IMHO: Design Designs

March 28, 2006 ( - Years ago, I got burned out on conferences. Too often, the seats were packed with sellers rather than buyers - and, too often, the presentations were not-so-thinly veiled pitches by those same sellers.

Of course, in a delicious sense of irony, given the aforementioned composition of the audience, they wound up selling to the competition (not that some buyers weren’t lured in by the beautiful brochures touting the event, but let’s face it, they were generally a distinct minority).

There are some good events out there, of course – and it has been my privilege to speak at a number of them over the years.   Still, over the past 18 months I have been approached by any number of plan sponsors – and advisors – who ask the same question:   “Why doesn’t PLANSPONSOR do any conferences?”   The reason for that has been fairly straightforward: Conferences take a lot of time, require a specialized expertise to organize and deliver, and – let’s face it – they are expensive to put on.  

Still, the question has continued to crop up.   The more we thought about the possibility – the ability to not just contribute, but to actually shape an event – the more persuaded we were that the time was right for PLANSPONSOR to take that step.   Later this week, you will receive information about that event.   It’s titled simply Plan Designs 2006.   However, our theme – “Getting from where you are to where you need to be” – is, we hope, evocative of the tone and focus of this event.   We’ve scheduled it for the last week of June, and chosen a location – Chicago, Illinois – whose centrality, we hope, will make it as broadly accessible as possible.

My comments about conferences notwithstanding, there are plenty of alternatives.   So, why should you come to this one?  

First, this conference is designed for a broad audience – advisors, plan sponsors, and providers – and the sessions will, as they must in the real world, deal with all of those perspectives.   Second, even though the challenges confronting those various constituencies share commonalities, there are aspects that affect different size programs differently – and we have developed two separate tracks that support a focus that is just as distinct.   Finally, there is the matter of the agenda.   We have spent the past several months identifying what we believe are the most critical issues confronting our industry – plan sponsors, advisors, and providers – based on input from plan sponsors, advisors, and providers.   Nor have we chosen “safe” topics: We’ll be dealing with things like the myths and realities of TRO, the pros and concerns about automatic plan features, how – and how often – to monitor plan investment menus, the suitability of choices beyond mutual funds for participant-directed plans, and even “Does your plan need an advisor?”

We’re excited about the prospects for an event that is truly provocative, but not argumentative…topics that are forward-thinking, but grounded in today’s realities…coupled with the involvement and participation of people like you who are committed to this business, and the opportunity to share and interact with individuals who share your passion for it.

So, be on the lookout for your e-mail invitation – and I hope to see you in Chicago!

You can register for Plan Designs 2006 at

If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, contact Alix Hughes at