Will you be at the SCCE European Compliance & Ethics Institute in Frankfurt, Germany in March? Three of us from Rethink Compliance are going, and we’d love to see you there.
"But on a personal note, you should go because the SCCE runs this event like you would assume all compliance conferences are run: where the speakers are picked because they are bringing something interesting to the table, not because they sponsored the event.
For example, this is my third time speaking at a SCCE event, and I’ve been on the cover of their magazine, and they’ve never hit us up for money. I was confirmed as a speaker months before we decided to buy exhibit space and be a Media Partner, and we drove that.
And that might seem like “well, of course that's how conferences work,” but this is often not what happens.
There is obviously something weird about paying to listen to speakers who paid to speak to you, but it happens."
Over here at Rethink Compliance, we couldn’t agree more.
Before I opened our company, I spent years making the rounds of compliance conferences – sometimes speaking or leading panel discussions, sometimes attending sessions, sometimes working shifts in a booth in the exhibit hall.
Without knowing the first thing about the behind-the-scenes details, the SCCE conference stood out for a few reasons:
- A spirit of collegiality and professionalism: The SCCE seems to take its mission as a professional organization seriously, helping to articulate and share best practices as these evolve and working to foster a spirit of collegiality among compliance practitioners. At the SCCE academy I attended (now many years ago), the instructors encouraged attendees to exchange cards, make connections, and consult one another as they progressed in their careers. At the national conference in Las Vegas this year, there were yoga sessions, volunteer projects, and a tailgate party that seemed designed to let people meet as people and strike up friendships or friendly professional connections, rather than meeting only as audience members and talking heads.
- A focus on practical strategies and tradecraft: So many SCCE sessions – from the keynotes to the breakouts – are aimed at allowing successful, smart practitioners to share real, pragmatic, tested solutions to the ongoing challenge of applying evolving best practices to a constantly changing risk environment and internal company landscape. More than any other conference, I tend to leave SCCE events with a clear picture of what issues compliance professionals are grappling with right now, what they've tried, and where they’ve been able to get some traction.
Now that I’m running a compliance company and making decisions about our marketing dollars, I’ve learned – as Ricardo says – that some conferences or organizations in our industry take a “pay to play” approach, requiring you to sponsor the event at a certain level in order to even submit a speaking proposal, all but crowding out new or smaller vendors. Others will let you speak but won’t let you attend the conference – drawing a stark line between vendors and attendees.
In contrast, SCCE booths are relatively affordable, exhibitors can buy discounted passes to attend conference sessions, and SCCE staff members walk around the exhibit hall to chat with vendors. Speaking proposals seem to be considered on the merits of the idea and value to the audience – not the size of the check you plan to write. (In fact, I can tell you from experience that SCCE will decline weaker proposals from companies who have paid to exhibit – which tells me that their primary concern is the quality of the programming and not just keeping their sponsors happy.)
Last year was my first time attending the European version of the CEI, and I found it extremely valuable. Here are three reasons why:
- Collegiality and focus on practical advice: Just like the U.S. events I’ve been to, I noticed a real sense of professional camaraderie among attendees, along with the same thoughtful, hands-on, ground level, practical advice for achieving key compliance goals in a changing environment. (Kristy Grant Hart, who is a master at this, gave a really terrific keynote address, based on her How to Be a Wildly Effective Compliance Officer workbook.)
- High-level practitioners in a smaller-format setting. The U.S. CEI conference is really big, with more than 1500 people attending and many session choices each hour. Like SCCE’s regional conference, the European conference quite a bit smaller. For me, this provided the opportunity to bump into the same people again and again, leading to in-depth conversations and connections that might not have happened at a bigger event. Also, a high number of the attendees were also presenters, so I found myself chatting with a number of speakers about their sessions, which I don’t always have the opportunity to do.
- Chance to step outside a U.S. mindset: So many global compliance programs are designed and created by predominantly U.S. teams, and it shows. So, as a predominantly U.S.-based compliance team ourselves, it was very helpful to spend time with compliance professionals who do not live or work in the U.S., and to note the differences in emphasis, approach, and preferred strategies.
Those are the reasons we’ll be in Frankfurt this March – and why we’ll also be at the regional SCCE conferences in Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, and D.C, and possibly some others. If you go, look for us there!