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2019 Benefits Conferences: Which Ones Should You Attend?

Feb, 06 2019


Brokers, what industry conferences will you attend this year? I’ve been to HUNDREDS over my 25+ years in the employee benefits industry. 

Some were funny, engaging, and full of ideas while others were dull, full of schlocky commercials, and an extreme waste of time. If you’ve attended more than three conventions, I’m sure you know what I mean.

Our industry is experiencing some major shifts right now, so it’s important to stay connected. While continuing education credits are readily available online, in-person conferences provide great content to move your business forward – and great networking with peers in our industry. 

Still, your time is tight. To help you decide the right ones to attend, I’m sharing my 10 favorite conferences…

1. NAHU Capitol Conference (CapCon)

Focus: Healthcare legislation and the inner workings of Congress. Meet and hear from legislators – and learn how to play their game and talk their talk. Voice your opinion as an American citizen who works in this industry.

Audience: Regardless of your age or level of experience, if you make your living for a carrier or in benefits consulting, you should attend CapCon at least once. It’s one of the most educational and inspiring few days you’ll spend in your career. Plus, you’ll always remember the feeling of lobbying to your congressional representatives in DC for the first time! 

2. BenefitsPro Broker Expo

Focus: Strong networking environment and solid education programs. With BenefitsPro being a healthcare media powerhouse (online and magazine) there are many terrific sessions presented by their content contributors. Plus, they have fantastic keynote speakers – sometimes controversial ones – and a very good, diverse vendor fair.

Audience: When I first attended this event nine years ago, it was heavily weighted toward voluntary/ancillary brokers and carriers. While still strong for those folks, it’s grown to include 50% employee benefits consultants, too. If you’re looking for some new product ideas, this event is for you. Broker Expo is held in various cities around the country from year to year, bringing a third of the audience from the local region. This year it’s in Miami, so go expecting there’ll be many who can rumba and mambo better than you ;-)

3. Q4LiVE

Focus: Coaching that helps independent benefits consultants become the feared competitor in their market. Each conference is a thoughtfully curated set of classes scripted to fit together. Since most attendees return each year, the focus changes as the needs of the market change. For example, recent sessions included consulting on practical approaches to Value Based Insurance Design (VBID). Everyone in attendance is expected to contribute to collaborative discussions, including the sponsoring vendors.

Audience: Brokers who want to up the level of their game as independent benefit consultants. Every attendee wants to grow and is ready to significantly change their approach to do so. Don’t attend if you’re not ready to be candid and vulnerable. More than half the attendees are current consulting clients with the Q4i Team. 

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4. IFEBP Events including Health Benefits Conference & Expo or ISCEBS Employee Benefits Symposium

Focus: Benefits education…period. Expect to get solid foundational benefits planning instruction, and to hear results from people who’ve actually installed programs. Don’t expect political rants or carrier commercials. One distinction: the IFEBP events tend to be more employer-focused than ISCEBS events. 

Audience: Yes, benefits consultants are welcome and represented. But, there are tons of employers, including lots of large and government employers, and not just players immersed in insurance (i.e. union reps who need to learn in order to effectively negotiate benefits). I’ve also met an interesting mix of unions and board members who come as learners to make more informed benefits decisions.

5. EBN Benefits Expo

Focus: Benefits plans from an HR perspective. With EBN’s media experts at hand, there are many cerebral professor-level discussions with a strong focus on case studies. These are typically co-presented by employers and their vendors, or employers and their consultants. 

Audience: A high representation of HR executives from mid-size and large employers, and some of the consultants who serve them. There’s a different subset of the vendors from other events, including plenty of large-employer programs as well as up-and-coming solution providers. Interactions between these groups are mostly centered on teaching their latest strategies (meaning, you’re not likely to recruit your next client here).

6. NAHU Annual Convention (and/or your local State AHU Convention)

Focus: Lots of networking with education on benefits design, products, and legislation. Everyone who attends will have a greater appreciation for our industry – and our role in guiding health reform in America.

Audience: Most are members of the National Association of Health Underwriters (or soon will be), the professional association for America’s Benefits Specialists magazine. Producers with small group- and individual-focus definitely attend, but larger-focused producers do as well.

7. Enrollment System / BenAdmin / Technology User Conferences 

Focus: Based on what I’ve learned, if you’re investing in these platforms / systems and expect maximum ROI, you need to get trained. Because it’s a user’s conference, these events are loaded with some of the most practical and specific classes you’ll ever attend. Expect to hear lots over your head, but network hard with other attendees to learn specifically how they’re using these systems with success. 

Audience: Users: both tech, support and brokers. More specifically, those who work in these systems daily need to get trained on all the hacks to make the systems sing. The team who design benefit plans with these tools need to be trained how to appropriately sell them. 

Examples: Employee Navigator Conference, EaseCentral, Technology Summit, Salesforce Dreamforce

8. Training / Reward Events by Your Plan of Choice: 

Focus: Captive training events are very educational and inspirational. Their shared-risk structure means every employer is heavily-incentivized to share their best cost-containment successes - it makes for very open collaboration. While the reward trips are boondoggles, there’s tremendous value in pausing to celebrate and rub elbows with other top consultants.

Audience: The captive events include member-employers, prospective-employers and the consultants who serve them. The Carrier & GA events will include home-office staff, and the most committed brokers / consultants that work with them.

Examples: Captives: Roundstone Captive, Pareto Captive, etc. General Agencies: BenefitMall, NAHP, etc. or Carriers.

9. Your Agency’s “Family Reunion”

Focus: For obvious reasons, you have to support your “home-team.” Hey, these might be some of your best advisors and longest-term peer relationships. More often, they’ll have your back and therefore give you better insider info or great insights about the tactics that are successful - strategies that work best for your internal systems, people, and contracts. These can be some of the most open conversations, and provide fantastic networking, as well as a chance to celebrate home-team wins.

Audience: Clearly, these are intimate events. Usually only consultants on the inside of your organization will attend. In fact, you have to wonder about the longevity of those who skip this type of event. Sometimes a few carrier partners will exhibit/attend.  

Examples: Keystone Insurance Group, UBA, Lockton, BAN, Hays, AssuredPartners, etc.

10. HLTH 

Focus: The future of healthcare. NOTE: not the future of health insurance. This is about how healthcare itself is being disrupted on all sides (many of them!). You’ll hear from physicians, large employers, government, carriers, startups, and experts who speak about digital drugs, genomic testing, population health, health-tech investing, data analytics, remote care, etc. This is a huge-scale event – over 5,000 attendees and literally hundreds of classes. Click here to read our 16 takeaways from the first-ever HLTH event last year. 

Audience: Not many brokers or benefits consultants. But if you’re a visionary who likes looking down the healthcare pike 5 to 10 years, this event is for you. You won’t likely meet your next employer client here, and you won’t get CE credits. However, the savvy attendee will find enough content for articles, seminars, and small-talk to prove yourself a futurist to your prospects and clients.

What specific events have you found valuable, and why? What events do you recommend we attend this year? Comment below or send me an email to reid@freshbenies.com.

Reid

Reid has a passion for helping brokers & employers strategize fresh approaches to benefit plans that contain costs and increase access to care - helping employers & employees control their healthcare dime, time, and peace of mind. He writes & speaks around the country and is the Co-Founder & CEO of freshbenies.

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