Fall is the time of year for industry conferences, like the FPA Annual Conference in Minneapolis that starts tomorrow. These events are a great way to hone your knowledge, meet new people and stay up to date on new and exciting ideas in the profession. Here are some tips to make the most of your next event:
Set your schedule in advance. Find out what the sessions are and make a list of the ones you want to attend. This doesn’t mean you can’t make some changes once you get to the event, but oftentimes there is very little time between breakout sessions and you don’t want to be scrambling and trying to make a decision.
Get out of your comfort zone. It’s so easy to attend sessions on topics that you are more comfortable with. You should be using this time to expose yourself to new and unfamiliar topics.
Review the schedule with someone who knows and understands your career path. Before every conference, I go over my plans with one or two members on my team. We’ll review the sessions I’ve picked to see if there are other options that might be better aligned with my goals, skill set and ideal client profile.
Come prepared. You wouldn’t come to a client meeting without a way to take notes. The same goes for a conference. For some people that might be a laptop, for others it might be a pen and paper. Whatever system works best for you, just make sure that your notes are in a place that you can find them later.
Don’t skip the sponsors. Do your research ahead of time—who’s coming and what services do they provide? Can you make a good connection? Even if you aren’t sure their service may not fit your needs right now, they may later. Or, even better, an opportunity may come along where you can connect them with someone else.
Do some networking. Find out who is going in advance and make a list of people you might want to connect with. Many conferences have apps you can utilize for this, as well as LinkedIn pages or Facebook events. Find out if there are any meetups or dinners you could attend. If you see someone by themselves, ask if you can join them. Many people are attending these events solo and may be uncomfortable going up to others.
Do a data dump when you get back. You’ve just absorbed a ton of information, now you’ll want to put it together in a meaningful way. I like to schedule a meeting with the people I initially went over my schedule with and bring back my big takeaways.
Share with your team. Last but not least, share what you’ve learned with your team. I will usually review the key points at our weekly staff meeting and bring more specific topics in-depth to others that I know would be interested.
Editor’s note: A version of this article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of the FPA Next Generation Planner, an app publication that provides helpful and relevant content specifically for NexGen planners. Download the app in the Apple App or Google Play store. Want to write for the FPA Next Generation Planner or have story ideas? Email [email protected]
Jessica Goedtel, CFP®, is an assistant vice president at Valley National Financial Advisors in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.