Advisor sponsored events in a post-pandemic world

BCBO ep. 120 - Advisor sponsored events in a post-pandemic world - Audiogram

Before last year’s COVID-19 pandemic, we would hear about advisors getting together with some clients and prospects for arts or charity projects, or even hosting a wine tasting. But unfortunately, the pandemic made many of these events virtually impossible to hold as this new normal really shifted things.

Samantha Russell joins the podcast to discuss what it might look like to return to in-person events in a post-COVID era. Plus, she discusses the notable advantages that moving some of these events permanently into a virtual format may have on your practice.


Samantha Russell: Some of these events get really over the top and there’s a high cost to that. Because they’re fun and exciting, you might get people showing up just because they want to make the gingerbread house or taste the wine. They’re never going to be interested in what you have to say, and that’s not a good lead, it’s not a good use of your money. But if you’re hosting an event online, someone’s really got to be interested to take the time to show up.

Ben Jones: Welcome to Better Conversations. Better Outcomes. presented by BMO Global Asset Management. I’m Ben Jones.

Emily Larsen: And I’m Emily Larsen. On this show, we explore the world of wealth advising from every angle, providing actionable ideas designed to improve outcomes for advisors and their clients.

Disclosure: The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of BMO Global Asset Management, its affiliates, or subsidiaries.

Emily Larsen: Historically, events have been a big part of an advisor’s client appreciation and acquisition strategy. Before last year’s COVID-19 pandemic, we would hear about advisors getting together with some business owners for arts or charity projects, or even hosting a wine tasting. But unfortunately, the pandemic made many of these events virtually impossible to hold as this new normal really shifted things. Today, with all the talk about vaccine availability, reopening and lifting restrictions, we’re going to discuss what it might look like to return to in-person events in a post-COVID era, and if you even should.

Ben Jones: Our guest today is Samantha Russell, Chief Evangelist at FMG Suite. Samantha is a modern marketing expert and she has years of experience perfecting the art of messaging, both at Penn State University and TwentyOverTen. Now, she’s going to challenge some conventional thinking and share some ideas to help you think through your post-COVID event strategy. But first, as Emily hinted, it is starting to feel like we can see light at the end of this pandemic tunnel and I, for one, am ready. But before we dive into our hopes for the future, even though we’re nearing the end of this pandemic, we’re still actually in it. So, hold your horses, keep your social distancing and wear those masks for just a little bit longer. First, let’s talk about advisor events in general, who are these events for anyway? What do they look like and why should you even care? From your perspective, why is it that advisors hold events?

Samantha Russell: I think typically they hold them first and foremost to get new prospects. I know some people do it to build better relationships with their current clients, but I think even then they’re hoping that your clients will then refer you to friends and build better relationships. So, I would say more than anything it’s for lead generation.

Ben Jones: Yeah, and it’s interesting. I agree with you. I think there’s two primary types of events. There’s educational, the old steak educational dinner, if you think back 20 years ago. Then, there’s the entertaining type of events, but a lot of them are designed whether they’re client appreciation or solely to new prospects. They’re designed with the idea to network and develop new leads or new lead generation. So, I am curious, from your perspective, how did so many of these events become entertainment focused, like wine tasting, gingerbread, cooking classes? It just seems such an odd thing for financial services to adopt in mass.

Samantha Russell: Yeah. I think it’s really people trying out different things and seeing what gets the highest attendance and it’s a lot easier a lot of times to get more people to sign up for something fun. Like a free gingerbread making class than it is a free lecture on taxes. We’re just not as excited about that. What I have found is that the events that you do for your current clients can be those really fun ones like that. But there is a way to do it where it allows you still to share your message and invite your clients to bring a friend. There’s somebody I know who they do this really great antiques road show kind of a event, where pre-COVID times they would ask clients to come and pick one thing from their house that they wanted to have appraised and they’d have an appraiser they would bring in. But then each client was also allowed to bring a friend, a relative and people showed up for that. But then while they were talking about the appraising and the value, they’re also able to talk about things like, how much do you insure these things for? Which led to other insurance topics. What about passing these things down to your loved one someday? That could lead to estate planning conversation. So, it was a really natural way to do something that people were interested in, but still lends itself for content related to what you do.

