Is there anybody there? PLSA’s lost audience

The reality of a public conference where the audience is invisible is that it is as easily watched on youtube or Teams.

There have been sessions where the audience has been engaged. Stefan Lundbergh managed it in a session on turning pots to pensions , Rene Poisson was at his curmudgeonly best talking about illiquids in DC , the smaller arenas brought the audience and speakers together , sadly the plenary sessions  struggled to create engagement.

David Spiegelhalter actually talked to the audience about the use and abuse of the statistics, showing that you can rouse a crowd with an engaging performance,

But for the most part, delegates might as well not have been there. Questions were asked by the app and chairs were used not to create a debate but to feed tame questions to over-prepared presenters, one panellist answered each question with the help of a slide.

Unsurprisingly, this is meaning the audiences become disengaged. Use of the PLSA conference hashtag is virtually zero (I’ve tried). Even the Queen of Pensions – Jo Cumbo – has given up on tweeting publishing an article on a Canadian fund manager rather than reporting on the sessions.

I am asked why I am not knocking out tweets, my response is that no-one is saying anything worth the tweet. We really need more questions from the floor.

Which doesn’t detract from the importance of the experience

You can argue that the audience is that a live audience is an irrelevance when the event is streamed and sessions recorded. The quality of what has been said on the podiums has been very high, the matters debated, of national importance.

The conference app allows for “speed dating” where delegates can book time with each other and have intense 20 minute meetings one on one.

The Exhibition remains the social hub, lubricated with coffee , alcohol and breakfast for those like me who have  been forced out of Edinburgh’s extortionate hotels (£200 per night for  a Premier Inn).

The Conference dinner featured Rory Stewart as the after dinner speaker and the gangs of besuited pension warriors found  roaming the Haymarket into the early hours, suggests that there is still a lively after-party (oh to be thirty years younger!).


It wasn’t as funny or rude as the Brighton Beach protest, which inspired the pensions industry to create the PPF.

Extinction Rebellion protested the venue telling us that BlackRock is burning our future. BlackRock were presenting in the final session of the day and I looked forward to asking what the house view was. Sadly my question didn’t get a chance to be asked as the session was talked out by L&G, BlackRock and JP Morgan. In any event the Chair had dismissed the protestors as misguided.

I tried to concentrate on what was being said but have failed to remember much more than the site of phones managing emails to my left and right, the audience, such as there was , was making its own protest, bagging the CPD while using the hour to catch up with BAU.

One person was taking notes, hats off to Pensions Expert whose  commentary you can read on this link.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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