Food for thought | 10/05/2015
Are there too many conferences for advisors to choose from?
How do you pick the best conferences for your firm?
Is it just me, or are there way too many conferences? I’ve just come off of three weeks on the road, and now I’m staring down the barrel of an October, November, December, January conference stretch.
But maybe … it’s not just me.
Most of my conference experience comes from the vendor/partner side of the conference circuit – where I helped advisors learn about the best-of-the-best advisory technology software out there.
As Mineral works with more advisor partners, we are seeing conferences through the eyes of our customers. And because we help shape their strategic marketing and business development, the time spent on conferences becomes a valuable part of the overall marketing budget.
When we talk with advisors about their strategic marketing and firm growth, our greatest difficulty seems to be guiding people to conferences that will actually benefit their practices.
Here are ways we suggest you evaluate if a conference is good for you and your team or not.
Will it help solve a problem?
This is an important question to ask. As you routinely evaluate your organization, you should identify problems within the organization. You can then gauge a conference’s program through the lens of the areas in which you need to improve.
If you do see a possible solution — perhaps there’s a presentation that specifically addresses your issue — then you can start making travel arrangements. If the solution is in a specific speaker, though, consider your time as well as the speaker’s, and decide if you’ll actually have enough time to arrive to a meaningful conclusion.
Choose a conference to attend that is outside your industry.
You need a fresh perspective. We recommend events like MicroConf, Creative South, or Circles Conference. These events are designed to inspire you and help you do what you do as more of an artist. Try to attend one every 18 months or so.
Should I send someone else?
Perhaps you see a solution, but you are way too busy to leave the office for a few days. You should consider sending someone else.
Make sure that whoever you send isn’t there just to hit every open bar and pick up tchotchkes. Keep them accountable by reviewing the sessions they’ll attend ahead of time and setting up small achievable goals that are fun and development-oriented (e.g, snag a blue-shirt selfie with Michael Kitces or catch Bill Winterberg doing a Periscope, but also learn about how tools like Riskalyze, eMoney or Jemstep can transform our practice.)
In doing this, the two of you can work together to develop a strategic plan for the conference.
Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate.
Just because the conference ended doesn’t mean it’s over. Sure, you have to return to your everyday duties, but now is the time to reflect.
Evaluate whether the conference was a good fit for your organization or not.
The best way to evaluate is to first summarize your experience. Detail what you learned, who you met and how you were inspired. By summarizing the experience, you can specifically compare it to the objectives you’d hoped to accomplish.
Will I make new connections that can enhance the trajectory of my firm?
Often, growth comes not just from what you know but who you know. Conferences present a great opportunity for you to meet industry experts who could potentially impact how you grow your practice. As you consider this point, think about how you would want to change the trajectory of your firm and look at a number of people you think may be able to help you in one way or another. Make simple goals to say hello and introduce yourself while at the event.
Perhaps you’re still on the fence about whether or not you should attend. Here are a few tips to help give you some more direction.
- Make sure you check out the conference website and get familiar with the schedule. Map out what your agenda would look like at the event.
- See if there is an opportunity to make the event worth attending for you and your spouse. A lot of advisors I know use conferences (particularly on the coasts) as a great opportunity to have a mini vacation with their loved one.
- Check out how interesting last year’s conference was. Look for the past year’s conference hashtag and see what you can learn from Twitter. If the event doesn’t appear interesting last year, you may save some time by not going this year.
- Ask around. See if you have any other contacts that are going to the event or if they have any insight on the event’s worthwhileness.
We’ve created a downloadable conference action sheet to help you get the most out of your conference attendance. You can use the download to check off primary and secondary objectives you want to take away from the conference.
Use the downloadable one-sheet to give accountability to your team members when they attend conferences and to increase the value your firm gets from conference attendance.
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