Ben Jones: Yeah. I think it’s so important not to lose sight of the idea that whether you’re doing an entertainment type event or client appreciation, it’s always important to make sure that you’re on point in helping deliver your message of wealth management to your community. Now, I’m curious, from your perspective, why do you think the topic of events is an important one for advisors?

Samantha Russell: Well, for a lot of people, going one to one to one to one in terms of prospecting, it’s just too time consuming and it’s too expensive. When you’re thinking about your rate of success for somebody who’s a lead that actually is going to turn into a client, it’s going to be a low percentage point. That’s just the way that things work. So, you have a much better success rate the higher the volume and events allow you to go high volume.

Ben Jones: I think Samantha might be the first person I’ve ever heard to articulate the reason for events in a context that really resonates with me, industrial math.

Emily Larsen: Oh, Ben, you do love your industrial math. Anyway, at this point in the pandemic I think it’s safe to say that we’re all pretty much used to Zoom calls and remote work. But remember the early days when we still had to figure everything out, many advisors set to the task of crafting online client events to substitute in-person gatherings. As Samantha is about to tell us, these virtual events have some notable advantages to keep in mind.

Ben Jones: Let’s talk – last year, advisors had to abruptly shift from these larger in-person events and seminars to virtual engagement. We’re still in that environment in many places around the globe. So, let’s talk first about maybe some of the things that you’ve observed or learned over the course of the year about virtual events and their success versus in-person events. What are some of your initial observations?

Samantha Russell: One of the things that’s interesting is that if you do it right, virtual can even be more successful than in-person in the sense that you can sort of cut the fat of paying all these expensive things. Like we mentioned, some of these events get really over the top and there’s a high cost to that. Because they’re fun and exciting, you might get people showing up just because they want to make the gingerbread house or taste the wine. They’re never going to be interested in what you have to say, and that’s not a good lead.  It’s not a good use of your money, but if you’re hosting an event online, someone’s really got to be interested to take the time to show up. So, you’re already going to have, just by nature of it, a higher percentage of people who are actually interested and the cost to put the event on is going to be lower. So, that’s some of the things that I think is really interesting about these virtual events.

Ben Jones: That’s interesting, it’s a really good point that you tend to get people who want to be there. I know for myself attending a virtual event sounds awful, and having done a lot of them over the course of the last year, there are very few that can hold my attention unless I really, really want to be there. So, I think it’s a really great point. I’m curious from your perspective, what are some of the trends that you’ve found to be true about virtual events from advisors?

Samantha Russell: I think that what I’ve seen is people make them too long. They make them an hour, an hour and a half. That’s just way too long. We’re all sick of sitting in front of our computers. They also try to recreate the offline online and it’s a different piece. So, you shouldn’t try to use the same strategies. I think that what is working is when you think about what makes somebody actually want to get on their computer and sit there for 30 minutes, and that’s to learn something, usually, at the end of the day. The information highway of the internet, we go there to learn things. We have a question, we have a problem, we need an answer. So, if you can make your event learning focused, where someone is going to have a tangible takeaway that they can implement, get information that they need, then you’ll be successful.

Ben Jones: I think that’s a great point. One of the things that I’ve observed for myself is that showing up at the event when they’re holding the event is really not been in the cards. For a lot of people you’re juggling kids, and in this COVID environment they’re home from school, you’re homeschooling, you’re taking care of your work items in off hours and all times of the day. But what has been really appealing to me is being able to attend these events on demand. So, what are you seeing in advisors using the virtual events, and then an on demand option or are they doing those two things completely separately?

Samantha Russell: Yeah. The technology makes it where you can really do it however you want. If you want it to be the most successful, I suggest doing it where you do record it live and you invite people to come. Some people from a compliance perspective cannot always do that live. So, always check with your compliance and make sure that that’s even an option because it may be something where you can’t do it live. It has to be recorded and reviewed first. So, keep that in mind. But if you can do it live and you can invite people to come and ask questions, that is a great, great option.  Then, you can also have the on-demand recording available for people to listen to if they type in their email on a landing page, or even maybe you tell people, “Sign up, even if you can’t make the live time, we’ll send you the recording.” But in terms of getting it live engagement, there’s things you can do that really can make it interactive. So, for instance, I host a webinar multiple times a month and I always start by saying things like, “So, everybody, tell me where you’re at right now. I’m sitting on the lanai here in Florida watching my kids swim with the grandma in the pool.” Or, “Oh, my gosh, we’ve just got this many feet of snow, but I’m so excited to see this football game this weekend.” Encourage people to start giving you feedback, and it should be something unrelated to the topic you’re going to talk about, but that kind of water cooler conversation. Because what we’re trying to do in these events is get that chatter going that you would normally have in an in-person event, which is really hard to start. So, you got to start it in the beginning.

