My First Virtual Conference!

Posted by Kem Taylor on May 22, 2020 11:04:00 AM

My First Virtual Conference

I had been looking forward to attending the Investment News Women Advisor Summit, but when an in-person event was no longer an option I was excited when Investment News did the ultimate pivot and changed their all-day onsite Summit to a virtual webcast.

Hotel and meeting rooms were cancelled, and their technology team got to work. The webcast was scheduled for May 14th. Attendees received an email the day before with directions on how to view the event that included a great video introduction from Liz Skinner.

A Digital Experience

I’d been wondering how a conference would work virtually. I didn’t know what to expect and it was easy. The eight sessions were listed on a main page. At the beginning time of the session, you just clicked the session’s “View Now” button, and you were connected. You could see each speaker and it was easy to access their bios, slides, and resources.

There were 600 people attending and speakers from 10 different cities–their largest event ever! Questions could be submitted throughout the sessions and were posted and answered in real time on social media using @investmentnews and #womenadvisersummit2020. Every session had a different topic and a bit of a different format which helped the time fly by.

I put my desk in stand-up mode and walked around my home office (spare bedroom) while listening. I closed all other open apps in order to really focus on each woman speaking. I also decided to dress in business casual, as if I was at a live conference–just no heels!

Session Highlights 

Each of the eight sessions was insightful and inspiring. I think I must have written down over 150 great ideas shared!

In her session, our very own Christine Sjölin described how moving from a siloed business model to an entity with multiple generations of owners enables you to have a strong, sustainable business. It can provide a career path with an eventual goal of being a part owner in the business. It also reinforces that this is not a “sales” career. Diverse firms grow more quickly, are better positioned to acquire and have built in succession. For women, it is important to consider that your succession plan may also include a merger or an acquisition. More women-led teams will create more visibility for young female professionals. 

Julia Carlson’s session emphasized the importance of taking full advantage of all of the features your technology has available to you in order for your firm to automate tasks and to be most efficient. This gives you more time to support your clients such as creating video messages. Being visual is really powerful – especially now. Learn more about Julia here. 

During her fireside chat, Shannon Eusey shared that having people work from home levels the playing field–it offers flexibility for women to manage childcare for instance–and may encourage more women to enter the advisory field. Shannon also suggested advisors reach out to local schools to offer financial literacy programs. She encouraged women to contact her for more information.  

Liz Skinner, Laura Gregg, Jennifer Bacarella and Kate Healy spoke about next-gen talent and shared some ideas for hiring and retaining talent such as offering to help new staff with student debt, have a career path, and focusing on diversity hiring. They also shared information about the FPA Externship Program which addresses the loss of summer internships this year. 

During her presentation, Susan Kay shared worksheets to help advisors show their value to their clients. Topics included guidelines for legacy planning, holding a finance webinar for client’s children, sending personalized gifts, and calling elderly clients to check in on them in these pandemic times. 

Robyn Crane said there needs to be a shift to new ways of sales and marketing. She suggested a good first step is to identify and then clone your ideal client. Learn more about Robyn here. 

Krista Goryl interviewed Jennifer Garcia and Wendy Eddy. They shared the insight that clients may be turning more closely to advisors given their distancing from their friends and family. Wendy said she actually has more time to spend with clients (on Zoom) since she is not spending as much time traveling. 

There were many great insights shared throughout the day including new ways to market to clients, encouraging community outreach, connecting with clients during our current global situation, creative ideas for recruiting and retaining next-gen talent, and the importance of firm diversity.

Final Thoughts

I was glad the event was such a success, and that the virtual format allowed for so many more attendees than usual. But I did miss being there with other people and having the chance to meet and talk to other advisors and industry leaders. I missed learning about individual businesses and hearing everyone’s stories. The event organizers did a wonderful job of moving the “networking” aspect of things to Twitter. They used social to facilitate those conversations. Leaders also used the social conversations to answer questions and share insights live during the event.

There is a great opportunity for collaboration and the attendees were encouraged to continue the conversation! I think that there actually may be more collaboration than after a regular conference since people are now used to meeting virtually and may not feel limited to working with people in their geographical area.

I don’t think the virtual event will replace conferences as we knew them once we can start sharing space again. I think people are going to want to be together. At on-site events, things happen organically. You sit down at a table at lunch and make a connection – whether personal or business. You get the chance to meet advisors, educators, and vendors alike. I think people are going to want to get back to that, I know I do.

Topics: Commentary, Investment News, Events