Hortz: How do you ensure meaningful debate versus canned presentations and talking points?

Holt: Meaningful debate is really all about how you set up the format for it. In the moderated sessions, we are allowing for each of the leadership representatives of the technology companies to present four minutes on their vision for the space and their company. When everybody is done, the moderator — who is an experienced industry veteran — will ask a series of debate-style questions that are intended to inspire open challenges. We are also giving the participating advisors the ability to submit discussion topics as well which will inform the moderator as to what advisors wants to address — similar to a town hall meeting.

Hortz: What are the interactive abilities you built into the event?

Holt: We made a pretty significant investment collectively in the format and platform of this event which, because it is virtual, is enabled entirely on a mobile app and desktop environment. As you can already tell, accessibility was important to us since it is a recurring theme. There are some individuals who will participate that really want to receive and digest information simply from the main panels to learn from the leaders about the different solutions and their vision forward.

There are others that want to interact directly with these companies and so we've built a virtual exhibit hall where many of the companies will be running successive 15-minute demos or presentations with an open chat and interactive communication abilities for advisors with the members of those companies. We expect that advisors who attend might stop by five to 10 different companies and explore what they are building today. In this case, we think of it very much like an exhibit hall where one can “walk” around and learn what different companies are doing at their own pace. Likely the most common outcome will be for advisors to visit companies that they are already working with and/or their integration Partners who are present at the event in complimentary categories.

Hortz: Do you feel that this type of virtual technology forum will accelerate the buy-in and implementation of Advisor technology?

Holt: I'm not sure that it's going to increase the buy-in or the implementation, but we do know that the biggest barrier towards taking action is the lack of clarity or confidence towards making a good decision. If we help advisors achieve better understanding of what their choices are and create an open environment where they can ask the questions they need to ask, then we have achieved our mission. All growth and change starts with exploration of one's options. Our contribution to the industry can be raising the bar and setting a new standard for education and accessibility of options with inclusion of diverse thinking to help solve the problems of the future.

Hortz: Any last thoughts you would like to share with advisors about your upcoming virtual technology Forum? 

Holt: You don't want to miss this one. It is all about diversity and inclusion of people and ideas. We decided to address accessibility in the industry, not just for technology innovation, but also for inclusion of diverse perspectives in the population. 

We felt such an alignment with our benefactor partner this year — the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning Diversity Initiatives — that is why we are committing 50% of all ticket sales from this event to go to their mission to empower education and progress in creating access to women and people of color in the financial services industry.