A Rookie’s Guide To INNOVAT18N

Will this be your first IAOA Conference, INNOVAT18N? Not sure what to expect? How to dress? Where to start? How to pace yourself? How to achieve that ROI you’re hoping for?

It can be a little scary or nerve-wracking. You’re going to get on a plane and come to a weekend conference from a Facebook group, and hang around people you don’t really know and talk about insurance. Just saying that out loud already has me questioning if I want to even come.
I have great news for you!
We wrote an article for that….and by “we”, I mean our guest contributors: Jennifer Todd Klages, Todd Shepard, Carlos Vargas, Erin Nutting, Mike Stromsoe and Mike Crowley.
Heed their advice, they offer their experience and things to be mindful of as you come to Arizona…


Jennifer Klages



1. Expect meaningful connections with other agency owners who are on your same path.  People that understand exactly the choices your facing and the challenges you experience in your agency.

2. Expect unique collaboration from both fresh, newbie minds and legacy owners.  All have so much real value.

3. Reach outside your IAOA friend box.  Meet new people and encourage new connections.

4. Keep an open mind.  You’ll hear strategy and thought process that you’ve never before considered.  Allow your brain the switch up.

5. Seek three actionable items that will bring meaningful change to your agency.  Apply one immediately and the other two within a month.

6. Embrace the technology.  Download the app.  Use the tools.  They’re a great way to come back to the event weeks and months after we’ve all gone home.

7. Let go of your agency for a few days.  No one will die.  Allow yourself time to recharge and refresh.

8. Come to breakfasts and sit at a table with people you don’t know.  It’s amazing how much great info is shared in this hour of power.

9.  Be willing to share.  You’ve got something to add too.

10. Have fun!  There’s no better opportunity to find brothers and sisters in this industry that share your passions and your interests.


Todd Shepard



1. Bring a pullover.  Even though it’s warm outside sometimes the air conditioner in the meeting rooms can get chilly.
2. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. It keeps your mind clear, regulates your body temperature,  and keeps you alert so you can enjoy the entire event.

3. Everyone is collaborating together so just because they’re not on stage doesn’t mean that they don’t bring value to the table.  Most of the content you’ll bring home will come from visiting with other attendees.


4. Don’t get hung up on how many years someone else has been in the business or how much premium they have or how much commissions they earn or any of the other BS that makes people think that one person is better than the other. If you’ve been in this business 60 years or 60 minutes you are still freaking amazing because you decided to make your way as an entrepreneur and we are all Better Together!

5. During the vendor break spend time talking to the vendors. Ask them questions and listen to their presentations.  Give them time to explain the benefits they offer to your agency.
6. When you get on that airplane or in your car with a notepad or computer full notes the best thing you can do is to make a commitment to start applying what you’ve learned immediately.   Taking those notes and shoving them in the bottom drawer, hoping they will magically transform your agency does not work.  YOU control this.


Carlos Vargas



What should you expect at your first IAOA conference?

I have been in the insurance business for 38 years and have attended many conferences, but have never been to one like this.

I was greeted at the registration by (Nick or Grant?) on a first name basis. They explained to me what, where and how everything was soon to start.

I did not know anyone last year in FLA, but left three days later with some amazing new friendships.

Advice, show up to the sessions early as seating space runs out.

Take plenty of notes (my iPad died during a session last year and I was BUMMED!) so this year I am taking notes with old fashion paper and pen.

Everyone’s positive mental attitude is so contagious!

Come with an open mind and you will be fulfilled beyond anything else you have ever experienced before.


Erin Nutting



Make sure you go in with a game plan. Don’t count out the vendors! My business has been changed by some of the vendors in the room and they are selected because of their product/service matters. Hit them up.

Know that you’re going to get blown up with information and that it’s ok. Don’t get overwhelmed. The conference is there for absorption- the aftermath is there for the sift through and implementation.

It’s an insurance conference, not a frat party, be clear minded so you don’t miss out on the nuggets coming at you the next day in the conference.

Don’t worry about what everyone else is wearing, everyone has their own style and brand. Own that.

Try to meet as many new people as you can but make sure to make time for those who have invested in your agency growth. The largest names in the insurance space will be all in the same room at the same time and we all have one major thing in common. We are all #bettertogether.


Mike Stromsoe



Hey friends want to share a couple of thoughts with you about the upcoming Innovation18 event.

I have attended every IA event. Get ready for your life to be changed. If at all possible, get there early and plan to stay after the event so that you can debrief and get your game plan on so you can be ready before you get on the plane or in the car to go home.

This event will bring so many new ideas, thoughts, strategies, and ways that you can grow your business, and more importantly, ways you can improve your life for yourself and your loved ones. Make sure you bring a notepad something to write with and get ready to ink it, not just think it.

I also always make sure that I’ve got some index cards or even a small notepad with me because the conversations that happen in the halls, the bars, and other venues can sometimes be game-changing as those AHA moments will never come back. You’ll want to have a way to document or record that moment. Whatever works for you that’s the most important thing.

My next encouragement is come ready to give to others. Remember living is giving and that’s what it is all about. Come ready to give. If you’ve got something fantastic, special or new and unique that you’re working on, bring some samples to share with other people so that we can help them any way possible. That’s where the biggest wins come from is, when we help somebody else without the expectation of receiving something back in return.  That is the foundation and the philosophy that IAOA thrives on. That’s what IAOA is all about.

Lastly, after the event is over, make sure that you invest some quality time, 1hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, whatever you can before you go home and organize your notes, organize your thoughts and create an action plan for when you get home.

When you create your action plan, you’re gonna want to write a deadline for everything that you’re going to implement. If possible make a copy of your action plan, give it to someone you trust and ask them to hold you accountable. Ask them to check in with you every week or whatever time frame works for you to make sure that you’re on task, to make sure you’re getting it done.

Your future success will only happen when you implement execute and take action with BF-Belief and Faith. I hope this has helped you in some way. If is anything else I can help you with in any way, please look me up and let me know. #IAOAbettertogether


Mike Crowley



As you start to get ready for your first INNOVATION IAOA Insurance Conference you are probably thinking to yourself “what is going to happen?” “What should I expect?” or even “what should I pack?”

Well, last year I was in the same position, going to my first ever national insurance conference having never met anyone in person and only had these relationships built through Facebook.

So here is my quick tips to help you when attending IAOA’s INNOVATION Conference for the first time.

First, come humble and come hungry to learn. As Confucius said, “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.” This is to me completely fits this conference. No matter how successful your one-person agency or your 400-employee agency is everyone is there for the same reason, to learn, to collaborate, to share. Not often can you collaborate with hundreds of LIKE MINDED agency owners all in one place.

Second, try your hardest to learn as much as you can, but the absolute worst thing you can do is to go back to your agency and try to implement everyone you learned at once. Or get frustrated because the results don’t happen overnight.

Create a list of items you want to do and develop actions steps to start to achieve them. As you master one, start the next. Trying to implement them all together will cause you to delay or even stop altogether.

And lastly, don’t feel the need to overpack. There isn’t a dress code. Last year we saw everything from jeans and a hoodie to full suits. Dress the way you want. Don’t feel pressured to bring options for everything.

I hope these help you get prepared for the best insurance conference you will ever attend or at least until next year’s Innovation conference.