“I don’t have time for this. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” Or my personal favorite – “It’s five o’clock already?”

We’re all familiar with office jargon like this. Whether you’re an investment banker or a software developer, a physician or a professor, a trucker or a farmer, time is of the essence because you can’t buy more of it. Sure, maybe you can stretch a deadline until next week or even hit a target launch date ahead of schedule when everything goes as planned. But either way, that means squeezing as much productivity out of each 24-hour sprint as humanly possible. Although in today’s landscape technology helps optimize time to reach maximum efficiency, that doesn’t mean it’s the only component of effective time management.

Now in its 30th year, the Equipment Leasing & Finance Association’s (ELFA) National Funding Conference recently brought industry professionals together once again at the Swissôtel Chicago earlier this month. Given the elevated market confidence in a booming industry with can’t-miss opportunities at stake, this year’s record turnout of nearly 700 attendees is hardly a surprise considering the annual gathering continues to make it easier, more flexible and extremely affordable for funding sources to participate and meet with the companies that fit your funding profile.” Needless to say, the ELFA National Funding Conference is a prime example of a productive, high-impact use of time tailored to meet the needs of a competitive industry. In spite of the vast technological changes in the marketplace, industry events remain vital to successful time management. Here’s why:

Conferences have everything you need, all in one place

Technology has high-jacked the conversation surrounding workplace productivity (and rightfully so), but that doesn’t mean it’s drained the value from strategically-planned networking opportunities like the ELFA National Funding Conference. Much of this has to do with the principles on which it was founded. The event is structured upon the idea that independent leasing companies are always looking for new funding sources, so providing an open trading floor will empower parties to sell deals back-and-forth more effectively. With this understanding in mind, the ELFA has carefully crafted an ideal atmosphere for all kinds of funding relationships, with respect to everyone’s own unique appetite for business. Whether you’re looking to nurture existing relationships, or test the water with new prospective clients, this event proves to be a wildly-productive use of time year in and year out.

In the past, the conference has kicked off with a cocktail reception on Tuesday night, followed by 20 minute meeting slots scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday – reminiscent of speed-dating. However, this changed with the introduction of ELFA Executive Roundtables, which begin on the same day at 1 pm. Before implementing this new conference feature, most attendees arrived midday Tuesday, still with plenty of time to spare before the evening festivities commenced. But with this slight tweak in scheduling, it’s now more feasible to arrive on Monday due to the uncertainty presented by weather and travel – especially in a bustling landscape like the Windy City.

As a result, leasing professionals and funding sources alike flock to the event an entire day in advance, often times booking independent meetings of their own to maximize the amount of valuable face-time with others. Just like that, a simple change to the conference schedule introduced a new dynamic to way attendees interact, helping attendees get more bang for their buck.

Tech partners are the facilitators in the field – not the focus

At events like the ELFA Funding Conference, there is typically a hierarchy of priorities. Leasing companies check in with financial institutions first to get their funding lines approved before branching off to smaller funding sources with the hopes of expand their portfolios. Somewhere along the line, tech partners – the problem-solving catalysts for any complications that arise – may enter the equation. Of course, traditionally most equipment finance companies aren’t as interested in meeting with the software provider because that means spending money at an event where the goal is to secure funding. However, with the rapid emergence of digital banking and other FinTech pursuits, software companies are becoming less of an afterthought on the conference trading floor.

In an expanding U.S. economy, leasing companies are thriving, which amplifies the importance of securing larger-funded and more diversified relationships. Liquidity in the market means many high-risk, high-reward opportunities are available, as banks have an excess amount of money ready to put to work rather than sitting idly by collecting dust. At the end of the day, one of the key factors of influence in the equipment finance industry is risk mitigation. For example, smaller banks tend to fall victim to accounting exposure issues, so that’s when it’s time to go find partners to do business with – a need that is often satisfied by industry events such the ELFA Funding Conference. When those smaller banks start selling off deals, the need for sophisticated, end-to-end technology solutions to drive high-volume deals to the finish line suddenly becomes amplified. That’s where tech partners like LeaseTeam step in and spearhead issues that arise with our end-to-end lease management solution, ASPIRE.

Like any investment, emerging technology is a long-term commitment that impacts how you work every day. It’s a big-picture approach to time management. On the other hand, industry conferences are short-term commitments with a more immediate impact. They are quick bursts of high-impact activity that help you secure new business or discover opportunities to innovate within your existing model. Together, a robust technology stack allows leasing companies and funding sources to capitalize on deals with confidence when they interact at industry conferences – where the real business gets done.

In Review

When executed correctly, industry events like the ELFA National Funding Conference are much like professional playgrounds. They demonstrate the unwavering value of face-to-face interaction in the digital age, without neglecting the fact that the tech sector is here to help fight the race against the clock. To get your money’s worth, it’s important to understand where your company’s value proposition fits into the industry equation so you can focus on high-impact opportunities, while minimizing the amount of time spent entertaining low-impact endeavors. Based on this year’s spike in attendance, more and more individuals are coming to terms with this reality:

  • Successful conferences still bring everything you need together, all in one place.
  • Tech partners are facilitators in the field looking to solve critical business problems.
  • Understanding the dynamic relationship between the two is great for time management.

Next time you find yourself pondering the value of attending a conference, ask yourself – where else can you crank out dozens of face-to-face meetings in a three-day span? And if you’re not there, well, chances are your top competitors will be, stealing the show.

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