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10 Tips to Make the Most of Your Next Banking Conference

8 min read
May 8, 2019

Here are 10 best practice tips to help you make the most of your next banking industry event! Plus, you'll learn valuable ways to make sure the rest of your financial institution can also benefit from these events. From packing to networking, these experience-tested guidelines will ensure your next conferences is a success.

Many of the top banking conferences are happening this summer. Whether you’re planning to attend one or four industry events this year, preparation is essential for success. 

In this post, you’ll learn 10 essential tips to ensure you get the most value out of your next industry event.

As you might have guessed,  Ncontract are planning to speak at and sponsor a lot of conferences this year. We hope to see you at some of the upcoming banking conferences. Here are a just a few of the ones Ncontracts will be attending many this summer: 

If you’ll be attending any of the above, we hope you will stop by to say hello! Without further ado, here are the top 10 time-tested banking conference tips.

1. Determine your key goals. 

You’ve decided to spend your budget on attending a banking event, and you need to ensure it’s valuable. That’s why it’s a good idea to determine your key goals and define success. This will help you maximize your investment and determine if the conference was worth it. 

Some goals may include:

  • Meet other industry pros to help answer questions about your role.
  • Connect with peers to talk about career goals and insights.
  • Learn marketing and sales opportunities to attract more customers to your bank or financial institution.
  • Learn more about a challenging topic, such as CDD or UDAAP.
  • Explore speaking and panelist opportunities, for yourself or others on your team. 

There are plenty of other goals that may be on your shortlist. A vendor’s goals will be different than an attendee’s, but the best conferences will provide value for both.

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2. Pack wisely.

As you pack for your trip, don’t forget to create a conference kit for yourself. This should be a small bag that includes the essentials you’ll reach for time and time again. 

The best conference kit will include those basic necessities like plenty of business cards and extra charging cables, as well as less obvious essentials. The goal is to feel comfortable and prepared. In that spirit, you may want to consider including the following:

  • Mints or gum
  • Travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste, or Wisps
  • Band-aids
  • Extra hair elastics, clips, or combs
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Deodorant

Why? Even if your hotel room is in the conference venue, you may be invited to a special session or a cocktail hour, and want to be able to freshen up quickly.

Don’t forget to consider your bag, too! It’s tough to try to carry your water bottle, papers, and badge, and still try to shake hands with your new connections. A polished backpack or laptop bag can help.

3. Review the schedule.

You’d be surprised how many people skim the conference details and attend the conference without a good sense of the schedule. You don’t want to be scrambling to plan your day at breakfast or between sessions. That’s a surefire way to miss important sessions or overlook key factors.

Local and regional banking conferences tend to be broad in their content; unless you’re a team of one, there will likely be sessions that are more or less relevant to you. Larger and more topic-focused conference like the ABA RCC can be highly detailed, mixing how-to with high-level sessions. 

As you’re reviewing the schedule, focus on how sessions are organized and how long they typically last. You may want to attend a track, or follow a recommended schedule. It’s a good idea to make a mental note of any meal breaks, in case you need to plan for any. 

First, look at which sessions you’d like to attend, and consider ranking them in order of how important a session is to attend. That way, if something urgent comes up, you’ll know which session you can afford to miss. 

It’s a good idea to create a schedule for yourself either using the conference app or with another method that works for you.

Last year, Ncontracts published this blog in advance of the ABA RCC, and we're planning to release a similar post this year! Stay tuned.

4. Download the conference app, if available.

Not all conferences provide a mobile app, but if yours does, make sure to download it.

The app is an investment on the part of the event host and sponsors in your success. It is designed to include features that will help you engage, learn, and grow during the conference and beyond.

For example, the ABA always creates a wonderful mobile application for their annual Regulatory Compliance Conference. In addition to fun social components, it also includes ways to connect with industry pros, get copies of the presentations, take notes, and participate in surveys. 

Smaller, shorter, or more local events may not be able to invest in such a solution and that is okay! Conferences can be very successful without one. However, if a mobile app exists, it’s a good idea to take advantage of it.

5. Check out a map of the venue(s) and the city.

Don’t spend too long looking at a map of the venue, but it’s a good idea to at least review the space. Here’s why:

  • It’s helpful to know how large the space is, so that you can plan what to wear and how much you’ll be expected to walk.
  • The size of the space may also provide you some insights into how to create an efficient schedule. If there are two sessions that are equally important, but one is adjacent to the prior session and the other is across the venue, you may choose the closer session. That way, you can get a good seat!
  • You’ll know whether you have time to get to your room and back during the breaks.
  • It’ll be easier to find the best work spaces, in case you need to send some emails or take a call.
  • If you’re invited to dinners or cocktail hours, you’ll want to know how far away those venues are from the hotel to figure out transportation.
  • It’s valuable to know where your existing and potential vendors are located in the conference hall, so that you can set up times to meet your partners.

