Ever take a strength assessment? I did. It told me that I am strategic, responsible, dependable and…well…boring. Okay, it didn’t actually state ‘boring’ as an attribute, but with those characteristics it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that I’m not going to be the life of the party. I’m okay with that. As a self-proclaimed ‘Type A’ planner personality, I live by lists. I sometimes make a list about the other lists that I need to make. There is always a Plan A and a Plan B and sometimes if I’m feeling particularly motivated, a Plan C. In other words, I evaluate everything and despise surprises (you can say it; boring).

But that’s not always a bad thing. When it comes to your time and your money, evaluating is incredibly important.

Financial services is a crowded and rapidly evolving industry. With so much change, it’s important to spend time focusing on education and new ways to grow your business in a scalable way. But how do you do that?

Perhaps you spend some time each week reading blogs, listening to podcasts or subscribing to industry publications. All of these are great resources. But how often are you doing those things while prepping for a finals presentation, reviewing reports or taking phone calls? This is one of the main reasons why it’s so important get out of the office and attend an industry conference. You’ll have the opportunity to invest in yourself with fewer distractions, all for the benefit of your business and your clients.

With so many conferences available how do you know which events will be the best fit for you? Since this question comes up often, I decided to take advantage of my list making, evaluating, boring skillsets by creating an Advisors Guide to Evaluating Conferences.

Consider Size

(Conference) size does matter. Does your personality assessment say that you are an extravert? If so, you may excel at a larger conference where you will have greater exposure to industry movers and shakers. The connections you make at a larger conference will most likely stem from short high-level conversations. It’s possible that you may meet someone at an opening reception and never see them again for the duration of the event. If your main goal is expand your network and extend your brand reach, a larger conference can help you do just that. In addition, you will likely have a wider breadth of content/session options.

Smaller conferences, however, can get you beyond a handshake and business card exchange. When you spend a day or two with the same group of like-minded advisors you are able to establish more meaningful connections. Smaller conferences allow you to gain a better understanding of how other advisors are overcoming similar challenges and growing their practices.  These conferences are typically more informal which allows for better Q&A with presenters. While you may not have as many options from a content perspective, you are able to walk away with your questions answered.

Not sure the size of a conference? Ask. Conferences may not be willing to provide a past attendee list, but most are more than happy to brag on their attendance!

Consider Costs

Conferences are an ‘investment.’   While it may seem difficult to budget for conferences, it’s important to invest in yourself and your business. Stepping out of the office will allow you to refocus on the big picture and help you reenergize your business model. With that said, they don’t have to break the bank. Evaluate cost/time/value.

Assess all costs. It’s important to look at all potential expenses, including the registration fees, travel (if you are flying will you need a rental car), meals, etc.

Maximize your time. Conferences that are centrally located will likely not be as exciting as perhaps a ‘work trip’ to Maui but they will likely make more sense from a time efficiency and travel standpoint.

Go with value. The best conferences are not necessarily the most expensive conferences. The most important evaluation criteria is you. What do you hope to get out of the conference? Seek out conferences that will best help you accomplish your goals (i.e. industry updates, networking opportunities, continuing education credits, etc.). Value is being able to walk away from the conference with your objectives met.

Consider Balance

The best conferences are the ones that provide a healthy balance of educational content and networking opportunities. Have you ever sat so long at a conference that you’ve struggled to keep your eyes open and found yourself eating all of the conference provided jolly ranchers just to keep yourself awake? That’s just me? Okay, well you get what I mean. At some point you stop absorbing information. Likewise, some conferences seem more social than scholarly. As my colleague would call it, a ‘boondoggle.’ Clearly those conferences are not great for a boring responsible person such as myself. Either way balance is the key to achieving your conference objectives.

Don’t gloss over the agenda. Make sure there is good content, but also evaluate the conference schedule as a whole look to determine if there is a good balance between sessions and social. You will get more out a conference when you are able to absorb more content and you feel energized.


Our team at Unified Trust manages over 50 events a year. We understand the investment of a conference from both sides of the event. For that reason we plan events, specifically the Advisor Symposium, with this criteria in mind. If you haven’t yet considered attending this conference, spend some time evaluating it and see if it meets your objectives. We believe it will.