Video, Virtual and Hybrid: The Future of Investor Relations Events

Online events reach and engage shareholders, analysts and the media. For the future of IR events, it comes down to three things: video, virtual and hybrid.

Ben Chodor

September 17, 2021

When it comes to investor relations events, a colleague recently sent me an article I wrote for Entrepreneur more than six years ago – “Though Few Have, Now Is the Right Time to Embrace Video Earnings Calls.

Re-reading it was a bit of a throwback (Marissa Mayer was still CEO of Yahoo!) and this sentence made me pause: “With more business and communications moving to online or live video, a video earnings call might not be the next novel idea, but instead the next IR expectation.”

Fast forward to May 2021, and we’ve passed the one-year mark since the pandemic sent us all online, by choice or by force. Globally, many businesses made the shift because they realized one thing: communicating regularly with the people who are critical to your business is always important. When it’s not possible to do that in-person, doing it in an online environment is absolutely essential.

For investor relations teams this is no less true. Across our Notified client base, we continue to see a rise in virtual events and webcasts, video earnings announcements, and virtual investor days.

For these companies, the pivot to online events is both a matter of business continuity and an effective way to reach and engage their shareholders, employees, analysts, and the media. 

When I think about the continued evolution of IR events, I think about three things: video, virtual, and hybrid.

Video Earnings Calls: It’s Time to Break From Tradition

While they might not be as uncommon as they were six years ago when I wrote my article, video earnings calls are still not standard practice. But many companies are rethinking audio-only calls in favor of video because the technology is more ubiquitous and easier to use, and because globally, we are becoming a video-first culture.

When we consume information, we almost always want it delivered in video format.

Some companies were early adopters ― type “video earnings calls” into Google and you’ll see T-Mobile at the top of the page. The company has done their quarterly earnings call via livestream for years, and scrolling through their YouTube channel you’ll find the full video of CEO Mike Sievert and his senior leadership team delivering their recent Q4 FY 2020 results.

Why should you choose video for your earnings calls?  

  • Video is expected! For more than a year, everyone’s meetings and presentations have been done over video. Team meetings, town halls, investor meetings, and earnings. Video has become the norm, and there should be no turning back – your stakeholders expect you to be on video.
  • Live video increases the transparency and engagement between your company’s CEO and CFO and your existing and potential investors. People want to see and hear your management team, their passion, and how they handle themselves. Video helps your executives build additional respect and credibility in front of a live audience; it’s tougher to do that only with audio.
  • Video helps you deliver positive results and celebrate success. Conversely, and perhaps more important, it lets you communicate poor performance and bad news with added transparency and openness. Your executives have the opportunity to build confidence and respect in front of a live audience of stakeholders.
  • Post-earnings, you can distill your live video earnings calls into content on your website, social channels, blog posts, and video clips.
  • Video earnings calls can become a bigger event and a vehicle for other important company news – such as product announcements, executive appointments, and commentary on the industry.
     

Virtual Events: They’ve Forever Changed Our Experience

For years, marketing and communications professionals have used virtual events as an effective way of educating and engaging their customers, prospects, and employees. Investor relations teams are increasingly leaning into virtual events, including investor days and roadshows, for the same reasons – to keep their stakeholders informed and engaged, and to attract new shareholders.   

IR Magazine recently published their Research Report on Investor Events, a survey of global practitioners and investors that looks at the changing face of investor events. The report examines investor conferences, investor days, site visits, and roadshows and how these events transitioned from in-person to virtual formats as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I found it particularly interesting to read about the continued investment in resources and technology that companies are developing to support their events. 2020 didn’t just help teams “make do” with online meetings; it helped set them up for success with what will be the go-forward nature of virtual events for investor relations. 

“Much of the IR resources for virtual investor events are already in place, with companies having developed their virtual programs over the course of 2020, and most additional resources are expected to go on improved technology to enhance the virtual experience. Such investment is in accordance with the view that virtual events are here to stay and will permanently form part of the investor relations calendar.”


Investor Relations Events – Hybrid Events: The Best of Everything

Ask almost anyone and they’ll tell you how they’re yearning to be back in the office and attending in-person events and client meetings.

But that feeling is balanced with an appreciation for the proven value and bottom-line benefits of webcasts and virtual events: the ease of meeting with global teams, a significant reduction in travel costs (and carbon footprints), flexible work-from-home schedules, etc.

Swinging the pendulum back to primarily in-person events feels like regression. What most of us really want is a bit of everything.

Most of my professional career has focused on digital and online communications, and I am passionate about events, particularly hybrid. I wrote Transitioning to Virtual and Hybrid Events to share my expertise and help companies not only make the move to online events, but to execute  them successfully.

In the last year I’ve had countless conversations with customers about their virtual events, and more recently those conversations are turning to hybrid events.

IR teams are very much part of these discussions; it’s not just their marketing and communications counterparts. What they’ve experienced in the last year has proven firsthand that investor communications and events like roadshows, AGMs, earnings calls, and investor days can be successful in a non-traditional way, and whether they’re a new listing or one of the largest public companies in the world, companies are embracing the future of hybrid events.

IR Magazine’s Research Report on Investor Events articulates this perfectly:

“It is clear the COVID-19 pandemic has had an overwhelming impact on investor events in the short term. What is also clear from the findings in [the] report is that this will lead to a long-term change in the style, content and format of future investor events. There is little expectation that they will return to the same in-person levels once the effects of the pandemic subside; it appears more likely that virtual investor events will remain part of the IR calendar. IROs remark that both virtual investor conferences and roadshows provide new opportunities over the in-person format. Virtual investor conferences appear to be better attended while virtual roadshows can access investors in locations IR teams might not have prioritized going to in person.”

I honestly can’t imagine a more exciting time to be in communications. We’ve entered a new age of experimentation with ways to deliver company messages, from launching products to announcing quarterly earnings.

The technology we have at our disposal and our collective demand for multi-format content means that investor relations events will continue evolve – and I can’t wait.

Author Name
Ben Chodor