Last month, I attended the always exciting CTA Expo conference in New York at the CME Group’s NYMEX Exchange. If you’re not familiar with CTA Expo, it’s a one-day event that is part conference with informative sessions for CTAs and industry professionals; and, part matchmaking event. The matchmaking event features 30-minute presentation slots which provide CTAs an opportunity to present their programs directly to asset allocators who attend —making the CTA Expo a unique event.

Based on watching how CTAs networked, introduced their programs, performed their pitches in the dedicated presentation rooms, and listening to feedback from asset allocators—I wanted to share my thoughts on how CTAs can leverage CTA Expo even better.

1. Master Your 30-second Elevator Pitch

Be prepared to describe your program in just a couple of sentences, most importantly, what makes you different—and, be able to do it in 30-seconds or less. Yes, it’s hard. Consider that you may only have a couple of minutes, or even seconds, with a large asset allocator—riding the elevator, at a dinner table, in the building lobby—to get their attention and picque their interest in you. You want to provide just enough information to engage them, so that they’re compelled to ask you a follow-up question, ask for your card, and give you the go-ahead signal to continue.

2. Appearance Counts

Tear sheets, PowerPoint presentations, business cards, website, and your appearance all matter. The time you take to create and prepare a professional presentation and promotional materials is perceived as a reflection of how you manage your program and your business. Good presentation is not just salesmanship; it’s instilling confidence in someone who is buying into you and trusting you with their investment.


3. Your Business Is as Important as Your Program’s Performance

The first two presenters at the CTA conference were Asset Allocators and discussed what they look for when investing in CTAs. Both made it clear that how a CTA runs their business is a vital part of their investment decision making process. Despite a CTAs great performance, some fail because they don’t have a sales process, can’t keep their operations in order, or have other distractions in their business. In addition to performance and predictability, investors want to invest in CTAs that are stable and demonstrate good business practices which are key to longevity and success.

4. Network. Network. Network.

At every conference I meet a few CTAs who feel like there weren’t enough asset allocators attending. When I give them two or three names of asset allocators that I spoke with and ask if they’ve met them, they get a puzzled look and, more often than not, say no.

Asset allocators are busy. They are in and out at these events taking meetings, attending sessions, making brief appearances, and often intentionally flying under the radar. In New York, some dressed casually or didn’t look like the typical investor and intentionally stood off to the side making them tough to pick out in the crowd. To meet investors, CTAs need to make contact with asset allocators prior to the event, avoid hanging out with co-workers or partners, and don’t be a wallflower—work the room! Make eye contact, say hello, and get your 30-second shtick ready to go…

…off to London and Chicago

The next conference is under the Emerging Manager Forum name in London, June 2013. Then, it’s CTA Expo again in Chicago in September 2013. Six of our CTA clients attended the NY event—a new record. Chicago’s turn out is always tremendous and I’m looking forward to helping our CTAs get ready over the summer for this event!

Photo: Marco Hague of IC Managed Futures in the Presentation Room at CTA Expo’s Emerging Manager Forum Miami 2012

Shane Stiles is President of Gate 39 Media, has yet to miss a CTA Expo event in the US. If you have any questions, comments or let him know you’ll see him at CTA Expo Chicago, he can be reached at or on LinkedIn.