See and Be Seen: The Importance of Attending Investment Banking Conferences

Posted by on March 23rd, 2015

I’m currently on a flight back from the 26th Annual Roth Capital Conference in Laguna Niguel. Each year, Roth brings together more than 400 companies and 1,500+ institutional investors, and it is easily one of the premier micro-cap conferences in the United States. As such, the opportunity inherent in attending is two-fold: first, there is the opportunity to introduce my clients to prospective investors; additionally, there is the opportunity to raise both my own profile as a seasoned investor relations professional as well as that of my company, KCSA Strategic Communications, as one of the leading investor relations consulting firms in the country.

Too often, many of my clients and fellow IR professionals complain that investment banking conferences such as Roth are difficult to manage and aren’t worth the time and expense of being out of the office; I, however, couldn’t disagree more.

The difference between a successful conference and a perceived “waste of time” depends on whether or not you develop a plan prior to the conference and then stick to it. A conference doesn’t begin the day you show up at the actual event; in reality, it starts weeks in advance as you begin to formulate a strategy. Planning for the conference in this way allows you to book more meetings and to make the most of each meeting, while also avoiding big gaps in your schedule (the “waste of time”).

Another part of a successful conference plan is to maximize time spent at the conference. I typically break down my time at investor conferences into four general categories:

Client support;

  1. New business outreach;
  2. Buy- and sell-side relationship building, and
  3. General networking.

With any investor conference I attend, the number one task is to take care of those that take care of me—existing clients. Much of my time this week at Roth was allotted to working directly with KCSA clients presenting at the conference to make sure they achieved their goals (namely, garnering well-attended group presentations and securing strong one-on-one schedules). Spending time in this support capacity also allowed me to foster stronger relationships with my clients and to discuss long-term goals and plans. Ultimately, my job is to make sure that my client’s needs are attended to, which this week included several visits to the local Kinko’s to retrieve printed presentations—after all, I’m in the client service business!

I also took advantage of the Roth conference to introduce myself to potential new clients, fulfilling my second category—new business outreach. Prior to any event, my team and I work diligently to identify potential targets and schedule meetings at the conference. The power of these face-to-face interactions cannot be matched by phone conversations. This week, for example, I was able to meet with a potential new client from Israel whose business I’ve been courting for some time. Additionally, I had the opportunity to meet with a significant investor to discuss several companies for which his firm serves as the primary funding source or largest shareholder.

One of the major reasons companies hire KCSA to support their investor relations programs is the broad base of buy- and sell-side relationships we bring to bear. Similarly, the buy- and sell-side rely on KCSA to put them in front of good investment opportunities, an effort which is bolstered by the knowledge that these companies receive exceptional IR support from KCSA and are thus positioned to communicate effectively with Wall Street.  In addition to attending one-on-one sessions with my clients this week, I spent a lot of my time simply “walking the halls,” which allowed me to speak directly with institutional investors from all over the country. Making contact like this is impossible to replicate sitting behind the desk in my office.

And, finally, the Roth conference provided the occasion to “see and be seen.”  In a high-touch business such as investor relations, it’s imperative to maintain a high profile across the entire financial services ecosystem: public and private companies, buy- and sell-side professionals, investment bankers and analysts, and services providers such as auditors, attorneys and IR website providers.  You never know who you’re going to see and speak with who may be able to help you in your efforts to grow your business.  Networking, and maintaining these industry relationships, is imperative.

So, while I understand that it’s difficult to leave the office to attend conferences, the benefits almost always outweigh the challenges. My advice is simple: embrace these events as both a professional and a personal opportunity to build and fortify your business. Spend a bit of time preparing in advance of the event so that you arrive at the conference with a profitable plan of attack—it will pay dividends!