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Insights in Seniors Housing & Care

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By: NIC  |  October 20, 2020

The ‘Essential Virtual’ NIC Fall Conference Concludes – But Remains a Value

Economic Trends  |  Ideas and Discussion  |  Market Trends  |  NIC Fall Conference  |  Seniors Housing

For the past two weeks, over a thousand seniors housing and care leaders from across the U.S. have logged on, often from their own home offices, to participate in their industry’s most important event. Of course, ‘the NIC’, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is now a virtual experience. But industry professionals have embraced what it has to offer. Many have discovered that ‘the NIC’ is as rich in thought-leadership and opportunities to connect with other decision-makers as ever – and that in some ways, the ‘essential virtual’ experience offers surprising advantages over traditional events.all_words_cloud-1

In the runup to the conference, NIC Founder & Strategic Advisor, Bob Kramer, pointed out that the new platform offers real value for attendees. He said, “The 2020 NIC Fall Conference is not only a uniquely affordable educational opportunity, it also provides an unprecedented new dealmaking platform, the NIC Community Connector™.” The vast majority of attendees are now registered on the NIC Community Connector, ensuring that there are, indeed, plenty of opportunities to connect directly with people in a position to make a deal.

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In practice, attending companies were able to extend opportunities to connect and learn to more of their staff than they would otherwise send in person. “We are taking advantage of the virtual format by including more of our team to build on essential relationships and gain invaluable insights from the educational sessions,” said Marilynn Duker, CEO of Brightview Senior Living. Without the cost, both in dollars and time, of travel and booking accommodations, and with a lower price for registration, the conference attracted numerous attendees who might otherwise not have made the trip.

By Popular Demand

In many ways, the conference adhered to traditional educational and thought-leadership programming. In total, more than 50 sessions offered insights, opportunities to participate in substantive discussions, presented the latest data and analysis, and featured some of the nation’s foremost experts and industry leaders. As in any in-person NIC conference, keynote general sessions featured panels of experts who needed no introductions.

Award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien moderated a discussion with Mark Parkinson, President & CEO, American Health Care Association (AHCA) and National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), and Andy Slavitt, senior advisor for The Bipartisan Policy Center and former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Both leaders were frank and forthcoming regarding the impact of COVID-19 on seniors housing and care.

Parkinson, on whether the seniors housing and care industry is prepared for a second wave, said, “We don’t have to have a second wave. What’s so damned frustrating about this is that if everyone would just wear a mask, just that simple, considerate thing, if we would just make a decision as a country that everywhere we go we wear a mask and socially distance, we wouldn’t eliminate this in two weeks – but we would grind it to very low numbers.”

On funding Medicaid, Slavitt said, “In some point of time, whether it’s before or after the election, we’re going to have to do that [fund Medicaid], or many people who are on Medicaid today are going to face challenges, and payments are going to get even lower.” Towards the close of the discussion, Slavitt had this to say about national priorities, ”What we need is some radical introspection, as a country, into what kind of country we want to be. Part and parcel of this is the question of how we take care of people who need our help, they’re no longer at the stage where they can care for themselves, whether it’s because they have a disability, whether it’s because they’re aged, whether it’s because they’re low income, whether it’s because they’re sick. I think that is an enormous part of our national debate.”

Another highly anticipated general session featured an O’Brien-moderated discussion with seasoned political commentators, David Brooks and David Gergen. It felt like an honest, forthright assessment of the impact of the coming election on the sector. David Brooks offered a mea culpa on his 2016 predictions of a Clinton victory, and described his efforts since then to reconnect with the segments of the American populace with whom he’d grown out of touch. Both men offered their insights and predictions for the election – as well as their assessment on the impact it will have on American life and business interests.

The popular NIC Talks series, now a highly anticipated staple of the traditional event, returned —featuring another group of uniquely qualified, passionate thought-leaders, including JoAnn Jenkins, CEO of AARP, addressing the question, “How will COVID-19 impact the future of aging and aging services?” In the style of “TED-Talks,” these often emotionally powerful presentations added some punch to the analysis and data on offer in week one. A week two peer-to-peer discussion offered an opportunity to further discuss the NIC Talks presentations, with moderator Bob Kramer and NIC Talks presenter, Dan Cinelli.

In addition to one of the richest educational programs ever offered at a NIC conference, the event extended a variety of means for attendees to build and grow their business and social networks. Echoing in-person events, the virtual platform reveals to its users who else is in the lobby, or in a breakout session, and allows them to message one another, either in text or via video chat. Anyone who misses running into old friends in hallways should be heartened by this means to interact in such an organic, impromptu manner.

New Ways to Network

The unique, new NIC Community Connector launched in parallel to the event, and is currently only available to its attendees, who may continue to use it free of charge through the end of 2020. The innovative online platform provides a means to search for potential new contacts, and to communicate directly with the deal-makers they need to meet with. NIC is continuing to develop the platform, with new features scheduled to launch this year.

Attendees were also able to set up ‘braindates’ with each other, either one-on-one or in small groups. These intimate, focused exchanges provided not only a means to share thinking, but to connect with fellow attendees, and potentially to begin to build and grow new relationships with peers, based on those interactions. Through braindate™, attendees set up their own focused discussion groups, joined groups set up by fellow attendees, or arranged one-on-one meetings of their own.

In week two, called ‘connections week,’ NIC hosted numerous peer-to-peer discussions, on carefully curated topics of immediate relevance in today’s world. These moderated events offered participants expert thought-leadership, as well as frank discussion, and often eye-opening insights and ideas, offered up by attendees sharing their own real-world experiences and perspectives in more intimate small group breakout discussions.

Beyond educational sessions, the event offered attendees a variety of opportunities to spend time with each other, network, engage in self-care, and even share some cocktails or world-class entertainment together.

A series of ‘Brand, Brain, and Being’ sessions offered attendees a chance to focus on themselves and gain expert tips on improving personal brand, productivity, creativity, and overall wellness. Just as in traditional events, there was a LinkedIn expert on hand to help improve social profiles.

Meanwhile, for NIC MAP® Data Service power users and novices alike, there were opportunities to learn from NIC MAP experts, discuss how they use the NIC MAP Data Service platform, and meet (virtually, of course) with NIC MAP staff to discuss how the industry’s leading data service might benefit their businesses. Discussion groups for NIC MAP users delved into how they use the platform to analyze market feasibility, inform underwriting, and effectively target markets.

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As with traditional NIC events, the attendee experience also included world-class entertainment. As week one drew to a close, the Young@Heart chorus, introduced by an impressive collection of A-list celebrity admirers, charmed and entertained with their talented, and infectiously fun, performances. Perhaps the most anticipated session of week two was a behind-the-scenes experience with Broadway and film cast members from “Hamilton!”, who also delighted fans of Broadway’s most popular show with exclusive performances that were simply not to be missed.

Although the conference has ended, attendees will retain access to a library of its many educational sessions and will also be able to use the powerful NIC Community Connector through the end of 2020. As expressed by NIC CEO Brian Jurutka in a press briefing, “I believe this conference – and the NIC Community Connector - will be valuable to thousands of leaders and their businesses, as they begin to craft a new normal and build towards a successful future, both for their businesses and for the millions of America’s elders seeking access and choice in seniors housing and care.”

About NIC

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to support access and choice for America’s seniors by providing data, analytics, and connections that bring together investors and providers.

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