So much more than a conference

Following the FIDI 39 Club’s annual conference in Edinburgh, President Jackie Stouffer describes how the organisation has evolved far beyond its annual event to provide development and networking

It’s conference season – a time of year to which we all look forward. But wait a sec – ‘all’? It’s not actually all of us, is it? A very small percentage of our industry is fortunate enough to attend the in-person events our sector has to offer – the annual FIDI conference being just one example.

For so long, FIDI 39 Club membership was inextricably tied to conference attendance. Popular opinion among decision-makers was that the only bene?ts offered by the club were during the annual conference, and that the FIDI 39 Club equals partying. Therefore, registering someone for the club meant the individual would be presumed to be going to the annual conference to party. The solution to this? Avoid registering your young talent for the club, so as not to set the wrong expectation.

I am fortunate that my boss did not subscribe to this line of thinking in 2014, when I joined the FIDI 39 Club. I joined early, and got involved. My life would be very different if I had not joined – professionally and personally. The club has changed my life for the better, and in more ways than one.

In the past few years, its mission has been to remove the barriers to membership that it has historically faced – and I think we are just about there, pending a few final milestones to pass.

We’ve made notable progress, shifting the membership focus away from the annual conference towards an increasingly virtual presence. We give our members the chance to connect regularly throughout the year through a variety of channels, while developing their skills, such as public speaking and professional writing. We’ve launched programmes to engage our members year-round, including our Scholarship and Mentorship initiatives (read more about these in the following FIDI 39 Club article).

The final hurdle is the membership itself. How do we ensure previous perceptions do not return, and cement the idea that the expectation of membership is now (and forever) focused on helping our members learn and grow for their future careers?

With this in mind, the club will be rolling out two membership categories: one dedicated to virtual members, opening what we hope to be a permanent gateway for staff at all levels of a company to join and benefit from club membership; and one for members who attend the annual conference. With this delineation there can be no misconception of membership expectations.

The message is clear: the club is here to help FIDI’s Affiliates attract and retain talent, and, ultimately, offer pathways to future leadership in our industry. I am sure there will be some growing pains with this shift in structure and mindset, but growing pains mean progress, and progress benefits us all.

While growth is important, sustainable growth is absolutely vital. Making our membership more accessible does not mean much if we do not have a model in place to continue to engage and bene?t our members for years to come. So the club is launching its own sponsorship packages centred on its key functional areas. These will allow it to continue to provide key programmes for its members, while adding offerings to its toolbox and yearly calendar.

Being a member of the FIDI 39 Club today is markedly different from 10 or even five years ago. This can be attributed to several factors, but it comes down to people: the people involved in the club, and those who believe in its value and who are willing to sign up their staff.

To the readers who have already enrolled staff – whether repeat club supporters or those engaging staff for the very first time – thank you for your confidence in what it has evolved into over the years and what it still has the potential to be.

To the FIDI Affiliates reading this who are debating whether to register your employees, I am here to tell you that this industry is attracting and retaining some pretty amazing talent. I see it at our FIDI 39 Club events, and it is our collective responsibility to make sure we keep our talent engaged and genuinely interested in our industry.

We are committed to this cause, and will continue to demonstrate that the FIDI 39 Club, and all the members it serves, are so very much more than an annual conference.

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