The true value of industry conferences is that they create networking opportunities that cannot be gained in any other forum. Even though I am a strong proponent of social media, you cannot replace the dynamic interaction between two people who are sharing view points and ideas passionately. There is such a tremendous value in hearing ideas, tips and suggestions from those who either work at the ground level or are valued partners. Not every industry-related conference is for everyone, although every good marketer wants to believe it. The best industry-related conferences showcase presenters from a variety of sources and not just ones who have products to pedal or are footing the bill of the reception. Look for sessions that include economic-relevant data, have well thought out breakout sessions or time for mingling (and not just at the bar). It is very important to make sure that attendees are not lured to the education based on location.
The most important take away for me are the business cards of the credit union professionals that I have met who are willing to continue the conversations after we return home. I bring back economic, legislative and regulatory insight as well. And I am very cautious about being swayed by the “flavor of the month” presentations. In my opinion, those are the ones that promote some unique or special way of generating business or creating a process flow that are newly formed. I am not opposed to new ideas, but when I go to a conference I am expecting there to have been a level of success that comes with a program that works longer than a few months.
Chief Operations Officer
South Carolina Federal Credit Union
Assets: $1.2 billion
We place a high value on continuing education. Industry conferences play a vital role in our efforts surrounding professional development. Sometimes it is tempting to make cuts in the travel and conference budget, but we understand that in many cases this would represent a penny-wise and pound-foolish action. The information we know today will not help us in the world of tomorrow, so we make a commitment to get away from our desks and learn about new ideas and other ways of running our business. In most cases, industry conferences are the best way to do this. Industry conferences are so effective in the credit union industry due to our culture of collaboration. I have often been told that our industry is unique in that way. Where else will senior leaders of organizations openly share their best practices with leaders of other organizations within the same industry? This becomes extremely effective when we can spend time together in person, learning from each other and forming a strong bond. Industry conferences provide this incredible networking opportunity. I recently attended my seventh CUNA CFO Conference. This type of industry conference has paid a significant return on investment for my credit union. Through the conference sessions and networking opportunities, I have been able to bring back new ideas and tools that have reaped real financial benefit to my organization. I hope that I have also returned the favor for my peers. There is no question that industry conferences are a vital part of our effort to remain sustainable in this rapidly changing world.
Chief Financial Officer
West Community CU
Assets: $135 million
Industry conferences can be beneficial if you are able to put into practice what you have learned at the conference. Many times, the ideas and concepts are not easily implemented due to a lack of resources (such as qualified staff, time or money). From my experience, everyone is on board and excited during the conference, but that tends to fizzle out after a couple of days once the realization sets in that the concept may be beyond your immediate ability to implement. The most important takeaway I look for at these conferences is the ability to network and speak with other CU professionals about best practices at their credit unions.
Scott R. Hughes
Director of Marketing
Assets: $77 million
The best take-always are in the networking that occurs with other CEOs. That face-to-face dialogue is important to me since I get to discuss other program ideas that are working elsewhere, and I learn about them from others in our industry. The vendor tech exhibits can be valuable since I can look and see what’s out there in a hands-on approach. You know, seeing is believing, and these kinds of seminars are good for making product comparisons. All of that makes me come back again and again. As for the board, there are limits to the number of conferences they can attend. They have the option to attend the National Directors Conference in Las Vegas during the summer. Directors are also steered to the Texas Credit Union League leadership conference which provides value in offering new ideas in product marketing and in other areas as well.
Carol Purdy Gaylord
Coastal Community FCU
Assets: $40 million
I think industry conferences are very important as they offer information that’s specific to our industry as well as to financial services as a whole. I hope to hear about the latest and greatest from either my peers or providers of services, as well as what’s worked and maybe what hasn’t worked. While we have information available to us 24/7, face to face allows for more interaction and networking. Networking is critical, and it adds a lot of value to the conference experience. Conferences allow me to network with people I otherwise may not have met, and in many instances, form relationships on which I can call on in the future. At a conference, you can discuss what you’re doing, who you’re using for a particular product or service, and given the conference, go straight to the source to discuss further. Additionally, conferences get me away from the four walls of my office, and while that’s sometimes difficult, it clears any cobwebs and rejuvenates me, helping me deal with what’s to come.
United Health Credit Union
Assets: $44 million