


Developing an Annual IR Plan

Planning and executing a productive, efficient and effective IR outreach program is one of the primary responsibilities of the Investor Relations team at any corporation.


The Impact of Total Shareholder Return on Proxy Contest Outcomes

Some companies may release a deep exhale following a proxy season without engagement from an activist shareholder.


Best Practices in Raising the Profile and Protecting Professional Services Brands

From global law and management consulting firms to accounting and engineering firms, the competitive need to aggressively promote brand, talent and POV on key…


Integrity in PR: Some Sage Advice from Comedian Steve Martin

My favorite comedian, Steve Martin, had a routine on his 1981 album, “The Steve Martin Brothers,” that included this gag:


Analyzing Share Repurchase Programs

Recently I was asked to weigh in as a client decided whether to initiate a share repurchase program. The client was contemplating a way to reduce future share price volatility following a…


STACK, SCROLL & SWIPE: How mobile is changing the online experience

We recently came across a fascinating statistic: For the first time, people are spending more time on their smartphones than on their desktops and or laptops. More, even, than on their televisions.


The Business Case for Embracing ESG & Communicating the Results

In 1970, economist Milton Friedman famously claimed that there’s “only one social responsibility of business


Director-To-Shareholder Communication: Managing the New Normal in IR

The past few years have seen shareholders become increasingly vocal in their desire to communicate directly with a company’s board of directors.


MiFID II Update: Impact on U.S. Listed Companies is Underway, It is Critical to Become Proactive

MiFID II mandates the unbundling of trading commissions from investment research payments, requiring investment firms to value and pay for research and corporate access separately.


Amazon’s Healthcare Entrance and the Unfolding Digital Health Revolution

In the past several years, the healthcare landscape has altered dramatically as consolidation has continued across the healthcare verticals, but the scale of the entities involved now is truly gargantuan


Social Media and its emerging role on Wall Street

By Tom Ryan Co-Founder & CEO of ICR Having spent more than a decade on Wall Street as a sell-side analyst, and the last 20 years as the CEO of a strategic communications firm that…


2018 – Year of Shorts?

As shareholder activism has become an accepted and mainstream investment strategy, publicly agitating for change at public companies and calling out management for underperformance no longer has the same stigma it once carried.  Over the…


The True Value of Investor Perception Studies

The concept of an investor perception study is familiar to most IROs, C-suite executives and boards.


Rules for the Road (Show) Near Quarter End

Getting out on the road – be it through a non-deal roadshow (NDR) or investor conference – is critical to the success of an effective IR program.  Meeting current and prospective investors face-to-face and sharing…


So You’ve Just Completed Your Cross-Border IPO

Congratulations. You’ve just completed your cross-border IPO. After many months, or maybe years, of hard work, your shares are trading on Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange.


New Study Shows the Benefit of Ex-Analysts in the IR Role

Who better to help management teams communicate to analysts and investors than former analysts?


Hosting A Successful Investor Day

As companies look to generate interest form the investment community over time, they need to consider a broad range of activities.


Equifax Exposes Personal Information… and the Urgent Need for Crisis Preparedness!

The immediate aftermath of the latest Company data breach – this one affecting a record 143 million people at consumer credit bureau Equifax – brings to mind the popular definition of insanity…


PR Nightmares and Social Media: Winning Back Customer Trust

If 2017 has taught us anything so far, it’s that PR disasters can be made a hundred times worse by social media ineptitude.


The Issue of Guidance

As a trusted advisor, we are often asked about earnings guidance and whether or not a company should provide it. And if they should, how often and what metrics should be provided.



For many B2B companies, it’s become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: “We don’t focus much on mobile,” they say. “It just doesn’t generate business for us.” The numbers do seem to bear…


Want a Successful IPO in the US? Asian Companies Need to Work Harder

Asia What’s in a name? That which we call a meigui, by any other name would smell as sweet. Me-i guey? What’s a me-i guey? Well,…


How to manage late SEC filings

Strategic planning and communications around late filings of an annual 10K or quarterly 10Q is critical for a company to manage the negative fallout. Companies must act quickly to reassure investors and other stakeholders when required to file an SEC Form 12b-25 Notification of Late Filing, which gives the company a short extension to file its SEC statements.


