For three days in early May, over 40,000 investors and spectators will flock to the city of Omaha Nebraska to attend what many call the “Woodstock for Capitalist.” The annual Berkshire Hathaway Inc (NYSE: BRK.A) Shareholder meeting attracts crowds and offers attendees a chance to learn in person from legendary investors Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. It’s an event like no other, and in this post, we’ll attempt to give you everything you need to know to make the most out of the trip.
Before You Arrive
Book Accommodations – It goes without saying, but you’ll want to line up your accommodations well in advance. Hotels close to the convention center offer the best proximity to interact with other investors and participate in all the events. However, if you are looking to save on expenses, check out hotels further out or listings on Airbnb.
Secure a Ticket – Yes, you need the proper credentials to gain access to the shareholder events. If you are not a shareholder of BRK.A or BRK.B, there are ways to secure a ticket. Check auction platforms like eBay or local listing pages like Craigslist. Typically you can find shareholders who aren’t able to attend or have received more tickets than they can utilize. If you still are having trouble locating a ticket, ask around in various investor networking groups. You would be surprised how helpful others can be in locating a ticket.
Read the Shareholder Letter – Every year Buffett parts valuable wisdom and witty insight within the pages of the Berkshire Hathaway Annual letters. Reading through the current shareholder letter will give you a leg up on understanding what items might come up during the shareholder meeting.
Find Meet Ups and Other Outside Events – For three days you will be surrounded by other individuals who share similar interest. The environment is extremely friendly, and there are opportunities all over the city to meet great people. If you are looking to interact with other value-oriented investors check out a gathering like the one organized by Stig and Preston of The Investors Podcast. Other options can be found with a simple Google search. Either way, there are plenty of opportunities to mingle and meet other individuals interested in investing.
Insider Tip: There are also other events that aren’t sponsored by Berkshire Hathaway, but that are available for Berkshire attendees. Creighton University’s Heider College of Business and Portfolio Practicum class host a value investing panel discussion at 3 pm on Friday. Admission is free and you can hear from and ask questions of leading value investors.
– Dr. Robert Johnson, President & CEO of The American College of Financial Services, Author of Strategic Value Investing
You’ve Arrived, What Now?
Now that you have arrived in Omaha, it’s time to make the most of your trip. For the most part, everywhere you go you will have the opportunity to bump into interesting people with similar interest that are in town for the meeting.
Hit the Scenic Locations – If you are really there for pilgrimage, don’t be afraid to act like a tourist and take in all the notorious locations that have played as setting for Buffett’s career. Snap a picture in front of Kewitt Plaza, where Buffett has steered the ship for over 50 years. Tour Boy’s Town, where Buffett so proudly helped his investment The Sun Newspaper earn a Pulitzer in 1973. Visit the Nebraska Furniture Mart, where legendary operator Mrs. B worked in the company until her passing at age 103. Shop at Borsheims, the local jewelry retailer Buffett added to Berkshire in 1989.
Visit The Exhibit Hall – The exhibit hall located in CenturyLink convention center showcases nearly all of Berkshire Hathaway brands. It’s an impressive setup with great deals exclusively available for shareholders (and those with the display credentials to enter). Even if you are not interested in the shopping aspect, be sure to stroll through for the overall enjoyment from an investor perspective. Seeing all the brands in one location gives you a real appreciation of what Buffett and Munger have accomplished in building one of the greatest conglomerates in history. As you stop by various exhibits you will also have a unique opportunity to interact with Berkshire Hathaway CEOs. Many of the brand’s operators are on the exhibit floor and more than willing to chat with investors and those interested in learning about their businesses.
Attend Other Events – Hopefully, you did some planning and found a few non-Berkshire Hathaway events to attend. There is no shortage of investing oriented events that offer great opportunities to hear panel discussions and learn from top individuals in the industry. Another great way to find activities of this nature is to strike up conversations with other individuals. You would be surprised how friendly and inclusive the atmosphere is. Typically Mutual Funds, Hedge Funds, and Service Providers have gone out of their way to organize events that are informative and open to all. Take advantage of the setting.
