Summer is over, school is back in session and cooler temperatures mean the official start of conference season in the financial planning profession. This is a fun and exciting time and a way for you to catapult your career to new levels of success! Attending conferences is a great way to gain a better understanding of the profession, increase your technical knowledge, and expand your network. The bulk of the national conferences are held between the months of September and November and figuring out which one to attend can be daunting so be sure to check out Michael Kitces’s Master List Of Financial Advisor Conferences For 2023-2024
Conference attendance can be very costly so be sure to check with the hosts who sometimes offer deep discounts and/or full scholarships to newer planner (college student and career changer) attendees. If you are just starting out or have been practicing for a while now, do everything you can to attend as many conferences as you can. Here are some tips to prepare and maximize your time so you get the best bang for your buck!
- Download Conference App – plan out the educational sessions you want to attend beforehand and study the attendee list to identify whom you would like to meet/network with(a good goal would be 10 people whom you don’t know to identify and meet up with over the course of the conference.) Maybe it is an industry hero of yours or someone you would like to work for, mentor you, etc. If you are seeking a job or internship, target firm owner attendees who are based in the geographic region where you want to end up.
- Sign up for every extra-curricular activity possible – be sure to catch the attendee orientation sessions, breakfast sessions (yes, they tend to be early morning!), new planner specific events like mock interviews, career fair, speed networking, exhibitor/sponsor dinners, and closing night party as these will be included in your registration fee. For other events such as, golf, yoga, sightseeing tours, etc. there will be an extra cost.
- Visit the Exhibitors – if you are looking for a job/internship, a good rule of thumb is you need to talk to anyone you can. The same goes for established practitioners seeking a solution for their business. Remember the individuals representing the product and service vendors are attending all the conferences that you can’t due to time and cost constraints - put their network to work for you. You also might learn something that you can bring to an employer.
- Dress for Success – strive to out dress anyone you meet because you don’t know who you might run into during these events. The school logoed golf shirts are okay, but wearing a suit (with your school pin) on your nametag positions you better with potential employers. If cash is tight, find an entry level suit and a few shirts that you can rotate for each day of the conference. Spending a couple hundred dollars to secure you a position that will lead to millions of dollars in earnings over your career is a good investment.
- All Business at the Bar – be aware that there will be lots of free alcohol so make sure you don’t overdo it and that you represent yourself, your firm, and/or your school well. As part of their interview process, some firms will observe you closely in a social setting to see what, if anything else, you might reveal about yourself to assist them in deciding whether you could be a fit for their organization. Remember, if at any point during the conference, especially when alcohol is being consumed, you feel a strange vibe from someone who might be in a position of power over you and your career, please get out of there and tell someone asap! There are plenty of other people in our profession that want to help you succeed that don’t expect anything in return.
- What to Bring – professional attire, business cards, resumes/CV, portfolio of your work (anything that will help you stand out from the many other job seekers in attendance), notepad, pen, or tablet for taking notes in sessions. We realize that your phone is probably more convenient, but the last signal you want to send is that you are constantly on your phone. Additionally, consider leaving your phone in your bag/pocket during breaks, prior to session start times and talk to the person next to you. You never know where it might lead.
Have a ton of fun and success at your next conference!