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233: Chuck Harry

Preview of the 2022 NIC Fall Conference with COO Chuck Harry. 

NIC Fall 2022 conference details

Request your invitation to the VIP Ignite Experience, August 28-30. 

View the Summer Issue of the BTG Magazine here



Welcome to the Bridge The Gap podcast, the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. A great topic on today and a great friend and guest. We want to welcome Chuck Harry. He’s the COO at the NIC Conference. Welcome to the show.


Chuck Harry 01:03

Thank you, gentlemen. Pleasure to be with you.


Lucas 01:06

Yes, yes. And I say NIC conference because that’s really what most people think of when they think of  NIC. They think of the awesome conference, but it’s really the NIC organization. And so it’s very exciting to have you on the program. Josh and I have been NIC attendees for more years than we care to admit and have made amazing relationships, connections, and friendships at each one of either the spring or the fall. And we’re very excited to have you on to talk specifically about the fall conference. This is going to be September 14th – 16th, coming up here very shortly, and it’s going to be in Washington, DC, very excited about that. Chuck, can you give us, talk to us the, the theme this year is Forward Together. Can you talk to us why you would choose that theme?


Chuck 02:01

That actually came out of thoughts provided to us by our program committee. So for each conference we actually convene a committee of leaders in the space and frankly thought-leaders in the space to give shape to not only the theme of the event but also the sessions in which we ultimately curate. Those meetings are some of the most thought-provoking meetings that we convene throughout the year to just understand what is at the forefront of those who are providing the thought leadership in the space. And specifically, as it relates to forward together, it’s really reflective of how resilient the sector has been in terms of navigating the pandemic and with an emphasis on emphasizing where we’re going from here and where we’re going collectively as an industry that none of us can navigate this necessarily on our own. And the opportunity to join partners, and collaborate together in addressing the issues that are facing the industry. I’m hoping that the pandemic will soon be behind us, but it is a going to be a fascinating decade of transformation and growth for the industry, particularly as we move from serving that silent generation to the boomer generation. And for full transparency, because NIC is all about transparency – just want to go on record – I am a late-stage boomer myself, so I can speak with some evidence of where we as a generation are going.


Josh 03:49

This is always an exciting time. As Lucas mentioned, for he and I and the BTG team to be part of the event, we’ve been going to it for years. This year, as you’re connecting operators, investors, and care partners, we’re doing that in Washington DC, we haven’t done that in years. So outside of that change, can you walk our listeners through some of the things that they can expect from this year’s event in Washington?


Chuck 04:16

Absolutely. Yeah. And when you say it’s been a few years, yeah. That dates back to 2016. The last time we convened in DC, I think your listeners will be glad to hear that we’re back at the same hotel venue that we were at, back in 2016, that’s the Marriott Marquis, which is on the east end, which is a very dynamic part of the Washington or District of Columbia. In addition, since we were last there in 2016 right across the street is the Resident Inn Marriott Courtyard. It’s kind of co-branded, but that gives us a little more breathing room for the event, because as both having been such long time attendees, both of you are aware of how the event keeps growing, not only in importance, but frankly attendance as our sector continues to grow. So we had a little more breathing room by hosting some of the event activities at the Courtyard Residence Inn, but in terms of how we’re delivering the event, it continues to remain focused on those networking, particularly the business development, networking opportunities, very much focused on transactions.


Chuck 05:36:

And specifically those transactions related to investing in seniors’ housing and skilled nursing properties. So that stays the same in terms of how we’re delivering one aspect that we introduced when we got together in Houston for the 2021 NIC fall conference that took place a little later in the year in November was the concept of the NIC cafe. When we convened in November, there was yet more concerns around the safety as it relates to the ongoing pandemic. So we wanted to make sure that folks were comfortable, making sure they kept themselves fed and healthy because it takes a lot of energy at these events, but many were not necessarily comfortable convening at a sit down luncheon venue. So we introduced that as a part of allowing folks the flexibility because, as we’ve identified, the focus is on networking and then also working in as many of the educational sessions as one can fit within their calendar. 


