One of the most common challenges these days for financial advisor conferences is deciding whether or how much practice management content to include. On the one hand, a practice management session that has just one material takeaway that impacts the advisor’s business can generate a good ROI for the entire conference. On the other hand, practice management isn’t eligible for CFP CE credit, and most practice management sessions end out having a lower turnout. Does that mean it’s time to give CE credit for practice management sessions to equalize the playing field?
In this week’s #OfficeHours with @MichaelKitces, my Tuesday 1PM EST broadcast via Periscope, we delve into the issue of whether conferences should still offer practice management sessions, and why the real problem isn’t really about whether practice management is eligible for CE, but simply that almost any particular practice management session will only be relevant to a small subset of advisors!
In fact, the irony is that the most common reason financial advisors ask for CFP CE credit from conference sessions is not because it’s hard to get CFP CE credit, or that we need to go to a conference to get it. It’s because a lot of conferences have mediocre sessions… which means if we as advisors are going to attend, at the least we want some CE credit as a consolation prize for the time and dollars spent! And with so many conferences unwilling to invest into paid speakers, and still relying on sponsors to fill their speaking slots – despite the fact that most sponsors have a long history of delivering sales pitches in lieu of real education – it is no surprise that CE is a common demand. If you expect the content to be mediocre, the CE is the only remaining reason to bother showing up!
But when it comes to good content, the value of the content can more than pay for itself, regardless of CE credit. And good content can come in the form of a technical session or practice management. In fact, financially, good practice management content – that provides real takeaways that can be implemented to make meaningful changes in the business – can actually provide a much higher ROI than technical content. And in point of fact, it really is the conferences that spend the most time and effort (and in some cases, hard dollars) on content that are seeing the most growth and financial success!
The caveat when it comes to practice management content, though, is that even the best session isn’t likely going to be useful for all advisors, or even most of them. After all, a great session on selling a firm won’t be valuable to the majority of advisors who currently aren’t looking to sell their firm anytime soon. A great session on technology won’t be valuable the large number of advisors whose platform makes the technology decisions for them. And a great session on marketing won’t be valuable for the large number of paraplanners or associate planners who don’t have business development responsibilities. Which means even the best practice management speaker will rarely draw a large crowd for a practice management session. But that doesn’t mean conferences should avoid this content altogether! Rather, they should be careful about how it is scheduled – put practice management content in breakout time slots, paired with different content for those who won’t find the session relevant, and be cognizant only to put practice management speakers into general sessions if their content is truly relevant to the whole audience!
Ultimately, as CFP and other types of CE becomes more and more commoditized and accessible from many sources at a low cost, the value in attending a conference is not the CE. Advisors may leave audience feedback requesting CE, but that’s not a sign they truly need CE – it’s a sign that the conference needs better content, so the audience isn’t demanding CE as a consolation prize!