Conferences, Commercial Realities and making use of our most valuable commodity.

I’m fortunate.

I get to talk to some really great people in our profession.

I get to share ideas with some of the ‘best and brightest’ in financial planning in the UK.

and

I get to learn loads from a bunch of interesting, forward thinking and dynamic chaps and chapesses (the female version of Chaps….and a word I’ve just invented!)

A lot of these conversations happen online or in small get togethers but a few times during the year I get to meet up with a lot of these people en-masse in one room. Usually at some form of  financial planning conference.

I’ve also just come back from the Citywire conference. I feel part of this community and really like not only the advisers but also their talented editorial team.

I enjoyed the headline speakers but did find a lot of the “breakout session” content wasn’t my cup of tea and at time the event felt like it had been designed to satisfy sponsors requirements and not delegates.

This may be just my personal taste in content or it might be because the commercial reality of putting on an expensive event in London provided free to advisers means that the content is guided by sponsorship and not want the delegates want. I’m not sure of the answer to this.

However I did get loads of value from the days due to having the chance to chat to other advisers and this is one of the reasons I attend.

There are other reasons I attend conferences….

I want to take the time out of the office not only to think about working ‘on’ and not only  ‘in’ my business.

I want to spend time with people who I can learn from (weirdly a lot of the learning comes after a beer or wine and people are more comfortable talking about the real challenges and achievements within their own organisations and lives).

Attending conferences also allows me the opportunity to listen to individuals who expand my perspective, challenge my ideas and allow me to not only develop my business but also develop as an individual.

and

Lastly it gives me the chance to develop new ideas and look at opportunities for potential collaboration (something I seem to be doing a lot of more of in recent months!)

However I’m also conscious that attending a number of these events (especially the ones which last a couple of days or more) means that it eats into my, and probably your, most valuable commodity….Time!

Here lies the issue. I’m finding when my time is more in demand than ever I need to make certain decisions around the sort of conference events I attend.

This is never going to be a decision about “paid” vs “free” conferences as I’d much rather put my hand in my pocket and spend a few quid attending an event I believe I’m going to get genuine value from than go along for a ‘freebie’.

However there are plenty of ‘free’ events which I believe advisers do get loads of value from (I’m sort of obliged to say this saying as i’m speaking at a few this year!)

Over the course of the conference I got involved in conversations about this subject with a few different people.

I spoke to MDRT evangelists, fellow supporters of the IFP community and individuals who only attend Citywire events. Each were as passionate on their perspective as the next but couldn’t really put their finger on (or it may be me not being able to get to the bottom of) on their certain selection was the best approach.

So I therefore turn to the Adviser Lounge community for some help…

Let’s say an email lands in your inbox. It invites you to a conference, or one day event, or something with travelling will involve you taking you a decent amount of time out of your day…

How do you decide whether an event is worth going to? Do you look for the speakers to give you a fresh perspective or more knowledge? Do you aim for business practice knowledge, or technical knowledge, or a combination of the two? How much of a factor is the other delegates you know who attend?

Also, and this was a completely fair point raised by someone I spoke to during the Citywire conference (although not one I agree with), with the fact that we can connect to many of the people we want to online, listen to many of the speakers at these conferences via their You Tube channels and CPD hours in a bunch of different ways….is there much point to these sort of conferences at all?

 

In short (and to help me make potentially better decisions in the future) the question is:-

How, with so many commitments on all of our time do you decide what events to attend, if any?

and

How do you decide?

As ever I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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9 thoughts on “Conferences, Commercial Realities and making use of our most valuable commodity.

  • Good question Chris,

    It’s the networking with top people that I am prepared to pay for. That, and not being spoken down to by Providers who call us ‘Distributors’.

    The IFP Conference ALWAYS gives me that, so its first in the diary. The PFS conference gives me most of that, and I think is still worth going to. The FPA Conference in the USA helps me see what other people are doing from time to time, so I go every 3 or 4 years

    I do not see ‘Free’ events as delivering the same value. And I understand why.

    Reply
    • Thanks Phil…

      …and you make an interesting point about the language used by product providers for the advisory community. Thinking about it the words providers choose to use can be pretty revealing on how they perceive their relationship with advisers.

      I agree with the IFP conference (and will be attending this year) and for me this is the one which I not only enjoy but get loads of value from.

      I just need to be more selective with the rest.

      Reply
  • This is an important post. Personally, my default response is ‘no’. There are very few conference type events I consider to be of any value, relative to the alternative methods of gaining the same knowledge and/or inspiration.

