Transforming the virtual experience

Al Loehnis discusses how lockdown has raised the bar on Capital Markets Day events

“You had to be there…” That was certainly true of most Capital Markets Days (CMDs) – and a whole lot of other things in life – before the pandemic turned everything virtual. Yes, most companies offered a webcast, but the experience for the remote viewer was invariably a poor one.

Faced with the challenge of putting on a virtual-only event, some companies have transformed the experience. Bladonmore is proud to have led the way in this: our work with client Landsec recently won the Capital Markets Communications category at the 2021 Sabre EMEA Awards, for a CMD event that we produced last year.

But we know that many companies have been deferring CMDs, until a physical event is feasible again. We think this is a mistake. Firstly, who knows when that will be? Secondly, if you want to differentiate your strategic positioning for post-pandemic times, there is advantage in being an early mover. Thirdly, the virtual audience genie is already out of the bottle. The norm is surely going to be events that cater equally to a live/virtual audience.

So what does the hybrid event of the future look like? We think that there are three areas where the virtual experience will bring enduring change.

Higher values

A year of working from home has done a lot to raise standards when it comes to online meetings. It has raised expectations, too. If you want to project professionalism and competence to both live and virtual audiences, then the staging and production values matter.

In practice this means that you need to approach these events with the mindset of the live TV producer. For a dual audience, a studio staging is often more appropriate than traditional theatre-style presentation. This also makes it easier to vary camera positions and angles, adding energy and interest to long, often static presentations. Thought needs to be given to handovers between speakers and the breaks between sessions – no empty lecterns and blank slides please. Executives used to big auditoriums must also learn to think small: different techniques are needed to make an online audience feel that they are in the room, too.

Less but more

The level of detail in some multi-speaker events may be valuable for analysts, but it is often at the expense of clear messaging. It is an entirely different dynamic to watch a live event remotely than to be part of a captive audience in the room. Virtual audiences have more distractions and attention spans are shorter – content needs to change accordingly.

Presentations should be structured and sign-posted in a way that reinforces key messaging. And they should be shorter. As a rule of thumb we recommend no more than 20 minutes. If the nature of the content really demands more time, find ways to punctuate it, perhaps with filmed content, or with supporting speakers to vary the pace of the presentation.

Another key challenge is how to keep virtual audiences engaged and participative. Physical events often have informal breakout sessions for small groups to meet executives. With forethought and planning these can easily be replicated in a virtual setting. Q&A sessions can also be managed so that virtual attendees asking questions are visible via webcam, both to online audiences and those at the venue.

Better return

With all the effort focused on the event itself, there is a natural tendency to return quickly to ‘business as usual’ once it’s done. An on-demand webcast and the presentations are usually made available (if hard to find) on the website, often in a single deck totalling 50+ slides. And that’s it.

This is leaving a lot of value on the table. Over time you are likely to see far more viewers post-event than on the day itself. And content – especially filmed content – can be widely reused across social media and other channels if conceived in the right way.

To maximise the return on investment we advocate building the ‘event legacy’ into plans from the start. For example:

  • Build a dedicated webpage for the event
  • Provide a summary of each session to signpost and reinforce key messages
  • Create highlight reels for the main presentations
  • Provide transcripts with integrated slides

Few companies are emerging with their pre-pandemic growth prospects unchanged. Investors are recalibrating long-held views on sectoral winners and losers. Now is the time for Capital Markets Days.

If you’d like to talk to us about a forthcoming event, please get in touch.

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Al Loehnis

Senior Adviser

Al works with Bladonmore on investor communications and capital markets projects. He is a former equity analyst at UBS and Credit Suisse before becoming a founder director of Investis, the digital communications agency. He has also been a Partner and Head of TMT at strategic communications advisory firm, Maitland/AMO.

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