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A ‘Value’ Proposition

Conferences & Events

A few weeks back, an industry friend commented that, while we had certainly done a great job promoting the NAPA 401(k) Summit, that campaign hadn’t fully captured the essence of what makes “the Summit” different. Let me try here.

There are, admittedly, a lot of conferences out there — and most promote — as we do — the great content, compelling keynotes, robust networking and great accommodations.  Some of them actually deliver on those promises. But since everyone says they do, how do you know the difference?

The most obvious metric is, perhaps growth. Time-pressed advisors don’t waste their time going to conferences that don’t deliver the “goods.” The Summit has now been around for more than 20 years — and it’s challenging to sustain consistent growth over that long a stretch. That said, when I arrived here back in 2014, my first Summit “here,” we had about 1,300 attendees — and about a third were advisors.  And we were pretty darned proud of that ratio.

But this year we’re looking at about 2,400 — and almost exactly half are advisors. You can do the math. 

Now, that’s the what — but it’s also part of the “why.” And for my money, a big part of the “why” is because of the “who.” I’ve long referred to the Summit as the nation’s retirement advisor convention for one simple reason; everybody who is anybody in the retirement plan space will be there — and they don’t just swing by to do a quick “drive by” presentation — they stay.[i] So, whether you’re looking to reconnect with old friends, to connect with new ones, or to meet and/or learn from others — the Summit has you covered on all fronts.

We do approach our content a bit differently than most, I think. While it’s gotten to be pretty common for events to boast of their steering bodies, many, perhaps most — are just figureheads to the actual agenda development. They’re a group to whom the folks doing the “real” work of planning, structuring and implementing the event keep updated, mostly for a sense of validation and the occasional course correct. Oh, and so that the event can “show off” the luminaries that have agreed to lend their name (and face) to promote its bona fides.

Our steering committee is informed not only by their own experience and perspective as some of the industry’s leading advisors, but by the reader polling that provides insights from you. We don’t just ask them what they think we should include (or merely ask for that affirmation of a sponsored agenda platform), we ask them what session(s) they are willing to “own” — and by that we literally mean carrying responsibility not only for panel/speaker selection, but for ensuring that those chosen fulfill their responsibilities — up to and including making sure that the session delivery itself lives up to the high standards of the nation’s retirement plan advisor convention. They literally have skin in the proceedings. And, unlike many events, we choose the topics, and only THEN do we match speakers/perspectives with those topics. The result? Well, despite a solid diversity of topics, attendees often “complain” that they want to attend two or three “competing” sessions all at the same time.     

There are, of course, a myriad of ways to build and structure events — note here that I haven’t said a word about our keynotes, or even NAPA After Dark (that has in just a few short years become the pinnacle of networking events). But, aside from the practical information, valuable insights, vibrant networking — and yes, world-class entertainment — it’s worth remembering that among all the (other) things that set the NAPA 401(k) Summit apart — unlike every other advisor conference out there — your NAPA 401(k) Summit registration helps support the activities of NAPA — your advocacy, information and education organization — not the bottom line of some corporate media organization or some private equity firm. NAPA not only informs and educates — it literally is your voice with regulatory agencies and legislative bodies both here in the nation’s capital — and across the nation. 

And more importantly, your attendance at the NAPA 401(k) Summit remains a unique investment in your future — and the future of your profession.

See you in San Diego!


[i] And there’s no better testimonial to the value of the Summit and the commitment to be part of it than the numerous courageous (and sometimes harrowing) efforts undertaken by many to get to Summit  see “Planes, Trains, and …U-Hauls?