[The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted all financial services professionals, their vendor partners, and their clients into a new virtual operating environment; one that many were not prepared for or adept in. The need for answers to truly scary questions, evaluating sudden changes to better understand impacts, and determining quickly what best course of actions to take — all needed to be explored and communicated virtually. This became the focus of a new business reality. It also quickly led to the unquestioned realization of the need for rapid learning on how to navigate this new, unprecedented world of volatility, uncertainty, confusion, and ambiguity.

In the middle of all this, it was very heartening to see a number of major digital forums and virtual meetings that were quickly conceived of and implemented to start addressing these massive concerns. Exhibiting leadership in the middle of crisis demonstrates courage, especially as definitive answers were hard to come by.  But, it was also very practical as it pushed them to learn by doing, sharing ideas, and engaging in meaningful discussions. They began modeling the leadership and positive actions needed for this new landscape — build stronger strategic partnerships, offer many varied perspectives, and learn together with your audience.  

With this article, the Institute is starting a new series on Virtual Engagement Leaders and review some recent virtual events as case studies to examine and learn from their experiences. One such event that bears review was the May 6th Virtual Advisor Summit put together by Jeremiah Demarais, CEO of Advisorist and Kevin Darlington, general manager of Broadridge Advisor Solutions. Their event was singular in the size and scope of their virtual offering.

Over the course of one day, they provided six live presentations from industry leaders and 15 on-demand sessions to choose from by a broad range of specialists from marketing, social media consulting, growth hacking, practice management, retirement planning, organizational psychology, and successful advisors with unique growth strategies.

Presenters included co-producers Desmarais and Darlington, Ed Slott (Ed Slott & Co), Michael Kitces (Kitces.com), Brad Swineheart (White Glove), Luke Acree (ReminderMedia), Duncan Macpherson (Pareto), Tom Hegna (economist, best-selling author), Frank Maselli (best-selling author), Dan Collison (Advice2Advisor), and Marc Kiner (Premier Social Security Consulting LLC).

Topics covered an extensive arsenal of specific skills and tools for the current environment including selling in the era of social distancing; new advanced retirement/tax updates; virtual presentation strategies; virtual marketing strategies; virtual communication techniques; social marketing frameworks; niche marketing to women; virtual seminar best practices; world class e-learning; secrets to blog and podcasting success; situational social security; and marketing master strategies.

The event was free to live participants but also provided the ability to pay for ongoing VIP access and download (which is still available) to all speaker presentations and tools across this wide range of topics. The response they received demonstrated the need for this kind of information, guidance, and outreach of support as the co-sponsors reported over 6,110 advisors registered for the Virtual Summit representing $194.8 Billion in AUM.

I reached out to Jeremiah Desmarias to ask about the mechanics of how they developed and implemented such a large engagement event for and with such a cross section of advisors and industry leaders. I particularly asked them to share their experiences and lessons learned in order to encourage and help advisors and other industry leaders on developing their virtual skills and create their own virtual engagement strategies for their clients and community.]

Bill Hortz: What were the main steps and time frame you took from idea to launch for your Virtual Summit?

Jeremiah Desmarais: The Summit was designed to share best practices and lessons in the field of virtual financial advising. From team assembly to go-live was five weeks. FIVE. It was mammoth, but we knew we needed to get to our audience ASAP with some time-sensitive content.

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