NIRI 2013 round up: part two

Jun 14, 2013
<p>Investor views, TED-style talks and a communications masterclass fit for a president</p>

The final day and a half of NIRI’s 2013 annual conference began early with breakfast briefings at 7.00 am – a tough ask given the late finish the night before for many attendees.

Still, those who got out of bed in time were treated to sessions from Marketwired’s new CEO Jim Delaney, who laid out  his vision for the future of corporate communications, and senior figures from BATS, who offered advice on crafting your company message.

Jim Delaney, Marketwired CEO
Marketwired’s new CEO, Jim Delaney

After that, it was back to the main hall for one of NIRI’s regular general sessions: an investor panel discussion. The speakers took the opportunity to let the audience know what they would like to see more (or less) of from IR professionals.

‘What I’m looking for in a meeting is insight into the company… clearly not material non-public information, but some kind of insight over and above what it says in the slide pack, or what was said on the call,’ said Tom Wildgoose, head of research for global energy and materials at Nomura Asset Management.

The moderator, Tobias Levkovich, managing director and chief US equity strategist at Citi, put it more succinctly: ‘I’m a big believer in insight information, not inside information,’ he said.

Michael Edwards, a partner at Arrowgrass Capital Partners, made the case for more analyst days. ‘Analyst days are always very valuable, perhaps more valuable than the sum total of Q&A on conference calls,’ he commented. ‘The basic reason is not just because everyone has a very focused reason to meet your management team. I think it’s also the PR phenomenon of standing up and answering every single question until there are no more.’

Edwards also urged companies to think about whether they could do appropriate deals, given the cheap financing on offer. ‘Right now I think there’s a meaningful opportunity cost to not doing M&A – obviously size-appropriate and depending on the structure – but money is as close to free as it gets right now,’ he said.

A series of ‘lunch and learn’ events followed, covering topics from understanding the buy side to IR sites and a conveniently placed session – given Edwards’ early comments – on setting up analyst days, moderated by Anne Guimard of IR consultancy FINEO.

TED talks

Smooch Reynolds, managing partner at Caldwell Partners
Smooch Reynolds, managing partner at Caldwell Partners, was part of the new TED-style talks

The afternoon saw the new TED-style sessions in action, where three speakers each picked a topic to hold forth on. In the session titled ‘Building value in your career’, Smooch Reynolds, managing partner at Caldwell Partners, went first and discussed how to ‘look round corners’ for unexpected career challenges, drawing on her long experience in the executive search industry.

She was followed by Steven Eschbach, vice president of IR at Integrys Energy Group, who spoke about building your personal brand and how to position yourself within your company.

The final speaker, Laura Graves, director of global IR at Polycom, spoke about embracing career challenges and making the most of prior experience in new roles. During her talk, she discussed her decision to leave her prior IR job for a better work-life balance, which everyone thought a crazy idea at the time, she said.

‘I’m glad NIRI tried something new by offering a TED-inspired format, which allowed for concise, uninterrupted presentations,’ says Rebecca Updegraph of OpenExchange, who moderated the discussion. ‘Speakers addressed an aspect of career management that they felt passionately about, which resulted in three engaging yet very different presentations. I received extremely positive feedback from a number of audience members after the session had concluded.’

After the final services showcase of the conference, where the annual showcase prize draw took place, the City of Hollywood put on free transport to take delegates into town for dinner at their choice of a range of restaurants. While your correspondent didn’t make it, delegates also report enjoying NYSE Euronext’s Sunset Soirée event at a mansion in nearby Fort Lauderdale.

NYSE Euronext’s Sunset Soiree event, sponsored by Investis, at a mansion in Fort Lauderdale
NYSE Euronext’s Sunset Soirée event, sponsored by Investis and held in Fort Lauderdale. Tweeted by Investis


While the conference crowd tends to thin out a bit by Wednesday, there was no mistaking the excitement about the final keynote speaker. Michael Sheehan, a presentation trainer who works with many senior politicians, including the current US president, as well as the biggest corporate leaders out there, gave a two-hour masterclass in the main hall.

Sheehan began by explaining what not to do, listing common pitfalls like being defensive and getting stuck on a difficult question, which he termed the ‘quicksand’ problem. Many of these points were illustrated by a short video clip of someone who clearly hadn’t had a Sheehan masterclass, often leaving the audience chuckling away at the communication car crash unfolding on screen.

Presentation trainer Michael Sheehan, talking at NIRI 2013
Michael Sheehan, presentation trainer to the president, offers up a masterclass in communications

Along with ‘quicksand’, Sheehan had lots of other catchy ways to remember his points. For example, he said, if your audience will only recall a ‘shot glass’ of information from what you say, why ‘bring a barrel’?

He then moved on to how to put things right. His method revolves around picking out a central message, and then selecting three or four points to support that message. The idea is, instead of trying to write 500 answers to 500 possible questions, to keep returning to one of the main points, but being able to talk about those points in different ways to avoid sounding ‘like a broken record’.

With the masterclass and Q&A done and dusted, the co-chairs returned to the stage one last time to say their goodbyes, offer thanks to all those who had helped with the conference, and finally remind everyone – as if they needed it – where next year’s NIRI conference is being held: Las Vegas.

View from the NIRI conference hotel 2013, tweeted by Jeff Morgan
‘Goodbye #NIRI conference. See you in Vegas next year,’ tweeted Jeff Morgan, president and CEO of NIRI

Click here to read NIRI 2013 round-up: part one 

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