This year’s Senior Market Advisor Expo in Orlando will go down in the record books as the show that survived a major weather event but still managed to go on strong — a story of survival and endurance that echoed the sentiments of the show’s opening keynote, Scott Burrows.

Burrows’ story of the power of personal belief, stamina and vision, helped officially launch this year’s action-packed event, held in late August at Loews’ Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.

SMA editor Daniel D. Williams also helped get the show off to a high note with the announcement that Rosemary Caligiuri was named this 2008′s Advisor of the Year. The Langhorne, Pa.-based advisor and life coach was a friendly and visible presence throughout the entire show, including the show-closing Advisor of the Year roundtable, which featured Caligiuri’s runners-up: Mark Fields, Stefanos Loisou and Chris Hobart (advisor/lawyer David Hollander was not able to attend).

Despite Fay’s rainy and windy conditions inside, this year’s Expo went off without a hitch, with many hundreds of attendees taking part in an interactive mixture of keynote speakers, busy breakout sessions and learning a bit and finding new business opportunities on a very dynamic show floor.

Typical to the Expo, this year’s show also featured many opportunities for advisors, industry reps and other insiders to rub shoulders in a more social setting, including GamePlan’s memorable Luau Party and a series of hospitality suites.

Members of Senior Market Advisor‘s advisory board also got a chance to meet and greet with the magazine’s editorial staff and several of the AOY candidates during a cocktail reception.

Opening keynote Scott Burrows’ own emotionally charged tale of success revealed a top producer and all-weather sports enthusiast whose personal triumphs seem quite remarkable, considering the astounding obstacles he’s faced.

A promising athlete with aspirations to play football at Florida State, Burrows was involved in a car accident 24 years ago. The crash left the then-19-year-old Burrows paralyzed and facing the possibility that he would never walk again, much less able to pursue a career or recreational activities.

As Burrows demonstrated, to the amazement of showgoers, a combination of strong will and intensive physical therapy has allowed him to stand for extended lengths of time — he can golf, with the help of a cart, and has been able to enjoy the most challenging of able-bodied sports including scuba diving, skydiving and downhill skiing — as well as building a thriving business in the financial services world.

Standing up to life’s challenges, quite literally, is a matter of setting one’s own goals, maintaining a constant level of perseverance and continually sticking your neck out. Burrows says he adopted a personal strategy that blended the notions of vision, mindset and pure grit to allow him to recover and thrive.

“Much of it is all about overcoming your own self-perceived limitations and breaking out of your comfort zone,” Burrows says. “It’s a lot of risk-taking behavior, but the reward is tremendous.”

Over the next few days, several presenters packed their sessions with a mixture of top sales advice, vital information and tools for helping advisors build their businesses. Some of the showgoers’ favorites included SMA columnists Richard Berry and Kerry Johnson, as well as keynote presentations by columnist John Boe and 2007′s Senior Market Advisor of the Year (and featured columnist) Craig Randall.

One of the show’s most memorable moments helped illustrate the emotionally charged circumstances surrounding this year’s hottest topic in the industry.

Three of the foremost experts on the still-evolving SEC Rule 151A — the proposal which could serve to turn fixed indexed annuities into a registered security — were on hand for what turned into a very spirited debate.

Lawmaker Joe Borg, director of the Alabama Securities Commission, and a self-admitted “strong supporter” of 151A, was joined by Kim Shaul, deputy insurance commissioner for the State of Wisconsin and Jim Mumford, first deputy insurance commissioner for the Iowa Insurance Division.

Shaul and Mumford took a more neutral stand on the issue, suggesting the SEC’s proposal may not be in the best interest of producers; the fireworks that ensued indicated that this was an issue which is not being taken lightly by those in the industry.

“My position is that these are not bad products, but they are certainly not suitable for everyone,” Borg said. “I wouldn’t be hearing from the public if this wasn’t a big problem, but 40 percent of the complaints coming into my office are on sales of these products … it’s getting to the point where it’s an epidemic.”

Mumford, on the other hand, said he believes that 151A is completely inappropriate.

“I regret that it’s come down to a turf war between the SEC and the states, but this is simply a bad rule that should never be out there,” he said. “You put this rule out there and the lawsuits will start immediately. We need to cut out the rhetoric and false information — indexed annuities are successful products, but the SEC sat around for 12 years and didn’t do anything, until now.”

Shaul says she believes that a better proposal lies in the continued effort of organizations such as Wisconsin’s own Annuities Suitability Committee, which has worked to monitor FIA/EIA products with a less draconian tone than the SEC.

“We want to make sure that the SEC realizes all of the hard work that we’ve done at the state level,” she says. “I would really like to continue the dialog.”

SMAX 2008 wasn’t all business, however. Fired up after an action-filled day on the show floor, Expo attendees got into a tropical mood at GamePlan Financial’s Caribbean-themed networking party. Rocking out to the salsa beat, nearly 350 folks enjoyed a great seafood spread and cocktails including the ever-popular and — given the week’s inclement weather, wonderfully ironic — Hurricanes, served up in huge tiki-styled glasses. Long lines formed to grab hand-rolled cigars crafted by a local master; it was also a wonderful opportunity for showgoers to dig out their very loudest and brightest Hawaiian shirts.

For those who’d like to see some of the video highlights of this year’s event, material will be available online at www.seniormarketadvisor.com. Senior Market Advisor Expo 2009 will return to Las Vegas and will be held at Caesar’s Palace; if you’d like more information on registration or attending, please call (888) 880-8218.