The financial advice industry over the last few weeks has returned to live events — at least partially — and by most accounts they have felt like a welcome remembrance of work life before the pandemic. But some things are different about live events.
In the first in-person event InvestmentNews has hosted since Covid-19 shut down the nation’s gatherings, about 100 advisers, asset managers and other professionals came together in New York City to promote increased diversity of the wealth management business.
The awards celebrated diverse individuals who have succeeded in the financial advice industry and firms that have policies and programs that support DEI at their firms or among clients or otherwise are creating a more inclusive culture. Since last year’s awards had to be conducted virtually, this year’s event highlighted both the 2020 winners and the 2021 honorees.
At the InvestmentNews event, as with other industry shows that have taken place in New York, Las Vegas and other cities around the country in recent weeks, attendance was noticeably down. For myriad reasons related to Covid, masks, vaccinations, company rules, new social anxieties and virtual options, a portion of the business is not coming back to events yet.
The good news for businesses that are again participating in and sponsoring live events, however, is that the people who are coming are more ready than ever to celebrate, learn, work and network enthusiastically. Pandemic be damned — attendees are bonding and forming new and stronger relationships, even if it is being done with a lot more fist and elbow bumps than hugs.
The challenge now is for organizers to make even more people feel confident and safe enough to return in person.
Event planners — who have personally had a difficult and disappointing 18 months — are focusing on safety in all new ways that go way beyond making hand sanitizer and sani-wipes available. While abiding by local rules for each event, those measures can include requirements for masks, distancing and proof of vaccinations. InvestmentNews hired an outside vendor that actually verified attendees’ vaccinations days before they showed up for the Excellence in DEI Awards in order to ensure compliance with local requirements.
Other safety steps at live events will include reorganizing rooms and tables to provide more personal space, and even new food serving guidelines.
For instance, don’t expect to serve yourself snacks during breaks or buffets — there will be gloved staff to take care of all these things for you. Boxed desserts delivered at the exit door may also become the norm.
All these changes are coming at a time when there is also increased demand to make everything more sustainable. Thus, one thing that has been noticeably absent from recent industry events is printed event programs and agendas. Digital programs and conference apps are likely to replace these forever.
For decades, financial advice industry conferences have been an important way for sponsors, clients, colleagues and former co-workers to catch up and deepen relationships. The best news is that all signs point to that tradition coming back strong.
Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.