Ben Jones: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense because you do miss out on a lot of that kind of social interaction, if you will.

Samantha Russell: Right.

Ben Jones: Now, you mentioned you’re hosting an online webinar. I know a lot of advisors are doing this as well. What are you seeing for advisors and even maybe your own experience in terms of the number of people who sign up versus those who actually show up?

Samantha Russell: So, we have a really large pool for ours. We typically get anywhere from 500 to a thousand people register for our webinars every month. We’ll usually get 50% to 60% attendance. We host them purposefully on Thursday afternoons at 3:00 PM because we’ve played around with the time. We’ve found that most of the financial advisors, which is who we work with, they’re leaving around 4:00 o’clock when the markets closed, 4:30. So, hosting it at 4:00, which we thought initially would be best attendance isn’t, good people are done their day. So, we host them at 3:00. For all of you listening, the best time to host is really going to impact the turnout. So, if you have a bunch of people that are already retired, it may be best to do it around lunchtime. They’re up early in the morning, they’re being active. They’re going about their day. They come back and they have lunch at home typically. So, that’s the best time to do it. So, you got to play around with the timing to see what works best, but anywhere between 30% to 60% of people, depending on how popular the topic is and how good you become at enticing your audience will actually show up. So, if you get a hundred people to show up, you might only get 20, you might get 50. I would say anything above a 30% rate is good. Anything 50% or more is really good.

Ben Jones: No, that’s really interesting. I love your point about knowing your audience. This is where it becomes really beneficial to understand your niche or understand the types of clients that you’re working with, because then you can really tailor the times and the topics to the things that they want to learn about. Now, I want to touch two more things on virtual, and then we’re going to transition to this post-COVID period, which is going to get real interesting. First of all, what are some of the best places for your content to live in perpetuity?  In other words, if you’re going to do it on demand, is it behind signup? Is it open access? Is it on your website? Is it on social? You hear about omni-channel, but I guess I’ve always held the belief that you want to drive people to your own real estate on the web, which is your website. But I’d be curious in your thoughts.

Samantha Russell: Yeah. So, I could speak to what we currently do. Obviously, it’s like if you work with somebody, ask them how they would actually handle it. So, as I mentioned, we do multiple webinars a month. What we do is we create a blog post after every single event that we host. So, let’s say we just did one on video marketing, we’ll have the recording and we will embed it in the blog post from YouTube. So, we’ve uploaded that webinar to YouTube. Now, when people are on YouTube looking for content, they might stumble across it there. Then, the YouTube video can be embedded in our blog posts. Then, on the blog post itself we put the summarized points, but we are also able to hyperlink out to everything we mentioned. So, if we’re doing a webinar on video, we might link out to a tripod we mentioned that people might be interested to buy. But we also might link out to a sample video script that we’re offering as a free resource. So, any resources checklists, downloads you have can be linked. You can summarize all the key points, which is great for search engine optimization. We typically do not gate these at first. So, the first 90 days after we’ve hosted them, they’re open for anybody to watch. Then the ones that we can see are really getting high traffic, sometimes we’ll gate just a few of them, but most of the content we leave ungated. That is because what we have found is that if somebody really loves what you have to say and is finding what you are sharing to be worthwhile, and they see you as an expert, they’re going to proactively reach out to you. So, most of our leads come from inbound. People who hear what we have to say and they say, “These people know their stuff. We want them to help us with marketing.” Some of the advisor clients we’re seeing who have the most success with webinars and podcasts are seeing the same thing. They’re not gating that content. They’re letting anybody access it. Then, this way it’s just sharing and sharing and sharing. This person, honestly, at the end of the day, most likely will say, “This person’s really smart. They know their financial planning or their investment stuff, and I want to work with them.”

Ben Jones: Okay. So, it’s a little bit different than the kind of like, “I got to get the lead in my hand.” It’s building goodwill and then those people ultimately will take action when they’re ready.

