The 2015 Million Dollar Round Table, an annual meeting for top-producing life insurance and financial services professionals, concluded its 4-day meeting in New Orleans this past week. And it was, by all accounts, a rousing success.
Packed to the rafters
That was evident in a key figure by which conferences are judged: attendees. At 10,000-plus (up from 6,500 in 2004, when I first attended) the annual meeting sold out; the conference organizers had to close registration even before the gathering got underway — a first for the 88-year-old association.
Considering that many industry meetings nowadays have trouble breaking 1,000 or 2,000 registrants, the appeal of the MDRT convention among rank-and-file producers was an eye-opener. The turn-out was doubly impressive when taking into account this fact: Agents and advisors (or their companies) not only have to cover hotel, travel and registration costs, but also meet steep production requirements to qualify for membership.
And so the question arises: How is it that MDRT can attract such large audiences? Clearly, much of the appeal lays in compelling content, starting with the association’s signature offerings. These include the Main Platform sessions, Focus Sessions, Special Sessions, Idea Exchanges and ConneXion Zone/exhibitor space.
To its credit, MDRT endeavors to keep the annual meeting fresh by shaking up the presentations. The changes were apparent at the opening general session where speakers — many of them longtime MDRT members — covered a host of practice management issues in a fast-paced format.
Also new in New Orleans were (1) Cornerstone Presentations, where attendees could select from concurrent Main Platform-quality presentations ranging from sales strategies and practice management to technology and wellness; plus (2) language-specific “Echo Sessions” featuring speakers who translated session takeaways into the languages spoken by member colleagues from their respective countries.
The big names at the annual meeting were also top-draws. Among them: New York Times columnist and three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman, who noted that the unprecedented pace of technology change is forcing workers — highly trained white collar professionals included — to continually upgrade their skills and expertise to keep from being rendered obsolete in the marketplace.
Also on hand was Stephen Dubner, co-author of the widely acclaimed “Freakonomics” book series. To arrive at accurate forecasts, said Dubner, analysts need to uncover differences between “declared preferences” (of, for example, individuals surveyed about their tolerance for investment risk) and “actual preferences” (as revealed during a market downturn).