FTF Blows through the Windy City

We recently returned from a trip to Chicago where we held our 3rd Annual Chicago OTC and Exchange Traded Derivatives Ops conference and assisted Aite Group with a trading event; my review of Chicago, Five Stars. Not only is Chicago a great City with impressive architecture and restaurants but its people are some of the nicest I’ve come across.

Aside from the occasional training course or conference FTF holds in San Francisco, Boston and Chicago, the majority of FTF events are held in New York City. When planning an event in another city, one would think that other major cities aren’t much different to Chicago Derivatives EventNew York and that what works here will pretty much work anywhere else, but this is not really the case. The culture, business expertise, venues and people differ vastly from city to city and certainly overseas (the London conference scene is a totally different animal). These differences can change the overall tone of the day and how your event should be executed; your expectations in Boston per say should differ from New York to Chicago to San Francisco and so on. Here are some differences Sarah, Caitlin and I noticed about Chicago from our New York home base:

1. It is harder to get speakers in Chicago. This is largely due to a smaller pool of people located in Chicago. While some of the largest financial services firms are located out there, geographically, there are just more in New York. Therefore, you need to be creative in using as many resources as possible and reach out to already established contacts for assistance, recommendations and guidance and allow extra time to fill all the speaking spots on the agenda. We started reaching out to speakers about eight weeks earlier than we would have in New York. On the upside, however, given that Chicago is the derivatives capital of the country, the speakers we did confirm (as well as the attendees) were very passionate and knowledgeable about what they do. Same goes for trading – Chicago has more prop traders than New York, Boston or San Francisco.
2. The attendees arrive on time and there were fewer attendees leaving before the end of the day. When registration started at 8:15 a.m., there was already a line of people waiting to check-in and the line didn’t ease up until we kicked-off at 9:00. For the most part, everyone arrived Chicago Derivatives Eventwith smiles and actually chuckled at the quirky jokes I cracked as we greeted them. Also, when the conference commenced after the afternoon networking break, 75% of the attendees were still present, attentive and asking questions. On top of that, we didn’t have to ring our bell 4 or 5 times to corral the group back into the conference room after breaks – for that matter, we didn’t have to ring it at all! Everyone just went back in the room on their own accord. Imagine that!
3. The venues are more expensive and can be harder to book. The one challenge we did come across is that it’s harder to book a venue in Chicago and they also come with a hefty price tag. You’d think that Chicago would be slightly less than New York City, but it’s quite the contrary. On top of that, May is supposedly a huge convention month in Chicago with different groups coming in and taking over the city each week. The week we happened to be was Digestive Disease week or something like that. Rooms were well over $400 and you were lucky if you could find one. The actual venue space available was hard to find as well as the stomach ailment gurus had a hold on the majority of conference space City-wide. We compromised, however, and took a Monday – a dreaded day that most event planners stay away from. For us, however, it had no affect on our turnout. Additionally, the Food & Beverage minimums are higher in Chicago than New York and the prices of the food seemed higher too – same goes for the Audio & Visual equipment.

In a nut shell, Chicago is a city that should definitely not be overlooked when considering an event location. There is a lot of business to be had out there and Chicagoans are a pleasure to work with. Just be sure to add extra money to your budget and allow for more time to plan. We look forward to going back to Chicago next year.

About Maureen Lowe

President and Founder of Financial Technologies Forum, LLC. Editor-In-Chief of FTF News. Entrepreneur, Jersey Girl that recently returned to Jersey, Loves to Bake, Married to a Kiwi, First Time Mom
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