For years, our readers have been asking me to stage in-person events. In the early days, I hesitated to do so because IMI was a one-man operation with limited cash flow, and I wasn’t sure I’d have the capacity – financially or operationally – to carry it out.
Later on, when our team had grown to three full-time staff and our subscriber base had expanded considerably, I did feel more confident that we’d be able to pull it off but the pandemic and its attendant restrictions made it impossible to plan even a few months into the future.
In the early days of 2022, however, the pandemic was ebbing, and much of society had reopened, bringing a semblance of normalcy and predictability. I no longer had any excuse not to organize the events our readers have been calling for, so I decided to take the plunge.
But I didn’t want to organize just any ordinary event. In the years prior to the pandemic, I must have attended at least 20 different conferences and summits. Looking back, I have trouble distinguishing most of them from each other because nearly all of them followed the same format:
A couple hundred people gathered in some hotel, left their business cards at the entrance and picked up a name tag, left their junior associate at the company’s booth with a stack of brochures and branded USB sticks, and sat down to listen to the first few presentations in the ballroom. While some of the presentations were useful, many were dull and repetitive. There’s a limit to how many times you need to hear about Antigua’s 365 beaches or the stellar prospects of some off-plan development in Limassol.
If you, like me, have attended a number of investment migration conferences, you’ll know what I’m referring to. Attendance in the main presentation room tends to fall gradually through the day as delegates linger in the foyer after the coffee break, concluding that the conversation in which they are engaged is probably more interesting than whatever monotonous monologue is taking place in the ballroom.
And woe betide anyone who’s scheduled to speak immediately after lunch! They can expect at least half the seats to be empty at that time of day, and many of those who have come to listen are there in part because they didn’t feel comfortable striking up conversations with strangers in the coffee-break room, in part because they are empathetic people who felt bad about you speaking to a mostly empty room.
Panel discussions, of course, are a different story. These are often interesting. Where presentations are usually based on prepared remarks and PowerPoint slides (which sometimes load properly and sometimes don’t), panel discussions are made up of off-the-cuff statements that haven’t been vetted by the compliance department, banter and clever comebacks, and – sometimes – a sprinkling of drama. At their best, panel discussions have attendees glued to the edge of their seats, waiting to see how so-and-so will respond to what this-or-that firebrand just uttered.
In those moments, I have often thought to myself: “Wouldn’t it be great to have a conference made up of only panel discussions, composed exclusively of quick-witted, charismatic, and knowledgeable panelists?”
Sure it would, but then how does your event make money? After all, the number one item sponsors are willing to pay for is air-time and a chance to present their project, service, or destination in front of a more-or-less captive audience. Mediocre presentations, along with booths, are what pay for the bulk of event organizers’ costs, which is why many conferences are arranged primarily around the interests of the sponsors, rather than around the people attending.
An event for the guests, by the guests
The answer, I concluded, would be to organize a conference not primarily with the sponsors in mind but, rather, with a focus on the attendees and the value and utility the event could offer them. Rather than having sponsors cover the bulk of the costs, the individual guests themselves would pay their own way. Sure, the tickets would have to cost a little more but, this way, at least they would leave the event feeling it was worth their time and money many times over.
Why do guests (not sponsors) attend events? Sure, they come to learn something from the presentations, but mostly they come to network, forge new relationships, find potential business partners, have crucial conversations, reconnect with their industry peers, and have some good old-fashioned fun.
And this is exactly the kind of experience that awaits our guests at IMI Connect – Lisbon on May 31st, the first-ever in-person event IMI has ever organized.
We’ve arranged an event with you, the attendee, in mind.
Sure, we’ll have a handful of sponsors (max. four of them, to be exact), but they won’t get any speaking gigs based on their sponsorship alone.
With the exception of our Keynote presentation (which I guarantee will not be boring), all our professional content is made up of panel discussions, 100% of the participants in which are exactly the kinds of people you would want to hear debating an issue. And the discussions won’t be about the inconsequential minutia of this or that program either; instead, we’re tackling the big, challenging, and urgent questions industry professionals have today:
- What does the EU’s antagonism mean, practically, for the industry?
- What do we need to know about the threat of visa-waiver suspensions?
- How will the war in Ukraine change the market and how can we position ourselves to be prepared?
- What will the coming food, inflation, and energy crises mean for migrant streams?
But, crucially, IMI Connect – Lisbon isn’t only about professional discussion and the tackling of hairy questions. As mentioned, the content on stage is not the main reason people attend events. Our program will not stand in the way of your networking and having a good time; we’ve left plenty of room in the schedule for you to have good conversations with colleagues you haven’t seen in ages and those you’ve been hoping to meet for a long time, to enjoy delectable meals and try to win wonderful prizes with your team-mates in a friendly RCBI trivia contest, and to sip your favorite drinks or cocktails (open bar throughout the day) to the backdrop of the Lisbon sunset on a balmy early summer’s day.
You’ll want for nothing, you’ll have a great time, you’ll meet exactly the kinds of people you were hoping to, and you’ll come away from the event with fond memories.
In a word, IMI Connect – Lisbon will be magical.
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.