Tight economy, tight wallets conspire to pinch conference attendance

In speaking with a lot of brokers, agents and life company personnel over the last two weeks it is becoming clear that despite some good agenda's, speakers and crucial industry topics that it is going to be tough to get a lot of the rank and file to the SSP and NSSTA meetings in Washington, DC later this month.

In a fortuitous bit of planning, SSP is meeting early on the week of April 27th, with NSSTA meeting the last three days of that week. Any life market or broker looking to cover both meetings is thus given the option of one flight, one hotel and some great over lap. However, despite the planning convenience, the excellent location in Washington, DC and some marquee speakers, most of the brokers I have spoken with are not attending this year for two very simple reasons:

1. The economy is very tight and production is down in the last 90 days so the money isn't flowing as freely to spend on a three day session in Washington, DC. A lot of the brokers and agents simply are having a tough start to 2009 financially and need to be in the field working and prospecting.

2. The cost of the program and being in DC, one of the nations most expensive cities to visit now, is in excess of $3000 once the cost of the conference, travel, hotel and meals is factored in. Thats too big a pill for the rank and file guy to cover, but also various life markets and brokers are cutting back on who can attend and for how long given the tighter budgets and scrutiny of conference travel and costs.

There isn't much NSSTA or SSP can do about the external factors and I think both organizations have set up solid, serious agendas and are working to provide value to their members. However, the days of trade shows and annual meetings being " Must attend " are if not coming to an end, are being measured against the value they provide in a tight economy. I've been to or had associates at several meetings in the last 6 weeks and I can tell you across the board whether it is internet, advertising, legal or financial, meetings are really feeling the crunch. Just this morning NSSTA extended the date for the room discount and is attempting to drive home the reasons for attendance in a video released as well.

All great ideas and everyone is hustling, but the economic reality is that people are going to look for their information and CE online more and more now and that the networking and in person opportunities for rank and file members just aren't  worth the price in time, money and travel to get to meetings and back. I'll be interested to see how attendence is this year under the new economic reality and TARP issues but the initial conversations I'm having with members is that they need to think long and hard about attending.

Posted on March 30, 2009 .