Samantha Russell: Yeah, and every industry is different. Maybe you have to hit a certain number of leads per month and you can’t wait. It’s definitely a more of a longer term approach. But I will say, you start to build a community when you do it this way, too, of people who just listen to your podcast, right? People don’t have to give up their email address to hear it. The same thing with these online webinars. If you’re making them very educational, you want people to get that information with the ultimate goal that they’ll see you as an expert they want to work with.

Ben Jones: There were a lot of actionable ideas laid out here. Just to name a few, I love Samantha’s points about virtual events only attracting people who really want to be there and, of course, the importance of knowing your audience. If you find yourself looking for a specific strategy so that you can record and distribute online events, just hit rewind and listen to the way that she lays out our events one more time. It can be very instructive as you start to think through your approach.

Emily Larsen: Now that we’ve discussed the current state of client events, we can move forward a bit and start speculating about what comes next. As vaccine rates increase in the US and globally, we’re possibly on the verge of being able to socialize with strangers again. So, we asked Samantha to give us an idea of what events will look like as we transition into the post-COVID world.

Ben Jones: Maybe you can start with dusting off your crystal ball and share with the listeners a glimpse of what a post-pandemic event might look like in the future. Because there’s a lot of things that I think people are going to have to think through. They might be ready to meet with people, their clients might not, and there’s going to be different risk tolerances and different preferences going forward. I think digital is probably here to stay, that’s Ben’s opinion, but I’d love to hear yours.

Samantha Russell: I agree with you. I think digital is definitely still here to stay. I asked the other day on Twitter, what are you most not going to miss about going back to normal? So many people mentioned not having to fly to go to industry events or conferences. A lot of people mentioned not needing to go into the office, not having to meet with people in-person, commute there, have the meeting can be back for something that could be done on a 20-minute call. So, I think people will do in-person events, but the expectations for what’s going to make them get in the car or hop on a plane to go to them is really going to be different than what it was before. We’re going to really have to wow people to make them want to go.

Ben Jones: So, maybe let’s talk about this. Let’s pretend I’m an advisor and how would I know when the right time to have my first in-person event is?

Samantha Russell: Well, this is less my crystal ball and more other people’s, but I think the fall of next year seems to be when a lot of in-person events are going to go back online. I’ve already got invited to speak at a couple financial services conferences that are being held in the fall and I’m planning to go. The way they’ve done it as really great where they’re saying, “If you have to do paid attendance, that they’ll reimburse you.” But for an advisor hosting an event, if you’re going to host an event as early as this fall, I would just anticipate that you may have people that opt out, but they still want to be involved in some way. So, you’ll need to have both an online and an offline experience so that you’re not burning any bridges with people who might not yet feel comfortable.

Ben Jones: So, you mentioned that you’re going to have to really wow people to get them to drive 30 minutes in the car, through traffic, which might come back here. So, let’s talk about that. What are the things that are going to really draw people, whether it’s a client appreciation event or educational topic, tell me, what is your thoughts?

Samantha Russell: Some of the things that I’ve seen work really well, like I mentioned, the Antiques Roadshow one that has been popular. Other ones, like you mentioned, the wine tasting, anything where somebody can learn and socialize. The wine tasting one that I’ve seen is somebody bringing in a sommelier and doing a wine and food pairing. But then also giving people something they can take home so that they can host something similar with their own friends. So, it’s not just come here and learn this, but go home and do it.  That would certainly be more of like a client appreciation but think about what we’ve asked everybody to do in the last year when it comes to learning technology. There’s still a lot of people who – they don’t have a high threshold for what they’re supposed to do. I’ve heard horror stories of advisors who they haven’t seen their client’s face in a year because they have elderly clients who don’t understand how to get on Zoom, and so maybe they’ve just had phone calls. So, maybe you host an event where to get people to show up you’re saying, “Bring your computer, we’ll have ours there.  We’ll actually walk you through step-by-step how to have the best Zoom call experience.” Because some people might still want to do that going forward. We’ll give you appetizers and we’ll have wine and we’ll make it fun, but it’s a really easy way to learn. Maybe we’ll teach you other kinds of technology, like how to go in and check all of your statements even easier in the client portal. Because there’s all these client portals that advisors have, but a lot of clients don’t use them because they don’t know how. So, just thinking outside the box, what’s something that’s going to add value to people’s lives and make it worth their time?

