Thursday, June 12, 2008

Report on the NIRI Conference

I’ve just returned from the annual National Investor Relations Institute Conference in San Diego and I think the slow down in the economy has affected investor relations.  I base this on three factors:  first, it just looked as if there were fewer people at the conference.  The yearly conference is always very well attended, so trying to gauge attendance by a visual impression can be somewhat difficult, similar to trying to guess Christmas sales by the size of the crowds in stores on Christmas eve, but to me, it felt as if there were fewer people at the event.  Secondly, my conversations with vendors in the exhibit hall seemed to confirm the downturn as the exhibitors uniformly told me that things were slower than in previous years and there were fewer exhibitors in attendance.  What really clinched it for me however, was the fact that there were significantly fewer of the free trinkets being given away by the exhibitors.  (Note: For those of you interested in retail, such items are referred to as tchotchkies, which is Yiddish, meaning a small object that is decorative rather than functional.)  When times are good, not only are there lots and lots of giveaways, but in addition, the exhibitors get really creative about their giveaways.  Last year’s flying screaming monkey stuffed animal comes to mind.  This year it seems as though the emphasis was on free pens and luggage tags with a few tee shirts and baseball hats thrown in.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining, and I’m as happy as the next person to pick up whatever they send my way.  I regularly supply my office and family with pens for a year from the conference.  But still, my dog really liked the screaming monkey…

 

The conference is too large and the breakout sessions too numerous for me to get to everything, but for me there were three interesting sessions.  First, there was a breakout session on blogging entitled “Is Your Company or IR Department Ready for a Blog?”  Naturally, this was of interest to me, although I sit on the other side of the fence.  I would venture to say that the corporate IR officers in that room, if they know about me at all, hope that I will never blog about them because I usually only write about companies after they have done something compellingly stupid.  Blogging is the topic du jour; in the past month I’ve participated in a Webinar, been to the NIRI session and been quoted in a newsletter on the effect of blogging.  In my next post I plan to write about blogging and corporate investor relations.

 

The highlight of the conference to me was the speech given by Stephen McClellan on Wednesday.  Stephen is the author of a recently published book, “Full of Bull” and a former Wall Street analyst for 32 years.  Judging from his remarks, he’s seen it all on Wall Street from the analyst point of view.  He focused his remarks on management credibility and things investor relations officers need to be aware of when dealing with analysts.  I was so impressed, I bought the book and will be writing more about what he said after I’ve had a chance to read the book.

 

Finally, Charlie Gasparino, from CNBC in a session entitled, “Wall Street: The Inside Scoop” dished out dirt on the goings-on in the heart of capitalism coming out of the Dick Grasso, NYSE, Elliott Spitzer affairs.  It was fascinating and I learned things I never would have dreamed of.  (For those not at the speech, do a Google search on Elliott Spitzer, black socks.)

 

Finally, I was gratified by the many people at the conference who told me they enjoyed this blog.  I will try and live up to your high expectations.  Also, as they say on Car Talk, feel free to express your gratitude on the back of a $20.00 bill …

3 comments:

Pops said...

John, for the record, attendance at the NIRI conference was higher than last year in Florida - but somewhat lower than two years ago in San Diego. The West Coast conference is generally better attended than the Florida conference. But you are right about the giveaways...

Curtis said...

This is unrelated to your post, however I could use some input from a seasoned professional. I have my B.A. in public relations and am currently going for my MBA with a concentration in finance. I want to get into the investor relations field (i am currently doing marketing for a financial services company). How would you suggest getting into the field? Should I first work as a financial analyst then transition to IR, or is IR a field where you can jump into finding an entry level position? Also, is the NIRI beneful to an IR career? Hows does the national one compare oppose to joining a chapter? (i.e. Boston has one)

John Palizza said...

Curtis:

There are numerous entry points to the field of IR - on the corporate side people come from finance, audit, accounting, corporate communications and even law. Sometimes you see analysts cross over to do IR, but it is less frequent. NIRI is a good resource for someone looking to join the profession as it has good networking information and career resources. You have to join the national in order to join the local chapter. If you would like to discuss this more, please feel free to email me at john.palizza@gmail.com