A hugely important part of any deal roadshow is the group meetings. These enable management to get as many investors in front of them as possible, as there are only a finite number of 1:1 slots.
Booking a venue for a group meeting sounds relatively simple, but there are so many things that can go wrong, and this is where venue knowledge and a relationship with the sales and catering managers goes a long way. I always prefer to stick with venues who I have known for years, and I know are used to running roadshows. These are usually booked at the last minute, so you need to know that the kitchen will be able to produce lunch for 50 people with 24 hours’ notice (you may be able to book the venue weeks in advance, but until the deal launches and you receive the RSVPs, you really have no idea how many will turn up).
There is also how well they handle your incoming documentation – are the loading bay equipped to get them to the room within a couple of hours, or do they sit there, waiting for someone to come and claim them? I have lost count of the number of times I have ended up galloping around, trying to locate prospectuses and presentations that have disappeared into thin air.
How accommodating are they to external AV companies coming in? Some venues prefer you to use their in-house companies, but a lot of coordinators are only comfortable using their preferred suppliers. I have previously had any number of roadblocks thrown up, from giving them the wrong room dimensions to refusing them access until one hour before the event starts.
Using knowledgeable staff is so important as well – the better venues will ensure that there is always someone there to assist with any last minute changes, show clients to the correct room or ensure that the one vegetarian in a room of 50 gets the correct meal. The last thing you want is for the staff to disappear the second they have finished laying out the room and you can’t find anyone for love nor money when your CEO is begging for a quick cup of coffee before everyone arrives.
Signage is hugely important – many venues rely on human signage, which I admit is a bugbear of mine. Not because the people they choose to do it are not doing their job well, but the second they are busy with someone, rather than waiting, everyone else tends to wander off and try and find the room themselves. Most roadshow coordinators have become rather effective bouncers due to this.
Menus are important as well, as it is difficult for chefs to produce exciting and different meals with such short notice on numbers. The joke among bankers, when told they have to attend a group lunch, is “please not rubber chicken again”. Can you imagine being an investor going to a group lunch up to five times in a week and being presented with the same meal every time? A venue that can mix it up, but still produce great quality food will always be very popular among coordinators.
They aren’t always straightforward either – some companies want additional branding in the venue e.g. I ran a Bond Issuance Roadshow for a sports car manufacturer about a year ago. We decided that showing off two of their latest sports cars at the group lunch would be a nice touch; so sourcing a venue that would accommodate this was our first task. Grocers’ Hall proved to be perfect – right next to the Bank of England and with their own car park. I’m sure it made no difference to the presentation, but it certainly brightened up everyone’s day.
Finally, the most important aspect is budget. There are many venues who supply the above, but are ridiculously overpriced. Don’t take that as market average, you can, and will get a much better price if you shop around. One of my favourite venues in London is an international, five star chain, yet they offer fabulously competitive rates.
If you don’t book venues very often, it is such a minefield, especially when you consider that there are about 1,500 hotels in London alone. In such circumstances, I would thoroughly recommend getting a venue finder to deal with it for you. For many years I have used SixStar, who work for the majority of financial institutions and know exactly what questions to ask you, will work around your wishes and budget and will save you time and stress.