One of the perennial issues during earnings season is setting a date for your quarterly financial release that doesn’t clash with a dozen or so of your peers. By choosing a date that’s too crowded, investor and analyst participation may be low. The same problem can happen when choosing a date for an R&D day or investor day. So how do you go about choosing a date for your event that doesn’t clash with everyone else’s?
The answer is you don’t. Or rather, you shouldn’t waste your time thinking too much about it. First, I’ll talk a little about why you shouldn’t overthink the matter, then I’ll address what you can do to combat low live participation on your call or at your event.
To begin, think about the problem you’re trying to solve. How far in advance do you announce your earnings date? Industry practice for medium-sized companies is to do it about one week in advance. The date is typically driven by filing deadlines and the speed of internal processes and/or outside auditors. Not surprisingly, everyone else uses the same model and has access to the same information you do when they pick their earnings date (i.e. very little). Just like you, they are saddled with a process that is more or less out of their hands.
Turning to investor days, you should wisely choose dates that don’t coincide with major investor conferences or scientific meetings. Again, everyone else tries to do the same. You also don’t pick dates during earnings season. The result is that investor days can end up squeezed together in the few blank dates left on the calendar. At the end of the day however, a sparsely attended investor day is better than one that no one attends (i.e. one outside of NYC, or one held during a conference).
Let me make one more point about the equation you’re trying to solve before I offer you some solutions. If you think about your covering analysts – who are the primary audience for earnings calls and investor days – do they all cover the same companies? The answer is no. There may be some overlap, but in truth, equity coverage of your company sits at the heart of an incredibly complex Venn diagram. Trying to avoid clashing with one company’s investor day may simply mean clashing with another, which could gain you one analyst but lose a different one.
My point is that ex ante date management is generally futile. The good news is there are things you can do to minimize a worst-case scenario:
For a start, partnering with a large firm such as Westwicke (with over 80 healthcare clients) gives you an inside track to when one-off events are scheduled. This means we can help you avoid the busiest days. Sometimes, however, a conflict cannot be avoided, so here’s a quick checklist of best practices to make sure you reach your intended audience one way or another.
Only hold calls when you need to and, when you do, keep them brief. This is the golden rule. If you want an analyst to prioritize you over another company that they cover, be sure not to waste their time. Keep prepared remarks to a minimum, only use calls to announce important information and keep Q&A sessions brief. If everyone operated like this, there would probably be time for every call to be listened to live. Importantly, if you’re known for only holding calls to discuss material issues, analysts and investors will know that your call is not the one they should miss live.
Think about starting calls outside of regular hours. There’s only a certain amount of stretching that can be done with a typical post- or pre-market call. That’s because investors and analysts are busy and typically have a hard stop. Would holding calls on a Monday after market work better for your stakeholders? Could you push back the time of your call by 30 minutes, or bring it forward by 30 minutes?
Conduct follow-up calls. Even when analysts and investors attend the live event, they are likely to reserve their most important questions for a private conversation with management. The theory here is that no one else benefits from their insight, not that you will somehow provide them with better information and answers. Hence, conduct follow-up calls and even follow-up meetings with key stakeholders to make sure that no questions are left unanswered.
Make sure you have a replay. If there’s a clash between your event and another company’s event, your live headcount may suffer. That’s why you should have a webcast replay so that investors and analysts can listen at a time that’s more convenient for them. In reality, coverage teams will divide and conquer. Don’t worry if a more junior member of the equity research team comes along in lieu of the team leader. In addition, something as uncontrollable as the weather has the potential to massively impact live attendance much more than picking the perfect date. So do the live event, but make sure it’s recorded so people can witness your brilliance at their leisure.
Make slide decks available on your website. Yes, analysts can listen to the replay (which typically includes viewer-controlled slides), but some may want to print out the deck and take notes. In short, provide every courtesy to someone that views the event at a later date that you provide to those who made it in person.
Scheduling a meeting with investors and analysts is a balancing act. We can help you plan and prepare for successful investor days and earnings calls. Feel free to get in touch.