The Ten Morning Call Commandments

Brokerages all over the country hold a daily “morning call” to communicate the ideas of the analysts and the priorities of the firm that day. It’s a tradition that’s been going on forever. Nicholas Colas of ConvergEx lays out ten rules for pulling off a morning call meeting flawlessly…


The list below is our “10 Commandments” for efficient communication on a Wall Street morning call.  The rules really apply to all short bursts of public speaking, so feel free to adapt them to any occasion.  Wedding toasts, bail hearings, that kind of thing.

1.       You have 3 minutes to win the audience over.  Make no mistake: if there is more than one speaker at any event, the audience will make comparisons and decide which one they like better/best.  One mantra among seasoned analysts is “Make your call the easiest to remember”.  Your goal, after all, is to have either salespeople (for brokerage morning calls) or portfolio managers (for investment firms) act on your recommendation.  And in order to do that they must remember it first.


2.       Speak at a moderate pace.  The biggest rookie mistake in the book: talking too fast, mistaking number of words spoken for impact.  Audiobooks typically run 150 words per minute, so that’s your bogey.  When in doubt, slow it down.


3.       Organize your thoughts into three key points.  Every good stock analyst knows this trick.  In their realm, the 3 issues are always the same: Industry dynamics, company fundamentals, and valuation.  Even if a stock recommendation isn’t your topic, try to have three points.  Lead with the most important one.  Close with your call to action.  More on that in a minute.


4.       You are feeding someone else’s process (a.k.a. know your audience).  This is the hardest point for many speakers to understand.  No one is actually listening to you.  They are – in real time – processing your words through their filter.  Brokerage salespeople are trying to understand how they will present your call to their clients.  At a money management firm, portfolio managers are judging whether your idea is relevant to them.  Either way, put yourself in the shoes of your audience.  What are they supposed to do with what you are saying?  Why should they care?


5.       Be visible.  One of the central ironies of the brokerage world is that a firm might employ 50 analysts but only have one or two on any given morning to help generate ideas for its salespeople and customers.  Stock analysis is a numbers game, and the more shots on goal you get the more you score.


6.       Be there when things go wrong.  There is an old saying in motorcycle clubs: there are two kinds of riders – those that have fallen off, and those that will.  Making investment recommendations is the same way.  Something will always go wrong. But when it does, you have to make yourself available and accountable.  Rip the Band-Aid off and move along.


7.       Don’t read the paper/earnings release/corporate statement.  Literacy rates on Wall Street are almost 100%, so chances are that everyone knows the basics.  They want analysis, judiciously supported by a few key numbers.  Not a rehash of the news.


8.       Be careful with humor and tone.  Some people become insecure balls of mush when forced into public speaking.  They try humor – oddly, almost always off color – as a way to connect with the audience.  They are then ostracized and end up running a food cart in Brooklyn.  Don’t end up running a food cart in Brooklyn.  Don’t tell jokes.


9.       Make your bottom line as clear as possible.  Imagine that your listeners must distill your 3 minutes of carefully intoned wisdom into a three sentence sound bite.  Make it easy – just tell them: here is what you need to know…  One, two, three.


10.   Make a call to action.  You need to tell your audience what you want them to do.  This is the reason – possibly the only valid one – why the whole “Buy/Sell/Hold” structure still lingers on the Street.  It’s no good making an elegant speech if no one knows what to do with it at the end.  And, of course, say it all with confidence.  No one likes a limp handshake of an idea.

Pencils down… that’s the end of the formal lesson. 


Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group, a global brokerage company based in New York.

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