By William Battersby, Asset Dynamics Ltd.
The marketer’s life revolves around presentations –planning them, making them, arranging them and updating them. The marketer’s tool is almost universally PowerPoint. Whether delivering a lecture to a hall of 500 people, or a one on one briefing, the marketer rarely risks any meeting without having something produced using Microsoft’s finest close to hand.
PowerPoint is an incredibly powerful sales aid, the most powerful single tool in the salesman’s armoury. But because it is so routinely used in virtually every meeting, its power tends to be taken for granted. And hedge fund salespeople tend to fall into some characteristic traps which limit the effectiveness of their presentation.
Here, from our experience of creating and delivering presentations, are five things you may not have in your hedge fund presentation, but which we think you should include.
The first thing is “YOU”. No, not you the salesman, but ‘you’ the person you are presenting to.
Hedge funds are very specific investment funds, highly focused on a manager’s skill-set. While presenting this is often fascinating and highly educational, its focus on investment process means that many presentations are much more about ‘me the manager’ and not ‘you the potential client’. Ask yourself how often you change your presentation for a different audience. Chances are – not much. Exactly the same presentation tends to be taken for meetings with high net worth private clients as with top consultants or fund selectors. Without tailoring the presentation almost invariably ends up being about ‘me the salesman’ and not ‘you the investor’.
Yet it can be surprisingly simple to tailor it. It may just need a ‘topping and tailing’ of its central core. Start with a few minutes explaining the investment context from the perspective of the potential client, and conclude by showing how you will fit into their allocation and improve the quality of their investment mix. That can make all the difference – you have shown you understand your prospect and have explained how you want to serve him (or her).
So next time, make sure your pitch is not all about ‘me’ and has some of ‘you’ in it.
The focus of a typical hedge fund is its strength. But this can make for some interesting presentational weaknesses. In the long only world, successful managers tend to stress their investment PHILOSOPHY as something distinct from, and as important as, their process. The single-minded hedge fund investor often focused so much on the process that he or she is not able to articulate a clear philosophy at all.
Does this matter? We think so. Process is the method by which things get done. It’s the ‘how’ – what a manager’s day to day routines and work structures are. Philosophy answers the ‘why’ question. An investment philosophy might be as simple as ‘seeking mispricings in credit derivatives’ or ‘identifying unrealised value in small companies’. But investors want to find managers with enduring and logical processes and find it very reassuring to hear that there is an intellectual underpin to it.
In the nitty gritty of passing due diligence screens and fund selectors’ processes, the basic philosophy of why managers work as they do can get forgotten. Then when the big question ‘Why do you do this?’ comes up you can find it isn’t answered in the presentation book at all.
So make sure you can explain the philosophical underpin for your process and never lose sight of it when you present.
Always use examples.
Good presentations follow a logical structure. Starting with the philosophy of the business and the investment process, they explain how the process is built, and how when it is implemented by the investment team it can deliver the expected investment performance. All well and good, and in the hands of the right presenter the whole thing can be laid out neatly and logically inside 20 minutes.
But often there’s something missing. While clever graphics and flow diagrams can help with this articulation, the most persuasive form of illustration is often missing – a live example. Examples are memorable. People often remember the story of how a stock was selected, or why a position was closed, when the minutiae of the process used has been forgotten. And live examples are often more illustrative than even the cleverest graphics. A clear example will naturally explain and justify the steps of the investment process, and bring it to life.
So always illustrate your presentation not just with graphics but with real examples. Use them to show potential investors how your process will build them a better portfolio. Maybe they’ll want to be a part of your next example?
Investment managers sometimes describe themselves as ‘financial engineers’. Many admire fine engineering and are inspired to do with financial products what the great engineers of the past did with iron and wood. But don’t forget that old maxim that ‘an engineer is someone who can do for sixpence what any fool can do for a shilling’.
Consultants use the phrase ‘death by PowerPoint’ to refer to the marketer’s bad habit of exploiting every ingenious tool PowerPoint puts at his disposal – complex graphics, multiple examples of clip-art, flowery builds. Graphics and illustrations have a vital place in bringing complex concepts and processes to life and dramatically shrinking the time needed to put them across. But use them sparingly, where they have the greatest effect. If every page and every concept involves colourful stacks of triangles, boxes and arrows, the effect can be off-putting and the presentation stops being a sales aid and becomes a work of art in its own right.
Can a simple, memorable phrase replace a page-full of flowing design? If you think it might, then it’s probably time to use that powerful but often overlooked key on your keyboard – delete. Start the process of simplifying and clarifying – you’ll soon notice the difference and so will the people you present to.
The final thing to put in your presentation – often missed – is just that: a summary.
Non-marketers especially seem strangely reluctant to put in a concluding page which simply summarises the case they have just delivered. ‘Why should I?’ they say, ’I’ve just said it’. Even when there is a conclusion or summary page they often ignore it and don’t speak to it.
While the presenter may feel that having laid out the case he or she is entitled to stop talking, the listener really appreciates even just a couple of minutes where the presenter draws the threads of his or her case together and rounds off the presentation. It brings the whole thing back up to a high level and naturally it is this simple overview which the listener remembers when the detail is long forgotten. It’s an ideal opportunity for the presenter to explain how each key components of the case relates back to particular needs of the investor. Remember our first point ‘you’? The summary is the classic place where the whole case can persuasively linked to ‘you the investor’.
So if you make sure every presentation has all five of these:
• you not me,
• a philosophy, not just process
• and a summary
And you will find that your presentations are easier to keep up to date, simpler, shorter and more effective.
William Battersby can be contacted via email@example.com or +44 20 3544 4320