Monday, July 18, 2011

Building a Good Investor Presentation

The company presentation to analysts is a staple of investor relations, yet it doesn’t get the type of analysis it deserves. I’m not talking here about whether or not your slides are any good or how well your chairman speaks in public. Rather, I’m talking here about the basic structure of how you convey the information about what your company is and how it operates. A good presentation can generate interest in your company, whereas a bad presentation may very well turn off investors. Presentations are further complicated by the fact that at any given conference, a company executive will be speaking to a spectrum of investors, ranging from those that know the company well to those who may never have heard of it before.

There are many ways to create a well thought out overview of company information for investors and I don’t claim to hold a patent on the only way to do things. What follows is my approach, worked out over thirty years of presenting to investors. It is designed to organize the flow of information you need to convey.

First, start with a structure that borrows from a common investor relations framework:

Past Performance + Perception of Future Performance = Stock Price.

In other words, investors analyze the value of a company’s stock by trying to project what it will do in the future, using what it has been able to accomplish in the past as a reality check. From this framework, it becomes clear that when speaking to investors, a company needs to address both where it’s been and where it’s going. While this may seem obvious, I have seen many presentations totally ignore one side or the other of the equation.

In order to impose some logical flow to the requirements of such a formula, it makes sense to break down the presentation into three basic building blocks of information: Who we are, What we’re currently doing and Where we’re going in the future. This format helps to keep the story on track while still retaining enough flexibility to be creative.

Who We Are: This is the foundation of the presentation. It should include basics on the company’s industry, position within the industry, market share, operating locations, history and culture. The art to doing this section correctly is to provide enough basic information so that someone new to the stock has a good grasp of what your business is, while providing sufficient new information to keep those familiar with your story interested. For example, if you are in the oil exploration business, the basic information you give out should not only include the basics of the segment of your industry, but would also include updated information on the number of rigs you might have in operation and new exploration sites.

What We Do: This is the section of the presentation where companies can talk about what makes them unique. Most companies have an overriding operating philosophy which drives them forward; for some, such as Wal-Mart, it is being the low cost operator, while for others, such as Apple, it’s an obsession with design excellence. As important in this section as the “what we do” is the “why we do it”. If you can convey to investors not only what you are good at doing, but also the driving force behind what you do, you begin to put some informational meat on the presentation.

Finally, Where We’re Going: This is probably the most crucial part of the presentation. Critical information areas include giving investors some insight into how your company plans to compete; opportunities for growth and profitability; how you view the future of your industry; and the unique products or service offerings you plan to use to set your company apart going forward. This should be where the good investor presentation distinguishes its company from other possible investments in an investor’s mind. Remember, sophisticated investors are looking at an investment in your company as a claim on the future cash flows of the company, so they have to have a good sense of where those cash flows may be coming from.

Interwoven into all of this, Dave Mossberg, my colleague at Three Part Advisors, would add, “The presentation should give the investor three compelling reasons to own the stock”. Investor relations being a consultative sale, rather than a hard sell, the art here is to make the compelling reasons obvious enough for a reasonably astute investor to grasp without hitting them between the eyes with a two by four. So if, at the end of the presentation, the investor can sum things up by saying something along the lines of: they have a great track record, industry leading technology and are growing rapidly in an industry segment that is poised for expansion, you will have accomplished your presentation objectives.