Get creative about client events in a virtual world

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As advisers and clients continue to work remotely in many parts of the country, trends that started in March persist. The pandemic is causing a paradigm shift, and advisers who reenvision their practices now can position themselves for future success.

Let’s look at client events as an example. Whether it’s a big holiday party or an intimate dinner, most advisers host some type of gathering throughout the year. Socializing with clients is a proven way to enhance relationships and is often a great source of referrals, particularly when clients bring friends along.

In our new virtual world, few advisers are hosting dinners or wine tastings, and even fewer clients want to attend; instead, advisers are planning unique, scalable events that are deepening relationships in surprising ways — and, most important, getting clients talking about them. Below are a few examples and suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.


One adviser’s friend is a professional chef whose restaurant closed. The adviser developed the idea of a virtual cooking class, which turned into an enormously successful event. He had aprons printed with his logo (and a food quote) and sent them to his guests along with the invitation. He also included a list of ingredients and where to purchase them. Lastly, the adviser told clients he’d be happy to welcome their friends, too. Not only did all invitees attend, five clients asked to have friends involved. Because it was all done via Zoom, it was easy for the adviser to accommodate more guests — at no extra expense. And, as a kicker, clients have asked to do it again!

It’s worth noting that all guests came to the cooking class prepared to be pleased. Everyone knew why they weren’t together in person. They appreciated the cooking class as a welcome break from their routine and were pleased the adviser was thinking of them. The adviser confided that, though he has spent enormous amounts of time, energy, and money hosting lavish dinner parties in the past, he’s never gotten more positive feedback than he received from participants in this virtual cooking class.


Another adviser is taking advantage of the beautiful fall weather to host a photography session at a local park. She is inviting clients and their families (including pets) to join her near a pond, where a professional photographer will take portraits. Because the photographer will set up more than 6 feet away from the clients, they are comfortable with the idea — and many have expressed appreciation for a long overdue family portrait.

Appointments are scheduled 30 minutes apart, and guests are instructed to stand in waiting areas that are staggered for safety when they arrive. The adviser and a staff member will be on hand with cider, donuts and apples, and will have a chance to talk to their clients — as well as the next generation of clients — while they wait. The adviser intends to send clients a print version of the portrait, as well as a digital version in case clients want to use the photo in a holiday card — a great starting point for conversations and potential referrals. How’s that for getting creative?

[More: Prospecting events in a virtual world]


If you’re an adviser who used to conduct public seminars or workshops, these times hold great opportunities for you. You can reach large numbers of prospects with a virtual format, and, because the barrier to entry is small (prospects only need to sit in front of a computer), they might give your session a try when they ordinarily wouldn’t.

You might find other opportunities, too. For example, portfolio managers and analysts who wouldn’t normally travel to speak at your event might be willing to participate in a Zoom call. Now you’ve got an event to promote on your website, social media and elsewhere.

We’ve all felt the limitations of COVID-19 the past six months, but there are opportunities and silver linings for advisers, their practices — and their clients.

[More: Look again: Your annual goals are still within reach]

Kristine McManus is vice president and chief business development officer for practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network.

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