And I thought as a journalist I did a lot of briefings.
It’s been less than three months since I joined the Altimeter Group, and already I’ve conducted dozens of briefings with companies large and small, all active in digital marketing, advertising and media. Taking the advice of my colleague Jeremiah Oywang, my Fridays are pretty much briefing days, as many as 10 (10!) in one day. My briefing calls are scheduled from morning to night, generally starting in Europe and ending somewhere in Silicon Valley. I limit briefings to 30 minutes to keep them on-topic, and almost never conduct them in person. Travel time is a luxury. It would radically curtail the number of companies I’m able to talk with.
Briefings have a lot of value both for the company and the analyst. Analysts are always researching; seeking ideas for new reports, or technologies and case studies that might influence or inform current projects. We’re always seeking people and companies our clients might benefit from knowing (and vice versa). Often, we have our eyes and ears open for ideas that might inform our colleagues’ work as well. Mobile Analyst Chris Silva and I, for example, have been constantly exchanging information and contacts from our briefings as we’re at nearly identical stages in two separate research projects.
At Altimeter we have a system for sharing tagged, cloud-based briefing notes that puts all briefing information at the fingertips of all the company’s analysts and researchers. That makes our jobs easier when we’re trying to find information on specific types of companies or business, and benefits the companies we speak with, too. They’re made more visible to more people.
The above illustrates the value exchange of a briefing. Yet compared with the hundreds (if not thousands) of briefings I’ve conducted as a journalist and editor, I’m too often disappointed at how many companies that brief me now that I’m an analyst fail to take full advantage of an opportunity that could benefit us both. Blame it on start-ups concentrating on a million things to do outside of media training? Probably.
At the risk of sounding precocious (after all, I am a freshly minted analyst), I’d like make some suggestions for getting the most out of an analyst briefing.
- Half an hour goes quickly. I begin every call by telling callers at exactly what time I have a hard stop. Please don’t be late. And please don’t focus on the information available on your web site. I’ve already read it. Too many briefings end with revealing the really new and compelling idea two minutes before our call ends and the next call must begin. Don’t bury the lede!
- Five executives on a call are at least three too many. See above, about 30 minutes elapsing quickly. Everyone wants the opportunity to talk. This results in too much noise and very little signal. Otherwise put: the more, the fluffier.
- Provide names, titles and email addresses of who will be on the call – in advance. I can look up their bios. This saves a ton of time on intros, and allows me to prepare better, more focused questions.
- Provide any deck, presentation materials, or online meeting URL at least one day in advance. The sheer number of companies that send presentation materials literally seconds before (sometimes, during) a briefing is Pet Peeve #1. A company did this last Friday via a service that required me to establish, then verify, a new user account in order to download their materials. It’s unfair (not to mention impossible) to ask an analyst to do this in what’s often literally a 45 second window between two briefings. Let’s both agree to be locked, loaded and ready to go when our briefing is scheduled to begin.
- Please talk clearly and into the phone You want your message heard. Please talk directly into the phone (not the speakerphone), particularly if one of us is speaking a non-native language. We’re trying to understand one another. The analyst is also taking notes.
- A briefing is not a speech, it’s a conversation In briefings I far too often can’t get a word in edgewise (and I’m a person not known to be shy about piping up). Some executives get on a roll and cannot – will not – be stopped until they’ve delivered a message from beginning to end. (Most often, it’s those working from a deck. Some are a bit nervous, which they try to cover by being overly verbose.) Yes, a briefing is a presentation, but it’s also a conversation. The analyst has questions, as well as a research agenda. They want to hear about your company and product. Make sure they understand the message. Pause. Perhaps make an effort to throw in, “Any questions?,” “Is that clear?” or “Does this relate to any research projects you’re working on now?” Try to make the briefing even more relevant to the analyst than they hoped it would be when they set it up with you.
That’s it from me. What about companies out there that are veterans of analyst briefings? How can we make briefings easier, better and more valuable for you?
Oh, and to request a briefing with me, or any other Altimeter Group analyst, please fill out this form.
p.s. Turns out I’m far from the first analyst at Altimeter to tackle this topic. Take a look at what Jeremiah has to say (with links to Charlene Li weighing in as well).