What are the key pitfalls to avoid when my firm is making a presentation to a potential client?
What are the pitfalls to avoid when making a presentation?
For the sake of argument, let's suppose your firm is one of five selected to make a final presentation to the board of trustees and the senior investment staff of a well-known endowment fund; its investment consultants will also be in attendance. Having had several meetings with the investment staff and the consultants over 18 months, the meeting with the board will determine which firm will win the mandate. All five firms are presenting the same day; each has one hour for a presentation and questions.
The representatives of the firm should be:
- the sales executive;
- portfolio manager;
- head of research; and
- CIO or CEO.
To avoid pitfalls, clearly the sales executive should lead the presentation because he or she originally introduced the firm to the endowment and its consultant, led the initial meetings and kept people at the firm apprised of the significant events that took place. The sales executive, therefore, will be the proverbial quarterback of the proceedings. The sales executive will make the introductions, outline the meeting agenda and, most importantly, avoid the pitfalls.
The question is what “key pitfalls to avoid,” so let's start from that perspective.
Avoid worrying about filling up the entire session by including too much detail about the firm and a particular investment. Stay away from as much firm-centric jargon as possible. When a question is posed, make sure to let the inquirer finish the question before anyone starts to answer it. First, it's rude to interrupt. Second, if you are thinking about the answer before the question is completely asked, you might not hear or understand the actual question. Third, it's important to know who should answer this question.
Avoid talking about performance unless it is in response to a specific question. The endowment fund board, staff and consultant have all seen and scrutinized the performance numbers, sliced and diced them in countless ways, and arrayed them on multiple spreadsheets, so don't waste any of your discretionary time on this. You are one of five because your performance was “good enough” —both absolutely and relatively — to get you into the finals. Remember, the presentation is meant to differentiate the firm from the other four and to demonstrate how this differentiation is going to accrue to the benefit of the asset owner.
Focus instead on the investment strategy, the decision-making process and how research and portfolio management work together in a seamless structure that encourages creativity yet provides a firmwide disciplined approach. The audience wants to really understand how decisions are made throughout the firm and throughout the process, from idea generation to portfolio implementation. It is imperative to demonstrate how there is consistency across all discretionary accounts and to describe the mechanism used to ensure the endowment is getting a product of the firm and not the idiosyncrasies of one portfolio manager.
You want the audience to come away from the meeting understanding “who you are” (the firm's philosophy of investment management and the firm's culture), “what you do” (your strategy to grow the assets) and “how you execute this strategy” (your decision-making process).