If you have been a member of our glorious profession for any length of time, you have likely been to an industry event. You know what I mean: the full-day seminar at the golf club or the two-day conference at the big convention centre.
Whether you are there to network, gain technical knowledge or just to obtain the continuing professional development, you have to admit they are mostly dull affairs. Or is it just me?
I really do try to keep an open mind but I am finding it more difficult as I get older.
These days, if I go to a conference or seminar, I am usually going for the conversations over coffee or in the bar. That is where the value is for me. Usually, just one look at the agenda is enough to put me to sleep.
Part of my problem is geography. I live in Penzance, which is a long way from anywhere, so when I do find an event I like the look of, my nearest place to attend is usually Birmingham – a five-hour drive away.
I also think I am a bit jaded. I have heard lots of personal development and practice management stuff over the years. While some folks lap it up, I feel like I have been there, heard it and got the squeezy stress toy.
So what would I like to see instead? Events that are very subject-specific are a great idea. Al Rush’s Great Pension Debate was, for my colleagues who attended in July, a career-defining moment.
Andy Hart’s Humans Under Management conference about behavioural finance was fantastic last year, and promises to be so again on 1 November. I also absolutely loved the Personal Finance Society Festival of Financial Planning last November because it felt fresh.
Most delegates were casually dressed and there was so much choice about how to spend your time; you really could shape the conference to your own needs.
It felt like we were going places as a profession, and the atmosphere was exciting and positive about the future.
Nucleus deserves special mention too for its excellent Illuminate Live events. There is no pushing of its service, just genuinely useful information delivered very well.
It gets it: if it is helpful to us in our day-to-day work, we are likely to look favourably on it as a provider. Everybody wins.
I would like to see more virtual events produced by the community. An online conference, with sessions released on video, makes for a superb use of time and resources. It will also help those geographically challenged like me, or who struggle in an environment with lots of people.
We could also benefit from events where the sole point is to meet and chat with our peers, perhaps over a meal or a drink. For a few years I organised an unauthorised breakout event at the old Institute of Financial Planning conference, where we took over a local Indian restaurant for the evening and just had fun over a curry.
People still tell me it was the conference highlight for them, even though I got into hot water with the powers that be for taking people away from the sponsors. It had zero CPD benefit but friendships were made and business connections forged, which are priceless.
In 2018, there is just no need to endure a product pitch from a provider as the price of entry to an event. We pay subs to the professional bodies which should cover the costs of their events. I would gladly pay more for less provider intervention.
Neither is there a need for dry technical sessions – those are the kinds of things that can be delivered more effectively online and which those who need them can sign up for.
So let’s make industry events fun, fresh and exciting, with an emphasis on learning from our peers, rather than being preached to by experts.
And let’s create space for socialising and networking so that the business relationships of the future can be built now.
Pete Matthew is managing director of Jacksons Wealth