In your last column, you were discussing “new business” presentations and the use of marketing materials, specifically “flipbooks” and PowerPoint presentations. What do you think the role of technology should be in these presentations with prospective clients?
The role of technology in sales presentations
OK. Call me old-fashioned or worse, but I really don't think face-to-face presentations should include much, if any, hard-copy sales materials and certainly no PowerPoint slides. The whole idea during an in-person presentation is to establish a relationship, a rapport, a trust, a friendship, a mutual respect, a bond and, most of all, a clear understanding of how the asset manager would invest the assets to achieve the goals and objectives of the asset owner.
It is really that simple.
The use of single-page handouts, or long horizontal, spiral-bound flipbooks is clearly the norm, but one loses a significant amount of physical interaction between the presenter and the presentee, eye contact is minimized and facial expressions that are usually fairly easy to read get lost in the paper shuffling and sometimes vain attempts to get everybody literally on the same page.
I think introducing a presentation medium that employs any technology — even one as old as PowerPoint housed on a laptop and projected on a screen or wall of a conference room — clearly detracts from the main purpose of the face-to-face meeting, which is to heighten the physical and emotional interaction between the buyer and the seller. Having said that, if there is an important point to be made by the asset manager that can be more easily understood through a picture or if one is attempting to describe a historical relationship between multiple variables, it might indeed be clearer and more poignant by looking at a picture i.e. a line graph or histogram. However, one should use these props selectively and sparingly. Remember, the goal here is not to impress the asset owner with the latest technological gimmicks.
Now, you ask, what about situations where the entire team is not available to physically be in the prospect's office on the day of the scheduled presentation? This is a global business, requiring investment professionals to be in all parts of the world and sometimes not all of the team can be in one place at the same time. Assuming the meeting can't be rescheduled, then technology will definitely play an important role as presenters can participate from wherever they are through the use of online meetings where everyone can at least see and hear all the players and share a common visual presentation.
I also think that when the presentation turns to a review of performance, certain handouts can be impactful. This doesn't mean long rows of composite monthly returns for multiple years compared against some benchmark that may or may not be relevant for comparison purposes. It does mean that the composite returns should be compared to meaningful and relevant benchmarks over long and short, up- and down-market cycles and certain measures of risk-adjusted, net-of-fee returns should be depicted graphically. Don't forget it's the net alpha that the prospect (hopefully client) is paying for, so showing that and the amount of alpha generated per unit of non-systematic risk is really the key, and can be effectively depicted graphically. Thus, some very selective hard-copy materials can be important in making an impactful presentation.