I’m a huge believer in the value of conferences. Although it may not be necessary to attend industry events to become successful, I firmly believe that they make it easier and faster to succeed. And it’s an educational and fun way to strengthen your belief in yourself and to build your passion.
Conferences need not be expensive. I recently returned from the 11th Intercompany Long-Term Care Insurance Conference in Atlanta, sponsored by the LTCI section of the Society of Actuaries (SOA). I used frequent flyer miles for my ticket. Because the society wants to encourage producers to attend, they granted me a generous tuition scholarship based on reasonable minimum sales production. With the scholarship, my conference fee dropped to $115, including meals and drinks. Even transportation to and from the hotel was very reasonable (and an adventure). I used Atlanta’s mass transit, MARTA, and the round trip fare was $4.50. To save more money, I had a roommate — a practice that has been fun and enriching every single time over many years. The total cost of less than $500 for this 3-day conference was a great investment in my career.
If you are interested in having a roommate, you can ask the conference organizer to refer you to someone making a similar request. You can also make it known that you are looking for a roommate using tools like LinkedIn and other online forums. You might even meet your next roommate at the conference. Do visit with your prospective roommate beforehand by phone to screen her about personal habits. My roommates and I have a great time together. Through talking shop and exchanging a lot of information, we have become good friends.
A broad conference base
What’s unusual about the SOA LTCI conference is its perspective. Producers like me make up only about 10-15 percent of the attendees. We get to learn about LTCI’s “inner gears” and what makes it tick. The wide range of attendees includes home office upper management, brokerage owners and managers, LTCI underwriters and actuaries, state department of insurance officials and employees and other LTCI industry leaders.
At the SOA conference, breakout sessions are on topics such as politics, underwriting, actuarial, marketing and regulatory issues. Sessions feature nationally recognized, highly influential people in these areas. For example, the political sessions featured carrier lobbyists describing how they are advocating for LTCI in Washington. I heard Connie Garner, the head architect of CLASS Act LTC, defending CLASS Act LTCI to a polite but very unsympathetic audience. I also attended an actuarial session that gave the SOA’s most recent statistics on LTCI utilization and trends. Another session on underwriting gave me deeper insight into how underwriters make decisions on the applications we submit.
Outside of sessions, you might sit down for lunch with the head of a state department of insurance, an actuary or some other interesting person in a part of the LTCI industry you would otherwise never have exposure to. These folks are usually eager to answer questions about their various job functions and to ask us about our life as an LTCI marketer. You gain access to cutting edge information and connections.
The producers’ summit
In a couple of weeks, I will head to Las Vegas for the other big national LTCI conference. This one is the AALTCI’s LTCI Producers’ Summit, and is also extremely reasonable in cost. I truly love this conference because it attracts primarily LTCI marketers. Imagine meeting and socializing with counterparts from all over the country. The enthusiasm, passion and commitment to LTCI are present everywhere. You learn a lot in the breakout sessions, make fabulous connections, preview new LTCI products and trends, meet the carriers, eat and drink really well and come home totally “buzzed” on the product you’re selling.