How to lead a Virtual Private Equity Conference

By Lucy Palin, MiF Admissions Manager

It’s safe to say that we’re all very comfortable with engaging in a virtual world. Whether it’s catching up with friends or strategy planning at work. It’s been an unexpected delight to see how well everything works virtually but it’s easy to forget the learning curve we have all gone through.

Andre Chacur De Miranda, MiF2020, was planning to lead the Private Equity Trek to Brazil, a LBS event gathering top talents to visit key PE firms in the region. However, as COVID-19 spread he had to work out on how he was going to deliver a highly anticipated PE event, virtually.

I asked Andre how he did it…

So, Andre, how do you even begin to make a conference virtual when you had planned something to be delivered in person? 

By that time, the first week of March, the main concern was to call-off the event. Although we had everything planned to visit Rio and São Paulo in Brazil; flights and accommodation were all booked, firms were scheduled and we had a highly motivated group of LBS students, the outbreak was escalating extremely fast and the global situation was dramatically changing every day.

Thus, the PE Trek in March was cancelled, and by August I started to re-organise it – which became the first fully virtual LBS Private Equity/Venture Capital conference. I was confident the event would be successful, especially after the great experience from LBS virtual classes. I also joined some virtual conferences and events to understand its dynamics and what could work best for us.

When planning the virtual event, a lot of things had changed but the shift to virtual had a lot of value and there were more benefits than expected.

What were the main things you had to keep in mind when planning the conference?

I kept in mind that I needed to re-think almost everything from organisation to logistics.

On one hand, a great benefit that arose was the possibility to add more participants to the event, with more students having the opportunity to learn, and firms had access to a broader pool of LBS talent. The general logistics were significantly easier to manage (e.g., people not having to travel from UK to Brazil or, during the event, not having to rush from one meeting to another). Plus, not having to travel enabled the event to run in parallel with classes (instead of block-week limited) and to have more flexibility in the conference agenda (e.g., greater spacing between meetings vs having all of it in a week).

On the other hand, one of my greatest concerns was to efficiently manage LBS participants attendance and engagement; in my view, it’s crucial to have students who are highly motivated and engaged in order to represent the LBS community well. I tested different ways to mitigate that risk and overall, it worked well. I have learnt some great lessons and shared them internally with colleagues that will be organising upcoming LBS conferences. Finally, not meeting the speakers in-person wasn’t a huge loss for the LBS group – the PE/VC industry values long-standing relationships and meeting virtually is also a great way to start promising professional connections overseas.

How did the conference go, what were your highlights? 

It went super well and all the effort that the LBS PE group put in was definitely worth it. The LBS students were very active and helped with all aspects of organising the event, bringing renowned speakers, working together on prep-materials and actively participating on meetings Q&A sessions. In terms of post-event outcomes, a lot of the lessons learnt, and suggestions were later on shared within the LBS community (including the PE/VC and Social Impact clubs) to improve upcoming virtual conferences.

We all learned a lot about the PE/VC landscape in Brazil, thanks to the world-class line-up of speakers from diverse segments of the industry including global PE investors, local PE and VC investors, co-investors, sovereign funds and fund of funds. Having a quite diverse mix of funds resulted in agendas with different topics and structures, which was key in providing a more complete and enjoyable learning experience. It was also very interesting to hear the different investment and value creation approaches and perspectives from local mid-market to large global buyout firms. The speakers were highly qualified, very open, friendly and motivated to spend time with us. This meant we had very productive informal Q&A sessions, in which we discussed insightful topics about careers, investing, trends, ESG and many other industry-related topics.

We met a lot of interesting PE/VC investors that are shaping the Brazilian real economy and fostering economic growth. It was clear that there’s a lot of growth ahead in the Brazilian PE/VC industry and the firms are excited about the coming years, even under the current challenging pandemic scenario.

Overall, the conference was an outstanding learning and networking opportunity, and certainly one of the professional highlights of my LBS experience!

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