The Ten People Who Determine Your Valuation

There is a tee shirt popular among social psychologists (admittedly a niche market) that reads, “Stereotypes are a Real Time Saver.” These scientists, many of them management professors, appreciate the ironic humor. They know, through their close study of behavior, that we are all cognitive misers with too much to do and too many things to understand.


‘Hype vs. Reality’ – Managing the Delicate PR Balance for Innovation-Driven Businesses

But there is a fine line running between the reality of promising innovation and overhyped expectations that PR professionals must walk when helping companies


Key Takeaways from Annual Tulane M&A Conference

Interestingly, and perhaps unique to this conference, the most heavily attended panel is one specific to the dynamics around media coverage of M&A.


Dual-Listed IPOs: The Keys to Success in Managing a Cross-Border Offering

There is no expected slowdown in the pace of Canadian, or TSX-listed, companies looking to list in the U.S.


A List for Listings: Considerations When Choosing a Stock Exchange

ICR President Don Duffy discusses which exchange to choose for your IPO in a new interview, via National Investors Relations Institute (NIRI). Read more about the interview.    


Getting Social with Investor Relations

Only 28 percent of IR practitioners use social media for IR, according to a 2016 social media survey conducted by the National Investor Relations Institute. The same study reported reluctance among analysts, with only 15-18…


Integrated Communications in the Life Sciences

One of the biggest challenges to achieving communications integration in the agency and corporate setting is culture.


How to Handle Bad Financial News

To say the markets have been dizzying this year is an understatement. Stock instability, the Brexit vote, and an uncertain political climate in the U.S. have required companies to adjust to…


Focus on Life Science and Healthcare Sectors

ICR Healthcare, a newly-branded specialty practice that provides communications counsel and support for ICR’s growing roster of clients in the biopharmaceutical, medtech and healthcare services sectors.


The Value of PR: Lighter on Clip Books, Heavier on Revenue Creation

A significant transfiguration has occurred for PR in recent years as the internet and emerging technologies have reshaped the business landscape. Today, through its newfound ability…


PR Seeks Social Media: A Match Made in the Digital Era

ICR As public relations professionals, we can’t so much as “swipe right” today without considering the important impact social media makes on every story we tell, every connection we make…


Washington and Crisis, a Unique Relationship

Crisis communications and Congressional hearings are inevitably intertwined, proving the adage that the most dangerous place to be in Washington is between a politician and a TV camera. The recent…



Don’t let Unicorns Fool you – The Tech IPO is not an Ancient Myth

Remember the market clamor about a possible tech bubble in 2014? It was a different time with dozens of successful IPOs and newly emerging unicorns – those hot private companies claiming…



Communicating in the Golden Era of Shareholder Activism

Carl Icahn. Bill Ackman. Nelson Peltz. Daniel Loeb. These are the names that have struck fear into the hearts of every public company CEO in America since the corporate raider days of the 1980s…


Navigating the Growing Healthy Living Industry

Increasingly more companies are focused on health and wellness. The paths of two divergent sets of consumers – boomers and seniors who are living to older ages and managing new health…



The art of IPO communications, and why it matters

With the short amount of time between an IPO filing becoming public and the completion of the IPO, the transition from private company to public can feel like a whirlwind. In a matter of weeks…



The Communications Role in the M&A Rebound

The use of strategic communications unquestionably plays a significant role in helping to ensure the success of a transaction through its different phases. It helps inspire confidence, minimize…



The mainstreaming of shareholder activism

The prevalence of shareholder activism signals a new frontier for crisis communications. The practice of activism has evolved, its players have grown more sophisticated, and companies and their…