As a fund manager, you probably have a fairly clear opinion on how you ought to be reporting your activity (and the results, thereof) to your investors.
Beyond the drawdown notice and quarterly reports, the Annual General Meeting is a consistent fixture for investor engagement in the industry. But how engaging is your AGM, really? In all honesty, it's probably less gripping than you would like and certainly not as engaging as it could be.
Frankly, many fund managers do not look forward to their AGM. Unaccustomed as I am to the concept of the shrinking violet private equity fund manager, some GPs are just not the most confident public speakers.
And this is particularly an issue if this manager decides to blindly follow what everyone else does and put the focus on public speaking.
Let's take a look at what typically happens:
Investors traipse from a holding pen corridor into a dimly lit central London hotel function room, whereupon they are set upon by the firm's most junior staff. A coffee is shoved into their hands and they are shown to their seat. The chair, of course, has a painted gold metal frame and offers the luxury of a padded burgundy seat and back. After a short introduction from the Managing Partner, multiple, 90-minute presentations follow. The reward for survival? A glass of cheap wine and maybe a dinner – during which there might be another presentation or two. Oh joy...
AGMs are an opportunity to engage properly with some of your most important stakeholders, to develop deeper relationships and show off all that your firm does. Deep relationships are built on emotional engagement, in private equity, just as in real life. Tinder doesn't allow its users to upload a 90-minute "overview" of their activity in the last twelve months, and that's for a pretty good reason.
If all you wanted to do was tell everyone what had been going on, you could do that in written form, of course.
So – what can you do to improve things? Really quite a lot, in fact.
There are 100 ways to improve the average annual general meeting, but here are seven simple changes that are bound to improve the investor experience at your next AGM.
Practice makes perfect
Rehearse and rehearse again, in the venue, if possible. Film the rehearsal and watch it back to help identify areas to work on. Don't be afraid to hire a professional coach. It's money well spent.
Dress the room
Spend some time (and cash) to make the room feel different. Pick a relevant theme and be bold. Surround your investors with your brand and transport them somewhere interesting.
Mix it up
Change presenters regularly and intersperse shorter presentations with video and engaging panel discussions.
Resist the temptation to only feature the top dogs. Involve as much of the junior team as possible. If they are good enough to be in your team, you should be happy to show them off.
Encourage questions from the floor
Plant some questions with junior staff and call on them early, to coax more hands up into the air.
Film the event and make the video available to investors that couldn't attend. Use extracts for more general promotional purposes.
Make sure you follow up, promptly, and remind your guests how great the event was, with images from the day and video highlights.
Honestly, the competition is not doing a great job in this area, and a little bit of effort could make a big difference.
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