Monday, October 2, 2017

A Banking Event Like No Other ~ BAI Beacon ~ An Event Like No Other of Any Kind Anywhere

As a new but prolific writer I get requests to do all sorts of interesting things & write about them. Last week a friend suggested I attend an event he thought I would find interesting.

In this case "the thing" is an event that peaked my interest. "Event" means a lot of things to a lot of people. It perhaps means more to me than most, because I spent 20 years in my 1st career managing & mismanaging corporate events.

My 2nd career in real estate also involved me in very different kinds of events. And that career also involved me in banking. Without banks real estate does not exist & vice versa. Well, the dirt does actually exist, it is just a lot trickier to own without the help of a bank. But let's not get into the real estate weeds.

My personal experience with banks is that I owe them a lot of money. I know many honchos at many large financial institutions who know better than to loan me money. I am like the guy on the left below, just not as well off.

But there I go again back into the weeds. I shall try not to do that again.

I have never been to a banking event of any kind, even during the 20 years of my 1st events career. That is not entirely true. I have been to one or two ribbon cuttings for a new branch opening only to see if hungry & untrained new managers might loan me money.

The recommended banking event for this particular article was BAI Beacon at the Georgia World Congress Center, a place where I spent a lot of time but have not visited in 35 years. Since January 12, 1982 to be exact, also known as Snow Jam '82. True story, but it has never snowed in Atlanta on October 4 or 5, so six hours of road rage & poor traction was less likely to be a factor.

Okay, I hereby vow to get out & stay out of the weeds.

BAI Beacon's organizer is BAI. One would expect as much. But to figure out what the heck BAI is I had to use google to find an answer on the answer-to-everything website, Wikipedea. There I was able to learn BAI stands for the Bank Administration Institute.

To save time typing I will copy & paste a/k/a plagiarize from Wikipedea:

"Bank Administration Institute (BAI) is a nonprofit organization in the United States that provides research, training, and thought leadership events for the financial services industry. Headquartered in Chicago, IL, BAI also operates Banking Strategies, a daily online financial services publication."

This is a little scary because I owe banks so much money and also cool because I lived in Chicago for 14 glorious years. Go Cubs! But BAI Beacon is in Atlanta & not Chicago this year so I can't make too much of the latter. I can still be scared by the former however. This had all the earmarks of an IRS cocktail party to which I was invited last year that didn't go so well.

That party led to chronic & acute heartburn on my behalf & an illustration like this:

Back to BAI. BAI has been around since 1924, about the same year I went into bank debt. A little digging into BAI Beacon revealed the event was not likely an entrapment setup like that cocktail party. Here I copy & paste a/k/a plagiarize again to reveal the essence of an event unlike any I attended when I thought I was a corporate event honcho.

"Unlike other conferences, BAI Beacon’s immersive, easy-to-navigate open-campus fosters an integrated and collaborative learning experience, where you’ll engage directly with experts from inside and outside the industry, like-minded peers, FinTech companies and leading industry solutions providers. Dive into the new Innovation Zone to learn more about disruptive new technologies, collaborate in small group huddle discussions to understand how your peers are leveraging technology and meet one-on-one with experts to get answers to your unique questions."

This was clearly not going to be exhibit hucksters in booths inviting me to their hospitality suite before I could even figure out what their company did.

Here I will attempt to set bad writing aside. BAI Beacon was simply incredible. Unforgettable. Astounding.

I arrived at registration with little advance preparation beyond a press pass & open mind. I signed up to be seated among "marketing" professionals because they sounded less intimidating than other technical title categories I could not even pronounce.

When asked my role I had this elevator pitch rehearsed in advance:

"Hello Mr or Ms Bank Marketing Person. I am a freelance writer who knows nothing about banking other than this is a unique banking event I should attend & write about. Please give me some extremely dumbed down insight I can both (A) comprehend & (B) write about using no more than 3 syllable words."

While BAI should have given me the badge above they actually gave me this slick stuff. Absolutely no idea what that contraption on the left is. But if it's an Apple Watch I broke it.

To my amazement the lame elevator pitch worked & no one kicked me out. They even obliged my request by offering me valuable & comprehensive insight I could both (A) comprehend & (B) write about. Most of the time at least.

BAI Beacon attracts attendees whose time is valuable. To address this dynamic BAI creates a rapid fire environment devoid of extraneous diversions to which I was accustomed & in charge of in my corporate event days.

No song & dance, no canned spiels, no magicians or caricature artists. No hospitality suites. Or at lease none to which I was invited.

A couple of attendees even asked for my card & might hire me to write something if I promise to not try and sound bankish.

To plagiarize again, the BAI Beacon agenda offers "fast paced presentations, open discussions, and active peer dialogues in the conference sessions, or thought leadership and demos in the Innovation Zone."

Whew. That may sound intimidating but it was not. Not even to a banking coward like me.

I expected this:

But got something closer to this:

BAI Beacon covered an extraordinary range of topics via an extraordinary range of formats. They hosted an extraordinary panel of speakers. BAI Beacon offered Pre-conference Learning Labs in which I should have participated had I known about any of this pre-conference.

One thing I would have learned in Freelance Writing 101, had I taken it which I didn't, is to not put too many hyperlinks in a single paragraph. BAI Beacon made this extremely difficult by packing in so much good stuff in so little time I will not even try to conform to this Writing 101 maxim.

Back to the speakers for a sec. Patty McCord pretended to be talking to the whole auditorium full of bank mavens. But she was really speaking only to me, the most non bank person there.

Those words on that big old screen are what I am trying to demonstrate here. She did it with a whole lot fewer words.

Crystal Washington has forgotten more about social media & marketing strategy than I will ever learn. She is 1/2 my age, way smarter than me & it really ticks me off.

Like me, neither of the above speakers have anything directly to do with banking. Unlike me, they are savvy & articulate enough to score a paid speaking gig.

Having attended BAI Beacon I feel remarkably well informed on banking in a way I never thought possible. That said, if you ever see my name on a document like this run & hide. Make your children run & hide.

I shall not attempt here to duplicate a BAI Beacon content syllabus or demonstrate some overnight banking expertise I can not claim. Suffice it to say BAI Beacon is an event anyone (A) with a remote interest in banking & (B) whose time is valuable (C) absolutely, positively must attend.

Please pardon that the final link above takes you to register for the event just ended. Which is not helpful at all. BAI will host more & that is a very good thing. Go here for more information about future BAI Beacon events.


BAI Beacon
15 S. LaSalle St., Suite 3300
Chicago, IL 60603-3801