[Relevents -- a disruptive business events creator -- wants to accomplish nothing less than completely overhaul and reinvent the traditional events and business conference space. Partnered with world-class disruptors, their curators-in-residence have put their knowledge and networks together to create unique learning and collaboration environments. We sat down with Ben Smithee, their Chief Strategy Officer and Master Curator to learn more.]

Hortz: How exactly are you going about disrupting the typical conference?

Smithee: “What we are trying to do is create shared experiences that truly spark learning, build relationships, and become a catalyst from which new business can really happen. Rather than have pundits deliver their content by presenting boring power point slides, we are trying to change the people in the room by shifting the focus from “content” to “context”. Rather than having guest speakers who get up and present a case study on how they helped Corporation X or Y solve their innovation problems, we are integrating their content and technology being discussed into hands-on, collaborative working sessions. We feel that leads to better understanding, enables co-creating ideas or solutions together, and more naturally extends that experience and new ideas generated beyond the dates of the conference to keep the conversations and ideas going. So, instead of just listening passively, we are designing and experimenting on how to get people to experience and internalize important ideas.”

Hortz: Can you explain your Curators-in-residence which seem to be core to your event programs?

Smithee: “What we wanted to do from day one was to build the company with a different mindset, one that was different from a traditional, events professional perspective. There is enough of that out there and if you try to “innovate” with the same mindset, you are surely going to get the same result. So rather than thinking with only an events-focused mind, we put together people from outside the events industry. For example, my background is from the insights and intelligence space. Julie Anixter’s background is deep in the innovation space. Then, we further diversified that mindset by inviting external “curators-in-residence” that we consider some of the top 1% of thinkers and, more importantly, “doers” from around the globe. These people are people who get paid to keynote conferences, events and consult to large companies. With this upcoming Sacramento event, we put together half a million dollars worth of our curators’ time and content to bring you the best of the best in one amazing event. We can do this because we are attracting people who believe that the traditional events model is broken and they actively want to support this movement.” See Curators-in-residence list.

Hortz: What then is your new value proposition for conference attendees?

Smithee: “First of all, we don’t even call them conferences, but festivals because we want them to be a blend of professional and personal exploration. Things are going on in unique environments, all over the cities that we choose. We are bringing together progressive, globally diverse, cross-industry perspectives and creating experiential designs and shared experiences to help attendees actively evolve their business thinking and business models.”

Hortz: For our financial advisor readers who are looking to create new client experiences, impactful events, and customer engagement strategies, can you share how you go about creating new customer experiences?

Smithee: “In order to create meaningful client experiences, you have to work together with your clients to give them the experience they really want. Clients are evolving and want different kinds of relationships with their advisors and other firms that they use. Best tangible actions to take are to be aware of the scope of the change going on and to proactively and consistently learn by engaging deeply. It’s taking the time and steps to actually listen to the market, your customers, prospects, and understanding what is going on. With the social web, mobile, ethnographic tools, we have the ability to create experiences from understanding consumers better than we ever have.  So leverage those technologies, those abilities and approaches. And make sure that you create those experiences together. That’s what we have done. We didn’t say here’s our idea, this great new model, come and join us. We acknowledged that fundamental change is needed, and invited our attendees and content partners to help us in creating the solution. It’s really then about collaborating and partnering. It’s accepting that you cannot create everything just on your own.”

Hortz: What are the benefits for financial advisors to be part of this kind of event?