Insider Tip: Make reservation’s at Gorats ahead of time. It’s Warren’s favorite steakhouse and he always eats there Friday night with some BRK CEOs. – Kathryn Leste, Event Manager of The Value Investor Conference
Night Life – After a full day it’s tempting to turn in early. If you make it out you’ve got great opportunities to meet other great people and enjoy more staple opportunities that Omaha has to offer. For dinner, you’re in no better place to enjoy a fantastic steak. Buffett’s favorite spot is Gorat’s Steakhouse, where he orders the T-Bone with hash browns. Other great dining options can be found in the charming area of The Old Market. In The Old Market, you’ll find great restaurants and fantastic bars to grab drinks and mingle with other value investors.
Insider Tip: Go to the Hilton across the street. I’ve met Howard Buffett and Mario Gabelli. I believe Bill Gates stays there. As a first-timer, you probably won’t get invited to A-list parties. Many of these people hold hundreds of millions of dollars in Berkshire Hathaway stock and have been coming for years. They know many people at the Annual Meeting and have a routine. – Holmes Osborne, CFA Osborne Global Investors
The Shareholder Meeting
Arrive Early – If you are looking for a seat up close, be prepared to arrive early. Lines start forming as soon as 5 am and some devoted attendees arrive even earlier than that.
Insider Tip: If you are saving seats for a group, grab an Omaha World Herald on your way in the door and wear a few extra layers so you can spread out. They will let you save as many seats as you can secure until 8:00 am. – Kathryn Leste, Event Manager of The Value Investor Conference
Paper Toss – If you have someone saving your seat or aren’t as concerned with securing seats towards the front, venture over to the exhibit hall where Buffett pays tribute to his roots as a paper boy in the annual paper toss. This is a fan favorite and draws quite the crowd. Bill Gates typically serves as Buffett’s challenger giving you the opportunity to see two titans of industry up close and in person.
Kicking Off The Meeting – Before the kickoff of the meeting, attendees are entertained with an exclusive video made only for the viewing of in person participants. Buffett asks directly that individuals not record the video. This short film typically includes hilarious spoofs, celebrity appearances, and tributes to historical moments of Berkshire Hathaway’s history. Although the video changes from year to year, Buffett is consistent in making sure coverage of the Salomon mishap in include, as a humble reminder.
The Meeting – Sit back and take in what can only be described as fantastic commentary from two of the brightest minds in investing. Throughout the meeting, Buffett will have his Cherry Coke, and Munger will munch on Peanut Brittle as casual as if they were in your living room. Together they go through commenting on Berkshire Hathaway performance, economic concerns and general thoughts around business.
Questions – After Buffett and Munger cover general Berkshire Hathaway commentary, the floor is open to questions. Buffett loves the challenge and encourages the audience to throw their best questions at him and Munger. If you are interested in asking the duo something you can submit your questions to one of the three journalists below or be a lucky selected winner on the morning of the shareholder meeting.
Becky Quick, of CNBC, at BerkshireQuestions@cnbc.com
Carol Loomis, of Fortune, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Ross Sorkin, of The New York Times, email@example.com
Intermission – Early afternoon the meeting will break for intermission. You can order box lunches in advance and eat in the arena or walk to one of the nearby restaurants.
Insider Tip: Grab a quick lunch and use the remainder of the time walking the floor of the convention center. Even if you don’t have a saved seat you can access the floor and run into notable industry leaders like John Bogle and Mohnish Pabrai.
Move Up In The Afternoon – The afternoon session is less crowded and offers a great opportunity for you to “upgrade” your seating. Move up to take advantage of being closer to the stage, especially if you didn’t make the early wake up call to previously secure a prime seat.
After The Meeting
The meeting typically concludes after 4pm, but that doesn’t mean the fun is over.
Attend The Picnic – The Nebraska Furniture Mart hosts the annual picnic allowing attendees to choose from various food vendors and enjoy more interacting with other attendees. It’s a fun event and at $5 per a meal, a great value that even Buffett’s thriftiness could justify.
Spectate / Participate In The Race – Sunday morning the annual Brooks 5K kicks off. Get out and work off those calories from all the See’s Candy and Dairy Queen you’ve consumed over the weekend. The race makes its way through downtown Omaha, and although Buffett and Munger don’t participate, they often do spectate.
The annual Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting is an event like no other. What other shareholder meeting draws north of 40,000 attendees to hear discussions on what could otherwise be read in an annual report. Take advantage of the opportunity and attend. You’ll make friends, learn new things, and see up close two of the greatest value investors ever.