Ben Jones: I like that. Add value in a way that at least somewhat loosely ties into building community or building their ability to get better wealth management services are the two takeaways I had from the examples you laid out there. Should an advisor go about hosting one of these in the fall, any predictions on, should they start small? Should they try to go big? Because the turnouts might be lower, what are your thoughts there?

Samantha Russell: Yeah. I’m no health expert. I don’t know what people will be comfortable with, but I think depending on your audience, especially if a lot of these events are skewed for people in the more high-risk category, I would start small and assess how it goes. I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball when it comes to health, but I do think we’ll still be wearing masks in the fall in a lot of scenarios. So, maybe having it be smaller would be beneficial in that regard as well. It’s hard to project your voice and talk loudly if you’re wearing a mask. So, that would also be beneficial in that regard.

Ben Jones: So, do you think that this skews to outside events versus inside? It sounds like you believe that maybe even setting up the space for social distancing is still going to be a thing?

Samantha Russell: Oh, gosh, you’re putting me on the spot. I don’t know for sure. It’s interesting. The event that I’m speaking at in the fall, I think they plan to have hundreds of people there, but they’re taking over like an entire complex, and there’ll be lots of spacing out for people. But they’re also live-streaming everything they’re doing. It’s a big conference. So, if you’re doing an event for a smaller subset of clients, maybe you host the same event but three different nights. Yeah, if you could have it on a patio or something even better, but again, it’s such a personal thing of how comfortable people feel. So, I think the biggest takeaway is, whatever you decide to do make sure you have a way to make it so that people who can’t do it or feel like they can’t do it don’t feel left out.

Ben Jones: I like the concept of hosting the same event in multiple formats. While this may be a little more effort to coordinate, it has the potential to allow for a great client experience. Now, I asked Samantha, what are some of the things that advisors need to think through if they’re going to go down this path?

Samantha Russell: I think the first thing is, you don’t necessarily have to do it at the same time. So, don’t feel like you need to live stream the live event to people sitting at home. A, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to watch, B, that’s probably a crappy experience for them. So, I would keep them separate, right? Have your live event and then maybe whatever you’re talking about, you can do virtually where you’re looking at the camera. Maybe you have some slides so that it’s much better user experience for people sitting behind a camera.  Let’s say you had a wine tasting. Maybe you send the wine to the clients who can’t do it in-person and still bring that sommelier back a second time and go through everything with them in a virtual way. So, I would not suggest doing them at the same time and just live streaming it. I would suggest having two separate events. So, it’s like option A option B.

Ben Jones: I really like that advice because I think one of the things that I thought about when we started thinking through some of these events is, how do you make sure that the people digitally are engaged and don’t feel left out to the live people? When you do it separately, you’re basically telling both groups you’re really important to me.

Samantha Russell: Yeah, and when I think about it, I feel like we’ve learned this lesson firsthand with the school districts, right? So, our school district, they started in the fall by saying they were going to have one teacher teach the room full of students that were there. But then also have students dialing in from home who chose to be remote. Our school district was lucky enough to have the option to be in-person or remote. But the kids who are remote had a terrible experience, the only person they could hear was the teacher. So, they would hear the teacher’s response, but they wouldn’t hear the question being asked and the other students could see them, but they couldn’t see the students. It was just this teacher wasn’t able to look at them the whole time and be on camera with them. That would be the same would be true of any event you do. So, keeping them separate is really going to leave nobody feeling frustrated and everybody feeling prioritized.

Ben Jones: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. What do you think will be similar about events in the future? You mentioned you have to wow people, but what will the similar aspects be or what will some of the different aspects be of in-person events?

Samantha Russell: I think one of the things that we will keep is more of a focus on value add and less fluff. Again, the events that have been the most successful, what people have actually signed up for has been things that are going to add value to their life. Whether it’s a seminar about social security or a webinar about Medicare. We’re entering the world where people are choosing who to work with as their financial advisor. Yes, somebody who they know and like, but also somebody who’s going to add the most value to them well beyond just investing their money. So, someone who could help them with these ancillary things. So, there’s such a huge world out there to invite those kinds of experts in if it’s not you, right? Maybe it’s a health and wellness person. Maybe it’s a CPA. Maybe it’s a Medicare expert. We’ve seen a lot of that, where people are inviting these experts on into these webinars. I think that that will continue into the in-person events and we will, for client events, sure, we’ll still see like wine tastings and all this kind of maybe more fun, but for prospecting, I think it will turn less fluffy and more truly informational.

