11 ideas to create an event family offices will want to attend

David Teten of Versatile Venture Capital shares some sure-fire ways to attract family office reps to your next event.

VC David Teten
David Teten, Versatile Venture Capital

Lots of event planners want to attract family offices. Here’s a game plan for how to do that.

I’ve been involved in a range of events for the family office “FO” community, and seen 11 levers which are consistently attractive.

Advertise that the event is strictly gated to family offices. Then enforce the gate and provide clarity on how you gate. Many FOs think like Woody Allen: “I’d never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member.” Tabor Capital’s website is a good example of showing how actively their attendees are allocating. The various family office associations (such as Family Office Association, Family Office Exchange and TFOA) are membership networks, with clear incentives to strictly gate members. Adrian Zalucka of Family Wealth Report says, “Depending on the objective of the event, it might be worth allowing guests to remain incognito, so long as the organizer verifies their background is genuine and qualifies them to participate.”

Keynote speakers who are FO members themselves. It’s attractive to include conventional influencers, such as celebrities, as speakers, but even better are well-known leaders from the FO community. Ideally, the entire event is sponsored by a single FO.

Unusual experiences. Money can buy almost any product, but not any experience. Offer people the chance to experience something unusual. The Milken Institute has hosted former US presidents at their events. Context Summits offered a morning workout session at their conferences led by a former competitor in American Ninja Warrior, a perfect example of offering a health-conscious bonding lesson and an unusual experience. Opal Group’s Family Office & Private Wealth Management Forum begins their conference with an annual regatta cup race.

Discussion of sensitive topics. A good rule of event planning is don’t offer any content which is readily obtainable via Google. At one family office conference, I moderated a panel of next-generation family members. I made a point of discussing (with advance approval) sensitive topics such as: What did you like and dislike about how your family brought you up, and what do you want to do the same and differently in raising your own children?

Strong moderation. Many moderators ask softball questions, particularly if they’re service providers selling to the people they’re moderating. I like academics or other people with a strong, data-based research background as moderators, because they tend to ask better questions. For more on this, see “How to organize a conference (and panels) that add value.”

Formalized self-introductions. Family office members are sometimes hesitant to talk too much about themselves. To help ameliorate this, you can organize private get-togethers, with a moderator who requests each family to introduce themselves, perhaps in a small group.

Highly customized gatherings. FOs are more likely to attend an event that’s geared to their narrowly defined interests. I’m the founder of Harvard Business School Alumni Angels, now the largest angel network on the East Coast. We hold monthly pitch nights for our members, plus regular educational events, tightly focused on the interests of East Coast angel investors.

Health-conscious environment. The family office community is exactly the population which eats organic, hires a private chef, works out regularly, and is sensitive to the long-term benefits of paying attention to your wellbeing. When organizing in-person events, I recommend serving people health-conscious food, organizing group workout sessions/jogs and making sure the hotel has a high-quality gym. Click here for more on how to keep people attending.

Play to people’s passions. For example, many people in the family office community are interested in art, so numerous family office organizations host their Miami conferences alongside Art Basel Miami.

Pick a logical venue for your target audience (assuming your event is not virtual). Some family office events pick convenient locations in business areas, such as midtown Manhattan. These tend to attract more of the younger people or those who are still working full time as opposed to retired. Others pick exclusive, expensive locations, which will require numerous attendees to fly in, such as in Miami or Aspen. These tend to attract more of the retired or semi-retired. Both options are fine, as long as the agenda is aligned with the attendees’ interests.

Lastly, privacy. Tim Friedman, founder of PEStack and venture partner with Versatile VC, noted that the “best practice would be to not sell the contact details of your members/attendees, and if you do, be transparent about it! Lots of these single family offices are intentionally private. There were times at Preqin where we would add a new family office to the database, and they would get hammered by so many fundraising professionals that they would call us and beg for their details to be taken down. It doesn’t matter how specific the family office is about their investment criteria or outreach preferences, many IR professionals will ignore all of this, if there is even the tiniest chance of getting an investment.”

David Teten is founder of Versatile Venture Capital in New York. He writes periodically at teten.com and tweets at @dteten