How to really impress investors

Confidence and preparation are key to making an impact with investor presentations.

In good times, as well as during challenging periods, investors and analysts demonstrate far greater patience and support towards the underlying business if they have confidence in the management team.

So, time spent by senior executives and boards to prepare themselves for presenting results and strategic developments is never time wasted.

Chief executives and finance directors get just one chance to make a first impression when they are face-to-face with analysts, shareholders or the press. Performance is critical.

Investors, suppliers, customers, management and staff scrutinise every word. The audience needs to see and hear a leader who communicates at the top of their game and inspires confidence.

Make a lasting impression

The starting point for preparing any presentation should be to consider one simple question: after listening to you, what will your audience tell their colleagues when they get back to their offices?

Planning and rehearsing the journey on which you want to take investors and the media will help you to make a lasting impression on them – as well as your customers and employees.

Doing this well demands a commitment to developing simple messages. These translate the details of your complex business into small, digestible chunks.

Simple messages, delivered with a personal touch, are a proven winner.

What not to do: 10 classic presentation mistakes

  1. Assuming that the audience understands your business, or even knows what you do
  2. Not listening to, or responding to, previous analysts’ comments
  3. Not talking the language of investors
  4. Not explaining the story behind the numbers
  5. Not having a clear story to tell
  6. Not having a convincing description of planned future activities
  7. Using jargon
  8. Rushing your talk
  9. Trying to convey too much information
  10. Steering away from challenging questions.

Chief executives usually have a highly in-depth understanding of their business, but many will not consider how an equity analyst thinks or what makes a story newsworthy for a journalist.

Finance directors, meanwhile, tend to focus on the numbers and not the story behind those numbers.

Six ways to a winning presentation

1. Tell a story

Stories are memorable. Facts and figures are not. Investors deal in hard facts, but decisions are still made on emotional as well as rational factors. Make sure that they see the context and story beyond the investment return.

2. Keep it short

Too many firms rely on a 50- or 60-slide deck that is packed full of information but devoid of messages. Go through an iterative process to boil down the main presentation to 10 or 15 slides so that it consists primarily of messages and supporting evidence.

You may be able to add an appendix if supplementary information is needed.

3. Be consistent

Inconsistency is a turn-off. Different members of the team will pitch the project or fund in different ways, using different styles and different examples to bring the story to life. That’s ok, but the core messages should be the same.

It needs to feel – from an investor perspective – that every team member is offering the same benefits.

The same applies to the way in which you talk about the firm and its ambitions. The best firms have turned themselves into institutions, which is no easy thing. They are very clear on what they stand for and investors recognise these distinct qualities.

You can’t present as a collection of individuals but as a clearly aligned institution – in messaging, culture and behaviour.

4. Evidence is everything 

Sometimes it is difficult to be different. Many firms look at their pitch from their perspective not from an investor’s.

How different is it to what three rival firms could offer? Putting clear blue water between a firm and its biggest competitors can be a challenge. Who doesn’t claim to have a strong team and to produce market-leading returns?

While the messages may be broadly similar, the way you evidence these and bring them to life should be very distinct. What is the best example of your strong team at work? Which investments have made the biggest contribution to your returns?

5. Be likeable

It’s ok to say less and for it to sound simple. Think about it from the investors’ perspective. They have smart people trying to pitch their wares every single day; you may have only half an hour.

It’s not about being smart or blinding them with data; it’s about distilling and clearly articulating benefits. And being likeable. You are asking them to form a long-term relationship with you and your firm. If they buy what you say and want to spend time with you to find out more, then you’re half way there.

6. Practice makes perfect

Very few people are naturally brilliant presenters. Practice helps. It can also provide a safe environment to test out new messages, powerful examples or answers to tough questions. Often, the best people are the ones who are most critical of themselves – and the most receptive to constructive advice.

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Richard Rivlin


I am fascinated by the art and science behind how to get effective responses to the work our clients do. And I’m as ambitious for our future as I was when we set sail on 11th March 2002.

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