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SMAX, I miss you

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If all were right in the universe, today I’d be putting the final touches on speaking assignments for the 2013 edition of Senior Market Advisor Expo, affectionately, and better, known as SMAX. But all is not right in the universe as evidenced by this belated obituary for my long lost, but not forgotten friend.

Last year, I held out hope and refused to put the final nail in the coffin by writing this column. But, as we slouch toward another oppressively hot August, and with SMAX still unable to fog a mirror, I’m officially, sadly, pulling the plug.

Time of death: 12:21 p.m. Las Vegas time, Aug. 26, 2011.

Oh friend! My friend! You will remain forever young for all of us who graced your exhibit hall and breathed your breezeless, antiseptic air, while learning more about life insurance, annuities and retirement planning.

At the youthful age of 11, not even in your prime or yet to peer into the face of puberty, SMAX, you died much too young. Or, if we measure conferences, not by the Julian calendar of 365 days, but by some other reference, such as dog years, then you lived a full life.

I choose to think of you that way — of a long life fully lived. And, as with any great life there are great memories, many of which I cannot repeat on these pages. For those I can (and my SMAX memories only extend from 2008 to 2011), here goes:

  • In 2008, my first SMAX, we survived Tropical Storm Fay together. Held in Orlando, Fay seemed to whip up a weird energy and a strong group dynamic. Too often independent advisors think of themselves as lone wolves, but Fay seemed to pull us together, a shelter from the storm. More than one attendee pulled me aside and said something along the lines of: “I’ve attended your past expos and really enjoyed them. But, man, I don’t know what you did this time. This show is great! It really blows other shows away.”
  • 2009 found us back in Las Vegas where, frankly, we both belong. Orlando is about Disney and mouse ears. But SMAX? You’re Vegas born and bred, baby. In typical Vegas fashion, we had SMAX and industry veteran, Al Atha, step in for an AWOL speaker at the 25th hour. “Big Al” led an improvisational and unrehearsed workshop on prospecting. As Big Al told the class, “If an advisor is doing seminars, he needs to be both a great salesperson and a great speaker. He’s not going to reach his potential if he’s a lousy public speaker.” Wiser words were never uttered at SMAX.
  • 2010 I remember more for the Jimmy Buffet bar than most anything else, but it was you who brought me to Vegas. So, there’s that, SMAX. There’s always that.
  • 2011, your swan song. If we’d only known, we could have shared a proper farewell. Speaker Tom Hegna, perhaps tuned in to your early demise told a rapt audience, “Everybody dies but nobody knows when except…life insurance companies.”

With the death of the only true peer-to-peer event in the industry, I say goodbye, my friend, goodbye — the industry is not the same without you. It never will be.

SMAX, as grown man to defunct conference, I am not too proud to tell you, I miss you. I really do.

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