    One exception is our local IFP branch meetings which I do try to attend when I can. They take very little time out of my day (30 minutes each way door to door travelling time, 90 minutes of content typically) and the topics covered are usually relevant.

    I’m planning to attend the IFP Conference this year, for the first time, and have been to the PFS Conference in the past.

    I used to find the Money Marketing exhibition style events very good, as (despite it being a whole day out of the office), I could pick and choose relevant sessions and combine this with some networking.

    I can’t imagine attending a Citywire style conference which product pushing and fund manager updates, simply because there are more efficient ways to experience this online etc.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Martin and I agree that typically ‘no’ should be the answer to most invitations.

      I enjoy the IFP London meetings but are less of a time hoover due to the fact they are usually in London after office hours and doesn’t take huge chunks of the week out of my diary.

      They also get some great speakers….the hostage negotiator from the last IFP meeting was a particular highlight!

      Reply
  • The IFP analyses feedback from all of its events and we make every effort to deliver a great learning experience, and to give attendees plenty of opportunities to network. With an incredible level of support and input from the events committee (all IFP members from a range of businesses, locations, and roles), we will as usual be revising the structure and content of this year’s IFP annual conference. We all evolve and what delegates are looking for in 2014 may be slightly different so we hope that new speakers and sessions we’ve got planned build positively on the great feedback from 2013. Watch this space.

    Reply
    • Thanks Steve….and the fact that you listen to your delegates, receive feedback and act on it all the way down the line shows in the quality and relevance of the speakers.

      The fact that I’ve been to the IFP conference 2 years on the trot and intend to be there again this year confirms this fact.

      I think the key factor, and one you pick up on your response, is how important it is to keep the content relevant and continuously evolving!

      Reply
  • Hi Chris
    Our research amongst Personal Finance Society members indicates a range of different reasons why advisers attend face to face events. The last round of quarterly regional conferences saw 1,800 attendees. Some crave technical excellence, others are looking for practical business development ideas. But the opportunity to network with peers and share best practice is also a key draw for many (they repeatedly tell us that running a small advisory business can be lonely).

    Of course, some choose not to attend face to face events (or do so rarely) as they are able to satisfy much of their CPD and professional interactions online.

    Funding is an interesting point. There is a lot of training and CPD available but the independence and quality varies enormously. However, the plethora of events and roadshows in recent years has created a general expectation that there is no need to pay to derive value. We choose to make Personal Finance Society events free to members because we do not want cost to be a barrier. Whilst there is a danger that this devalues content through perception those that consume it tend to recognise a significant value. As part of a Chartered body with a clear consumer remit there would be little point in us excluding some from the drive to raise standards across the profession purely on the basis of affordability.

    There is evidence that many product providers are now pulling back from the event space, so I would expect the number of invitations that you receive will begin to reduce. There is also evidence of the inevitable flight to quality.

    Reply
    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’ve always been impressed by the quality of PFS events and
      I agree that as our profession changes and adapts there will be a ‘flight to quality’ which will mean that the number of events will decrease with only the ones which truly add value left to remain….it would be interesting to see how long that takes!

      The funding points you make are interesting and I fully understand the fact that you want to spread the content you provide as far and possible, with cost not being a barrier to entry.

      However there is a counter point….

      Due to the fact that these free events are funded by providers (who usually want the opportunity to state their case) have we got the opportunity to charge a small amount and have provider impartiality so that the development we undertake isn’t only about the products which may be appropriate to recommend….but actually about helping the clients we serve?

      I’m not sure of the answer and I’m also not sure that as a profession we’ve got it right yet!! However by asking questions we just might get a little bit closer!

      Reply
      • Chris,
        You are right in that some advisers are happy to pay for 100% impartiality, but our experience is that the numbers are small, so we seek to achieve a balance.
        Our Chartered Champions have had a lot of success recently in organising collaborative events with solicitors and accountants to share expertise both ways.
        We must also remember that there is generally a lot of technical expertise employed by sponsors and where we allow sponsor participation we are very careful to ensure this is harnessed for the maximum benefit of members. We dictate content and only allow presentations to be educational.
        We also balance such sessions by putting totally independent specialists on the programme alongside them. Especially those that bring the client perspective and focus.
        The growing number of attendees at these events suggest we are achieving a decent balance and members certainly don’t feel like recipients of sales pitches.
        But as you and Phil point out there is also often huge value in just networking and sharing ideas and best practice with your peers.
        Good luck in your selections!

        Reply

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