Chairing IFA roadshows and other investment events is no walk in the park. Oh sure, I know I make it look effortless but behind my carefully composed expression of intelligent scepticism and benign authority, my mind is constantly awhirl with intricate calculations as I labour to enhance the audience experience or whatever.
Then there is the emotional toll – how do you think it feels politely to ask the delegates to switch off their mobile phones and Blackberries, secure in the knowledge that most would sooner switch off a family member’s life support system, and the venue will soon be alive with assorted squeaks, chirrups and other ringtones?
What about the post-traumatic stress brought on by the pressures of ensuring everything runs to a schedule that never makes any allowances for, a, the time it takes for speakers to arrive at and leave the podium and, b, the natural inclination of most managers to use up every second of their allotted time plugging their fund and usually a minute or two more?
Of course, where I really earn the money at least a few organisations see fit to pay me is in marshalling the panellists of any question and answer session, which is usually to be found tagged on at the end of the event.
Usually a fund group’s marketeers will go out of their way to avoid any situation where a manager might possibly say something that has not been scripted and passed through compliance at least three times.
However, some sort of convention has grown up around roadshows that delegates should be able to ask questions – even if it is only for a period that has averaged out in my experience to somewhere in the region of six and a half minutes.
Occasionally, this has proved to be around six and a half minutes more than is strictly necessary on account of the delegates either being stunned into silence or having had all their questions already answered by the preceding presentations.
Not that I am in a position to criticise the silence, mind you, having asked just one question in 14 years of press conferences on the basis that, if I have a good question, why would I share it with my competitors and, if I have a bad one, why would I advertise my ignorance?
Nevertheless, having dragged the managers back up to the stage to shiftily re-enact the line-up scene from The Usual Suspects or perch on stools like so many Val Doonicans, it would be rude to despatch them back immediately and so I always have a few pre-prepared questions in case of emergency.
And since I may be faced with, say, a UK bond manager, a Japanese equities manager and an absolute return manager and everybody needs to get to say something, these questions will tend, I admit, to be less Newsnight and more Blind Date.
It has not come to it yet but I fear it is only a matter of time before I make good my threat to ask: “If your fund was an animal, what animal would it be and why?”
Around the turn of the year, however – which, for the purposes of investment events, means early November through to late February – my fallback question is to ask each panellist what single event over the next 12 months would most benefit their portfolio and the prospect of which one causes them most concern. In fact, because I like to end on a high, I try – not always successfully – to get them to put the bad news first.
Picture the scene a few Fridays back, then, as I put that question for the final time to the final manager of the final leg of the autumn IQ roadshow, with more than 100 London delegates visibly eager either to head upstairs for the wine and canapes or start their weekend half an hour early – and Artemis’s William Littlewood casually mentions his concern about a major eurozone country defaulting next year.
Somewhat flustered by the need to wind up proceedings, I merely thanked him for uninten-tionally stitching me up and went home feeling as unsatisfied as, well, you must be, having realised this column has just ended.
Julian Marr is editorial director of www.marketing-hub.co.uk and www.thoughtleadershiplive.com