Ben Jones: It’s interesting to me because follow up is always where the magic happens, and the in-person events, the follow up always felt very manual. You had to call everybody, see how they’re doing. Some people may be signed up for a free consultation or something like that, but digital showed us that you can automate a lot of follow up in a real positive way. I’m curious your thoughts on how we take some of those digital learnings into the physical world in these in-person events going forward.

Samantha Russell: Yeah. It’s so interesting. One of the things I love about doing online events is I get a report afterwards who was the most engaged. How much time did someone spend paying attention in the webinar versus not paying attention? Did they register but not show up or did they register and attend? You can even ask people in the webinar, “Hey, click this button if you want us to follow up with you after the fact. You can get the list of every question that was asked and who asked it.” So, identifying the hottest leads is so much easier on a webinar. I don’t know of any technology off the top of my head, but there are a lot of ones out there I’ve heard of that I think will be able to do more of this. So, for instance, there are services like Textiful, where you can give people a phone number that while you’re speaking on a stage and say, “Text this number to be added to the list to get this resource or this checklist.” They text it and then it’s sent automatically to their phone and they can click on it. Now, they have to put in their email in this back and forth, and it’s great. It’s really interactive. It’s super cheap, like 15 bucks a month. So, there’s more and more tools I think that are going to be available that will try to replicate some of that online, finding the hottest leads to the offline environment.

Ben Jones: The text works so well. I’ve used that as a person texting, not as the person putting up the idea to text, but I’ve used that. In fact, one of our past guests on this show was doing a presentation and I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting. I should text it out.” This is about two years ago. I’d never seen that before. So, I text and immediately I got a response and it scared me because she was still speaking.

Samantha Russell: Right. It’s all automated. You don’t realize it. It’s great. You could sign up for one account and every time you speak, change what the automation say. So, every presentation has a very personalized text exchange and you set it all up well in advance. I love it. I’ve used it pre-COVID times and I will definitely be using it again once we go live.

Ben Jones: Now, could you share a couple of maybe strategies? You talked a little bit about the hybrid and doing events separately rather than together at the same time, whether it’s digital and in-person. Could you share a couple of things that you think will be in demand as people get more comfortable with in-person? In other words, they’re all feeling comfortable. They want to go meet with a financial advisor or their financial advisor would like to see them in their community that they work with.  What are some of the events that you think will be really solid ways to create successful experiences for clients and advisors come fall or next year?

Samantha Russell: The two things always to keep in mind is how do you add value, teach somebody something that they’re really wanting to know and also make it fun? So, again, knowing your audience, how do you do that? Maybe you have a lot of people on your list and you happen to realize that they all love to golf or fish, right? So, you tell everybody, you take a group of 10 guys and you tell them, “We’re going to go fishing and then out to lunch afterwards and bring a friend with you who has questions about capital gains taxes.” I don’t know whatever it is. So, they know upfront, we’re going to do something fun, then we’re going to go have this more business focused conversation, or maybe it’s a group of business owners in your local community and you help business owners. You say, “Look, the COVID has left our small businesses in our downtown really struggling. How do we get more people, more foot traffic back there? How do we help restaurants? Let’s have a night where we have some of these restaurants cater it and they show off their great food. We invite all the business owners from our downtown to come. We’re going to talk about how to do this.” So, you’re making it helpful to everybody, but you’re spearheading it. Then, during it, you’ll be able to talk about, “Hey, did you lose a lot of money this year as a business? Have you considered you work with somebody who can help you make sure that you’re writing off the losses in your taxes?” So, I think, again, keeping it fun, but also thinking about what do people need help doing? Or, what do people need more information on is going to be your best bet, but you’re spearheading it. Then, during it, you’ll be able to talk about, “Hey, did you lose a lot of money this year as a business? Have you considered you work with somebody who can help you make sure that you’re writing off the losses as in your taxes?” So, I think, again, keeping it fun, but also thinking about what do people need help doing or what do people need more information on is going to be your best bet.