You don’t need to have a Mission Impossible-level knowledge of the space, but an idea of where things are will help you prepare for a great conference.

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6. Support colleagues in achieving their goals.

If you’re the only person from your financial institution attending a banking conference, it might be worthwhile to share the schedule with your colleagues. If they have any sessions that look particularly appealing, you may want to sit in for them, or get copies of notes from another attendee.  

Alternately, colleagues may be exploring partnerships with a vendor that will be attending the conference. You may want to swing by the booth, say hello, and find out if that’s a company you’d like to partner with! This kind of subtle reconnaissance can be really valuable.

Simply by opening up that conversation, you’ll learn what your colleagues are interested in and how you can help. In that way, you’ll provide value to your whole financial institution, rather than just yourself or your team.

7. Familiarize yourself with the speakers.

In general, individuals invited to be speakers at a banking conference are likely to be industry leaders. They may be extremely experienced, or they may have a unique insight to share. In a relatively small industry like banking in the US, conference organizers are likely to focus on inviting only the top speakers to their events. 

As an industry professional, it’s certainly both possible and valuable for you to get to know those thought leaders and experts. 

As you read through the schedule, pay attention to which sessions seem the most valuable to you, and who is leading them.

If a person is a regular on the banking speaker circuit, there may be recordings or decks from recent presentations that you can review to gain a better understanding of how they approach the topic. 

If a session is particularly helpful, you may want to introduce yourself to the speaker afterwards and provide them feedback. 

Unlike other industries, banking events tend to be relatively tight-knit, so it’s especially valuable to invest your time in getting to know the speakers and thought leaders in your space.

8. Network your way.

Of course, networking is an important part of any successful conference. After all, building your network is likely one of your key goals.

However, as we’ve written before, networking can get a bad rap. “Networking” can feel like a status-focused exercise in frustration. That’s why it’s important to do networking your way. 

Some people are great at trading business cards, while others are able to bond over a photo opportunity. Think about how you like to meet people and what you like to talk about in a professional capacity, and try to facilitate that. Professional social media can really deliver a lot of value here.

It can be extremely valuable to have a few conversation starters in your back pocket, particularly if they are industry-specific. For example, at a CRA and Community Development conference, you may ask the people at the table how they are tracking their CD activities. At a bank marketing conference, you might ask what a new connection thinks about digital redlining risk.

The most important thing is to remember to network in a way that feels natural to you. Your goal is to spark and building lasting, valuable professional relationships. How you go about achieving that goal needs to feel right for you.

9. Consider creating or planning content.

Conferences are an excellent source of content ideas. You have some of the best and brightest minds in an industry, all discussing the same important topics, and having valuable conversations. 

For banks, this is a great way to gain material to be used in training, in marketing, or in strategy decisions. Talk to your marketing, compliance, and leadership teams in particular to discover if there is any content they’d like to gain from the conference. 

While you won’t always be able to source or create new content based on a conference, it is still a good idea to open that conversation with your colleagues, just in case.

10. Have a post-conference plan.

Having a post-conference plan is really important, for both sponsors and attendees. A post-conference plan will help you make sure that the relationships you started and the learnings you gained are put to maximum use.

Some banks ask conference attendees to prepare a short report on the conference, to be presented to the team upon their return. Others may ask for the presentations and recordings to be shared with key internal employees. 

Each conference will require a different post-conference plan at the company-wide level. 

However, on a personal level, your post-conference plan should always include connecting with the people you met. This may be online, via LinkedIn, or on industry-specific social networks like CBANC. You may also want to go the old school route, and send a handwritten note or email to people that you had wonderful conversations with.  

No matter how you approach it, following up with the people you met will help you ensure that the conference returns value over weeks, months, and even years.

These are ten tips that we hope will help you as you prepare to attend banking conferences this summer. 

Ncontracts Viewpoint: Banking industry conferences are a great way for us to get to speak with friends, colleagues, and customers in person. We’d also love to hear from you about which ones you’re attending and which ones were the most valuable, in your eyes. Feel free to get in touch if you have an opinion you’d like to share!


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