6 Ideas to Improve the SIFMA Conference
Over the past 15 years in the month of June, you can probably find me at SIFMA’s (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association) Technology Management Conference & Exhibit. Last week marked the up-teenth anniversary of the event. This year was no exception and I was there enjoying all the camaraderie of seeing old friends and making new ones at the NY Hilton.
At one time, SIFMA was the singular top conference in capital markets and I believe in the 1990’s there were as many as 8,000 attendees. In those days, when I was planning and managing this event for companies including Sun Microsystems and Sungard’s Mint division, the goal was to coordinate all the sales, PR and partnership meetings and presentations so that the staff were not overwhelmed and in the right place at the right time.
There was even a time when I had to order up 2 additional suites to augment our busy floor booth. The suites were geared for round the clock meetings including whisper meetings where we discussed our roadmap to certain clients. And over the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve been attending a fun post-SIFMA client-vendor business dinner, which includes an afternoon of fishing held in the Hampton’s and Montauk on Long Island.
After attending a number of other conferences over the course of the past year, I’d like to offer up some ideas for SIFMA to rebuild its once heralded stature. Here’s some food for thought:
- An event like this begins with industry leadership. I attended a banking event a couple of years ago and the speakers included Ben Bernanke (Fed Reserve Chairman), Jack Welch (CEO GE), Sheila Bair (FDIC Chair) and David Gergen (CNN). Even got to talk to Jack and his wife for a while. Sure, few events are likely to get this caliber of speakers, but consider doing a simulcast from Washington to make it easier for some government employees to speak remotely. And from the tech side, how about Larry Ellison of Oracle or Steve Ballmer of Microsoft.
- Content is King and the full conference price of admission does not warrant the expense for this level of information. I paid full fare last year – thank goodness that I didn’t this year as the agenda suffered further deterioration. SIFMA must get more speakers from the industry to tell their story. Even some recently unemployed industry veterans could work. There’s no substitute for industry speakers. Have a vendor track if you’d like, but don’t let it dominate everything.
- Build interest before the event. Try a pre-conference mini virtual event to test the waters on content. Or survey the industry to find out what they want to hear most.
- Gather followup after the event. Consider a half-day virtual event for those that couldn’t make it featuring highlights from presentations and exhibits.
- While the Hilton may have become sacrosanct over the years and a move to the Javits facility on the West side is probably over-kill and would undoubtedly sacrifice intimacy, the SIFMA organizers must consider some rearrangement of the current facility which will create enhanced interest and flow in the exhibits. The addition of the TMC Theater was a plus, but it was too small and even having Frank Abagnale, subject of the movie Catch Me If You Can starring Leonardo DiCaprio, did not quite make it. If SIFMA got Leonardo DiCaprio instead – well that would have been something – but of course that’s not realistic.
- One last important comment – use more social marketing including Blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter to network this event.
I could probably come up with a half dozen more, but maybe I can turn it over to you for comment.
In any case, I’m a stalwart and will continue to attend SIFMA if only to keep up with friends and have some interesting conversation. See you next year.