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5 Themes: First-Ever BenefitsPRO Virtual Broker Expo

Aug 26, 2020

Another successful virtual conference is in the books! I’m sharing five themes our team took away from last week’s BenefitsPRO Virtual Broker Expo…

1. Political Landscape

Keynote talks from Jeb Bush and Janet Trautwein focused on the impeding election and projected impact on the economy and our healthcare industry. 
The most surprising thing the former governor discussed was his concern with “The Digital Divide.” 30% of American kids don’t have access to a computer device and/or broadband service. Without these, society isn’t able to fully solve education and healthcare. His surprising statement was, “We [the American government] should provide devices and broadband service to every American.”
You want predictions? You heard them here first:

  • The House will remain Democrat-controlled. 
  • The Senate is now at a 50/50 chance of swinging from Republican control to Democrat. 
  • Current polls have former-Vice President Biden leading President Trump by a healthy but not insurmountable lead. 
  • If the House and Senate are Democrat-controlled, and President Trump remains in office, “the next four years will be a food fight.”
  • If all three branches swing Democrat, watch for a Public Option health plan and further expansion of the ACA. 

2. Covid Covid Covid

To no one’s surprise, working in this new Coronavirus environment made its way into many classes. Broker of the Year finalists and the youthful Faces of Change panel shared how they’re pivoting to find the silver lining in all this.
Dr Alex Lickerman spoke of the science of COVID-19. In explaining the three stages of vaccine trials, he said if we approach it with the standard scientific timeline, we’ll have a safe and effective vaccine in about 12-18 months. Of course, the public and our government may not have enough patience to wait this long and some steps might get cut short. Regardless, it brought an adjusted perspective of when we might all return to (regular) work.
Closer on the horizon are a jillion Open Enrollment meetings this fall. Chad Schneider of JellyvisionMelissa Burkhart of Futuro Sólido USA and others detailed best practices, including these 9… 

  • Conduct & record short virtual benefits meetings
  • Use breakout rooms for virtual benefits fairs
  • Host virtual office hours and post FAQs
  • Provide groups with intranet ads / postcards
  • Use SMS campaign to keep employees on track 
  • For recordings, create short videos by topical chapters
  • Use more stories and humor
  • For ESL audiences, build supportive relationships with the supervisors / true influencers within groups
  • Outsource benefit questions to a premium-level Advocacy service
Behavioral Telehealth Infographic

3. Mentorship and Coaching

With all the unprecedented changes in our crazy world, producers and agency owners are making major changes to how they do just about everything: managing their businesses, selling, marketing, plan design, client communications, etc. Because of this, the entire conference was steeped in sharing – brokers helping brokers – on all of the above topics. 

In perhaps one of the most-attended sessions, Fast & Furious, Susan Combs asked (sometimes forced) attendees to “come to the stage” and share their best idea or piece of business advice in 60 seconds or less. There were TONS of great ideas ranging from “hold a virtual employer conference for prospects” from Megan Chiarello to “engage by showing your life and personality (and your kids)” from me, Neil Kennish, with my special 6-year-old guest, Oliver Kennish. 

In the Broker of the Year Panel, all the nominees specifically mentioned mentorship as the key to success – and thriving in a new world. Teri Weber added, “Find organizations to help, conferences…places to get involved and learn. Then mentor others.” Broker of the Year Winner, Derek Winn offered, “Call me. You’ll be pulled in a million directions. This job takes hard work, but it’s not hard to do.” Finally, Ben Conner noted, “I was a significant benefactor of mentoring, especially through my dad. I want to carry that forward.”

In just about every session, brokers and vendors shared their experiences, what they’re learning and how they’re changing.

4. Conference Logistics

BenefitsPRO had the advantage of following other major industry events gone virtual, most notably the NAHU 2020 Virtual Annual Convention in June. BenefitsPRO introduced some fantastic new elements into the virtual conference playbook. The technology deployed was definitely an “enabler” creating an excellent virtual experience for attendees. One of the best features was the ability to call someone up to the virtual “stage” where they could then join as a speaker. The virtual booths also had the capability to create a separate virtual call within the booth environment to have a solo conversation. Multiple networking events throughout the conference proved a great addition. While it’s impossible to replicate the fun of networking in person, the chat feature was a terrific way to interact and share ideas. Our industry is clearly trending in the right direction with respect to hosting virtual events! 

One other benefit of this year’s virtual conference is that it coincided with the first week my kids went back to school (virtually). If I’d traveled to the event, I wouldn’t have been able to help my three elementary-aged kids adjust to their new virtual school year - so there’s definitely some advantages! 

5. Hope and Resilience

Many great discussions took place at this conference, but one stand-out centered on hope and resilience. If asked to choose two buzzwords for 2020, they’d likely be “unprecedented” and “adaptability.” After all, this year has definitely taught us we can only control our response to what’s happening, not the actual environment. 

During her session, “Professional & Personal Resilience and the Path to Success,” Emma Fox encouraged us all that it’s totally okay for things to feel messy. “Just keep moving forward.” She’s so right. When COVID hijacked the spring, many of us were thrust into balancing home school with teenagers, chasing a toddler whose preschool was closed, and working full-time from a home office. That is messy. But we’ve weathered it and continue to do so. New routines have taken root and I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t find a toddler’s energy refreshing ;)

Jeb Bush also shared about offering hope to those around you. The news can be dreary, dark and pessimistic. Americans don’t do pessimism well. Work hard to bring light to people’s days.  Share stories of hope that show the spirit of our country is alive. Let’s remember those visions of strangers helping each other during recent hurricanes and tornadoes or working to rebuild communities and support local businesses. Let’s choose random acts of kindness. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” 


Lester Morales closed out BenefitsPRO with some really good discussion. Health insurance stocks are poised for profit post-COVID. We need to talk more about cost and quality, and why advocacy is so important. We can help people think differently about healthcare by sharing stories that paint a picture of consumerism behaviors in healthcare. There’s real value in plans that provide needed solutions for employees to become better healthcare consumers. Advocacy is a key component to a successful plan in 2020-21.  

The Virtual Broker Expo provided some terrific content. The biggest challenge will be to incorporate some of the amazing ideas that were shared over the course of the conference.

Now it’s your turn! What parts of this virtual platform and convention did you like best? What ideas do you have for even more impact? Comment below or email me at


Neil is Vice President of Sales for freshbenies where he strategizes with brokers and employers on how to control their healthcare dime, time and peace of mind. He previously worked for Cigna in a strategy and marketing capacity and also ran sales and marketing for a provider-owned health plan. Neil and his wife are raising three young (energetic!) sons. He can be reached at 

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Tanya Boyd
Tanya Boyd
President of Tanya Boyd & Associates

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