Emily Larsen: Whether you return to in-person events, stay virtual, or do a little of both, remember that client events are all about strengthening and building relationships. Think about whether your attendance will feel like this is worth their time. Would you make time to go to this event?

Ben Jones: Samantha, thank you for all your great insights in our conversation today. Now, for everyone listening, you can go to our show notes page, where we’re going to link to some of the workshops and content that Samantha has created to help you really enhance your client events and digital marketing. Now, to wrap up, I asked Samantha a final few questions. So, stay with us to the end because her last answer will really make you think. What does it feel like to be an advisor who gets their event strategy right?

Samantha Russell: You look around the room and people are smiling and laughing and having a good time. They come up to you afterwards and tell you, “Thank you for inviting me. That was really helpful.” But then, you actually have follow up that happens, where it wasn’t just a feel-good event, but people are reaching out to you wanting to work with your business. I’d say at least one to three people following up after every event.

Ben Jones: Excellent, and what does it feel like to be the client of advisor that gets their post COVID event strategy correct?

Samantha Russell: For clients, it’s a little bit different. I think that, again, not all clients are necessarily going to want to go to these events. So, if you are going it’s because you’ve really enjoyed the relationship you have with your advisor and they’ve built a community of all their clients. Nobody wants to go to an event where the only person they know in the room is their own financial advisor and every other person there is a stranger. So, if you’re inviting everybody to get together and people don’t know each other, you need to facilitate it, build that community and that connection. That’s another reason to start small. If you only have 10 people, you’ve invited five couples, it’s a lot easier to say, “Oh, Barry, did you know that Michelle and Chris also vacation every year down in Sanibel Island?” Then, they can start talking, right? You can facilitate that easier. So, it’s going to feel to the client not scary, not like they don’t know anybody and that it’s fun, and they’re actually having a good time.

Ben Jones: It makes a lot of sense. Now, I’m going to put you on the spot here a little bit. What questions should I have asked you that I didn’t?

Samantha Russell: I think the number one thing is thinking, do you really need to go back in-person? At the end of the day, online there’s a lot of benefits to it. Like we mentioned, being able to identify the hot leads, being able to do it at cost, knowing that the people who show up are actually interested. I would really urge people to not just go blow their budget because it is such a big budget line to do these events. If you have found success in this last year because you did online already, I don’t know if I would automatically just go switch it. If you haven’t tried any online events because you’ve just been waiting for in-person to come back, I’d really truly try online first. Give it a shot and see if you actually need to do these big events in-person again or not. There’s a lot of benefits to digital. You don’t necessarily brush them off in your eagerness to go back to in-person.

Ben Jones: Thank you for listening to Better Conversations, Better Outcomes. This podcast is presented by BMO Global Asset Management. To access the resources discussed in today’s show, please visit us at

Emily Larsen: We love feedback and would love to hear what you thought about today’s episode. You can send an email to [email protected]

Ben Jones: We really respond.

Emily Larsen: We do.

Ben Jones: If you thought of someone during today’s episode, we would be flattered if you would take a moment and share this podcast with them. You can listen and subscribe to our show on Apple podcasts or whatever your favorite podcast platform is. Of course, we would greatly appreciate it if you would take a moment to review us on that app. Our podcast and resources are supported by a very talented team of dedicated professionals at BMO, including Pat Bordak, Derek Devereaux. The show is edited and produced by Jonah Geil-Neufeld and Sam Peers Nitzberg of Puddle Creative. These are the real people that make the show happen. So, thank you, and until next time, I’m Ben Jones.

Emily Larsen: And I’m Emily Larsen. From all of us at BMO Global Asset Management, hoping you have a productive and wonderful week.

Disclosure: The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of BMO Global Asset Management, its affiliates or subsidiaries. This is not intended to serve as a complete analysis of every material facts regarding any company, industry strategy or security. This presentation may contain forward looking statements. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such statements as actual results could vary. This presentation is for general information purposes only and does not constitute investment, legal, or tax advice and is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment product, security, or service. Individual investors are to consult with an investment, legal, and/or tax professional about their personal situation. Past performance is not indicative of future results. BMO Global Asset Management is the brand name for various affiliated entities of BMO Financial Group that provide investment management and trust and custody services. BMO Financial Group is a service mark of Bank of Montreal. Further information can be found at

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