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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

An October Conference Goes Virtual

Reported by Lauren Corradi, Editorial Intern

An asset and wealth management industry trade group's team is continuing their virtual event shift by taking a big fall conference online.

Joan Lensing
Money Management Institute
Senior Vice President, Chief Programming Officer
The Money Management Institute's (MMI's) 2020 MMI Annual Conference in October will become to a virtual conference, MFWire has learned. The event was originally scheduled to be in person, on October 13 to October 15 at Le Meridien in Charlotte, North Carolina. The exact timing of the online version is still TBD.

"We are looking to space the event out over a three week period," Joan Lensing, senior vice president and chief programming officer at MMI, tells MFwire. "We haven't exactly pinned down the opening date. It is going to be early to mid-October, we are just juggling some of the speakers we are looking to engage with, which will help us pinpoint the exact date."

"The annual conference is MMI's biggest conference of the year. We typically have 600 to 650 attendees, and it is a three-day event," Lensing says. "We rotate major cities, this year was going to be in Charlotte."

The conference's theme will be "Embracing Waves of Change." In terms of formatting, Lensing confirms that the virtual conference will stick to the planned in-person conference's pattern, "but on a larger scale." The event will include sessions regarding big 2020 topics like social justice and COVID-19's and their impact on the advisory industry, plus focused subject matter tracks explaining how to build a personalized agenda, and explorations new ways to share information and build relationships.

"It is a much more complicated event in that it combines general sessions as well as subject matter tracks," Lensing says. "There are five different tracks that people can opt to participate in depending on their area of interest."

"We will have a live opening and closing session, about three hours of content each of those days, and the subject matter tracks will run in between those two barbells," Lensing continues. "People's attention spans are more limited these days, so people can now attend in smaller doses. Our goal is to put up the sessions and have them shorter than normal, and have people spending an hour or two in front of their computer every day. We think that is the max people are about to be able to handle each day."

The MMI team has been bringing events online since the spring.

"The annual conference is not the only conference that we took virtual," Lensing says. "This started in March, and MMI has pivoted all the in person events on our calendar to a virtual format."

"We have already run our summit, which was scheduled to take place at the end of March. It was the first we put up in a virtual format and that was very successful," Lensing continues. "Since then, we have also run several other series including a virtual five session series for distribution professionals, and right now we are in the middle of running a five week alternative investment forum."

Lensing says there are "definitely some advantages" to the virtual shift.

"We are learning all about the advantages of a virtual conference," Lensing says. "It opens it up to a larger audience, and to those who wouldn't have been able to travel."

"A big commitment of MMI has been the face-to-face interactions and relationship building, and that is what our members tell us they value from MMI besides the content," Lensing continues . "People really value the engagement and personal interactions, and that is going to be one of the things we are going to work on for the virtual format. We are working hard, and looking at different technologies and a digital exhibit hall where they can partake in demos."

"That is going to be a really important component of this conference, bringing as much of that as we can to a virtual format," Lensing adds.

As for in-person MMI events, stay tuned.

"We are looking to get at least some of our conferences back to a physical format as soon as it is safe, but it is hard to look forward and see when that may be, but it is certainly one of our goals looking forward," Lensing says. "Smaller, more specialized events could very well be changed to a virtual format if folks agree that makes sense." 

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