Playing video games is—and has been since my teenage years—one of my guilty pleasures. Among other things, I love seeing the amount of work and detail put into each game, including the impact of the player’s choices on a variety of rich and divergent stories. The joy of playing them aside, I’ve also been thinking a lot about the many parallels these games offer in how we behave in our daily lives.

Enter conferences and events, which, in some ways, are designed with similar goals to a game. Essentially, the conference organizer’s job is to keep the attendee as engaged and interested as possible for the duration of the event, and when the event is over, for the attendee to have gained a sense of empowerment and accomplishment and an interest in eventually coming back for more.

In this analogy, your job as the player is to accomplish as much as you can before time expires. So, insert your quarters, press Player One, and let’s dive in:

  1. Suit Up – The first thing you do in most games is choose the wardrobe and tools you will take on your journey. In this case, instead of Scarab Armor and a Cursed Mute Bow, you’ll likely be deciding between business casual and a suit; between a laptop, tablet, or pen and paper for note-taking. At the FPA Annual Conference, these are all based on your personal preference and depend on a variety of factors, including your goals for the event. For example, those looking for their next career opportunity may consider dressing up, while others may opt for comfort. Regardless, dress at the event runs the gamut, so you won’t be the only one on either side of the spectrum. For notes, it helps to ask what you plan to use your notes for: If they are for personal use, stick with what’s comfortable and natural; if they’re for compiling and sharing, it may be easier to take them digitally.
  2. Level Up – Now it’s time to enhance your abilities, with the ultimate goal of leveling up. Conferences and events are one of the best ways to gather new skills, and thinking about each session in terms of “ability points” can be a fun way to make learning into a game. If you earn enough ability points you will reach the next level, where your skills have increased, but you also have new challenges to overcome. I’m not saying you’ll be able to go from a Level 2 Apprentice to a full-fledged Level 25 Financial Planning Master in a few days, but you can certainly make some headway and measure that against where you started before the conference. If you make the event an annual pilgrimage, you can also gauge your progress over time.
  3. Power Up – Leveling up is great, but it can take time—sometimes you also need a Powerup, that wonderful little boost that helps your character get through a rough patch or two. I like to think of the gripping, inspirational sessions and those particularly excellent speakers who can change your perspective and make you feel like you can overcome anything as the event versions of Powerups. The best sessions and conferences are often those that you leave feeling empowered, revitalized and ready to take on the world—essentially, they power you up.
  4. Team Up – Anyone who has played certain games knows that, sometimes, “the Boss” is just too difficult to beat on your own. In a conference situation, “the Boss” is probably networking. We all know it’s important to do, but so few of us derive any joy from it (check out this post on networking for some tips in that arena). So, to make it a little bit more bearable, and even fun, find a peer or friend to team up with. That way, you both always have someone to talk to during the event, and it gives you both a chance to get to know each other on a deeper level.

Inevitably, you will beat the game, bringing a sense of accomplishment and, if the game was a particularly good one, the thirst for more.

We hope you will choose to put your quarters into the FPA Annual Conference in 2019 and continue making your way up the leaderboard—you won’t regret it.

Dan Martin is the Director of Marketing for the Financial Planning Association, the principal professional organization for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM (CFP®) professionals, educators, financial services professionals and students who seek advancement in a growing, dynamic profession. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @DanW_Martin and on LinkedIn at

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