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Is Attending Conferences a Shortcut to Success?

Or is going in person just a waste of clients’ time?

Is going to conferences worth it for you or to recommend it to your family office or family business clients?

There are a lot of reasons to skip conferences, including: conference fees, travel expenses, hotel bills, bar tabs and time away from work. On top of that, the information people will get at a conference is almost certainly available for free on YouTube.

What Overrides the Negatives?

There must be something powerful to counteract so many negatives. According to the Events Industry Council, “In 2016, 1.9 million meetings were held in the United States, generating $845 billion in economic impact.”  That means a lot of people are choosing to attend conferences.

So why do people find it worthwhile to attend events? As someone who grew up in the hotel industry (my father was the co-founder of the Sheraton Hotels), and as a professional public speaker, I’m curious about the industry that supports my two industries, hotels and public speaking. 

Curated Information

My father made a practice of attending conferences, and his reason, as he liked to say, was, “One good idea can change your life.”

Father made a lifelong practice of putting himself in the way of good ideas. For him, conferences meant a chance to hear speakers who’d spent a lifetime looking for the best ideas on their subject.

He felt that if he got even one good idea from one of these speakers, it could give him a leg up on his competitors. Of course, he ran the Sheraton chain before the internet, and he didn’t have the almost limitless information at his fingertips that we do today.

Even so, I think he still would have continued attending conferences because the information at a conference is curated. Meeting planners have to excel at finding speakers whom people want to hear in person. If planners weren’t skilled at doing this, the industry wouldn’t be doing so well. 

Marketers’ Paradise

Marketing is another reason to attend conferences. According to a 2015 study, in-person events topped the list of their 10 most effective marketing tactics.

In-person events were more effective than webinars, case studies, white papers, videos, research reports, e-newsletters, blogs, infographics and online presentations.

Anthony Ritossa, head of the family office that bears his name (known as the “Davos of Family Offices”) says putting together buyers and sellers is one of the major advantages of conferences.

As just one anecdotal example, he offers: “One of the blockchain companies in our family office network, CoinStarter, raised over $360 million in pledges from our investors as a result of a successful presentation by the CEO.”

Whether it’s a small purchase at the trade show or a billion-dollar investment, people often find that it’s easier to evaluate a product when they can speak to an individual in person. As Ritossa points out: “The body language of a person can be telling as to his or her character. Face-to-Face communication often reveals the level of honesty and integrity.”

Conferences are a great opportunity to let attendees know about new products. In my own case, I’ve invested in blockchain technologies that I never would have heard of if it weren’t for attending conferences.

Networking Heaven

One of the biggest reasons to attend is the chance to network. I’ve met people at conferences who’ve turned out to be life-changing resources. Meeting them has meant career opportunities from people who otherwise wouldn’t know I exist. Conferences have meant a chance to meet people I’d never have run into in everyday life and people who’ve become lifelong friends. 

Get Energized

You know how in academia, professors are given sabbaticals? The purpose is to keep them from going stale.

A conference is a mini-sabbatical. It can be inspirational and energizing, a chance to think about new strategies and an opportunity to think about the bigger picture. What price can you put on a life-changing insight that you might never have had otherwise?


Mitzi Perdue is a business owner, speaker, and author of the book, How to Make Your Family Business Last. Contact her at [email protected].

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