Can Your Annual Meeting Become a Lifelong Career Coach?

Author: David McMillin       

Your “Why Should I Attend?” section of your annual meeting website most likely lists benefits associated with the near future. Exhibit halls with products hitting the market within the next year, sessions that deliver education credits for that upcoming certification renewal deadline, and opportunities to make new connections for bottom-line impact in the next quarter — the majority of meetings are designed to deliver value in the immediate short-term after participants leave.

But what about five years after the meeting? And how about the next decade? While the connections made at meetings and events may develop into lifelong personal friendships and professional relationships, the long-term impact of paying to attend a meeting or become a member can be more challenging to articulate. A new tool from the banking industry may offer a helpful cue in understanding how to make those meetings and memberships have a more lasting impact.

Banks, like meetings, have traditionally focused on satisfying a customer’s immediate needs and desires. For example, new checking account customers might get a $200 bonus, and credit card customers can rack up rewards points for that summer vacation. Those are nice perks, but they don’t make much of a difference in the long run. This fall, Bank of America will launch a new product that aims to give customers a continual reminder of the value the bank offers. It’s called Life Plan, and David Tyrie, head of advanced solutions and digital banking at Bank of America, told CNBC that the tool is intended to act like a financial coach.

“The holy grail in financial services is maintaining a lifelong relationship with somebody,” Tyrie said. “But candidly, the thing that we’ve struggled with as an industry is trust. Life Plan is really about building trust and giving you that feeling that we are acting in your best interest.”

From buying a car to saving for a down payment on a home to planning for retirement, the tool delivers how-to advice for managing money. “It’s advice for what you need, when you need it,” Sofia Santos, head of consumer strategy at the bank, said in the CNBC interview. “We wanted to break it down into small, actionable steps that people can do.”

How can the Life Plan model apply to meetings and member-based organizations? Just as individuals are looking for advice and actionable steps in their personal lives, they are also searching for regular assistance in navigating their professional careers. That assistance will vary based on where they are in their careers and where they hope to be — opening their own businesses, climbing the ranks of their current organizations, making a switch to a new segment of their industry, and other objectives. Imagine “Career Plan,” a coach that helps each individual understand the education, events, and networking necessary for sustained professional development.

To establish the kind of trust that Tyrie mentioned — essential for all organizations, not just banks — this kind of career-planning tool would need to be more than selling personalized products and services. It would need to deliver meaningful advice and tackle big questions — Is it really worth it to invest in pursuing an MBA after a certain age? — and deliver small recommendations — What books should you be reading to have better conversations with your CEO? And looking at that initial question — Why should you attend this meeting? — would include an answer that outlines the role it can play far into their future.

Do you have any thoughts on what a Career Plan coach would look like for your meeting or your organization? Go to Catalyst to share your perspectives on creating a lifelong relationship with attendees and members.