Chuck 06:49

Because as we all know, folks, we often refer to it as the dance card. That folks come to the event with their dance cards full, and they’re moving rapidly from one meeting to the next. The attendance is made up of those decision-makers in the space. So I think it’s been well received. We also had the NIC cafe when we were together this spring at the Dallas Omni. And we’re bringing it back to DC as well. Plus just the sheer networking spaces that we have spread throughout the venue. So depending on where you want to connect with your relationships, you have the opportunity to move about the space, to make those connections, and keep up not only with old connections or existing connections but as well with forging new connections in the space.


Josh 07:48

You know, Chuck, I remember very vividly, as a very young administrator and operator, years ago going to my first NIC and what an overwhelming experience it was with all the people, the excitement, the educational opportunities, the keynotes. And I remember thinking, yes, I was a little overwhelmed and exhausted by the end of it, but it was a great value. And as your organization is growing, the conference is certainly growing. The industry is greatly growing. Are you all seeing a surge of new developers, new owner-operator groups that have never been to NIC? Is that seem to really be growing a lot of new attendees that have never been?


Chuck 08:43

To your point, Josh. Yeah. Growth is a regular part of this event. And we will typically have 20% or more of the attendees at our event who are, in fact, what we refer to as first time attendees. I think as an organization we’ve gotten better in getting them acclimated or frankly prepared for the event. So those of your listeners who may not have attended or know that this will be their first time, we welcome them to join us for our first-time attendee webinar ahead of the event. So they know how to basically get their dance cards filled as well before they get to town. Because if you don’t do some pre-work, you may not get quite as much out of the event as you otherwise would have. And then, on-site, before the educational sessions begin, we do have an event again for first-time attendees to meet each other and be provided further guidance on how to most effectively navigate the event.


Chuck 09:56

And then each morning, there’s an opportunity where we have a designated area for those who are new, not only to connect with each other, but we will also make sure we’ve got some of NIC leadership there as well so that they can more familiarize themselves with our organization. And one thing we haven’t talked about, I just like to offer up, because many are not aware that NIC is, in fact, a doctor-for-profit organization, 501-C3 we don’t have members. I think many often think of themselves as members of the organization, but it is through our events that we generate the margins by which we continue to enact upon our mission as an organization to both enable or enhance access and choice and seniors, housing, and skilled nursing through the connections, the data and the analytics that we produce as an organization.


Josh 11:00

Well, Chuck, one of the things that our industry as it’s growing so rapidly, has to do is attract talent, new talent that’s not in the industry. It seems like to me that having gone the past few years, this event, spring and fall, seemed to be attracting higher levels of new talent of folks that are actually seeking out the industry, which years previously, I didn’t hear that as much as that because of a targeted effort you are making at the organization through the events to attract talent to the industry and to these events?


Chuck 11:40

Yes, it does. Josh, to your point, it does happen at the event. We have ongoing, what we refer to as our university outreach efforts. And given NIC’s focus, as many will reference as a capital facing organization, which distinguishes ourselves somewhat from the trade associations within the space, we tend to focus more on students coming out of graduate schools and specifically business schools. We don’t preclude those who are pursuing undergraduate studies, but as part of our outreach, we do offer up conference scholarships or scholarships to our conferences. For the fall that is being sponsored by Welltower as they also, as an organization, given tremendous focus on talent development. So for those students who have been selected, in the process their professors can nominate those students who know they have an interest in this sector.


Chuck 11:52

They are provided complimentary registration to the event as well as hotel accommodations during the event. So it’s an incredibly enriching experience for those students. But frankly, based on the feedback we’ve gotten from our attendees, our attendees also welcome that opportunity to connect with this younger talent, and increasingly, you’re absolutely right, the students have targeted this sector for their careers. One caveat that I’d mentioned to that has been my experience. And again, this events focus on the real estate piece of the sector. We do have a number of graduate students, namely those pursuing MBAs with a focus on real estate. I’ve noticed many of them, frankly, as we speak today, aren’t exposed that much to seniors housing within the curriculum. So although they’ve expressed interest in the sector, so the professors have nominated them. They’ve been selected. They’re often considering their options. As MBA graduates, they often have a multitude of options, but they use our venue as an avenue by further exploring what the real career opportunities are.


Chuck 14:18

I think most of the students come away from these events really excited about the sector and the opportunity it presents to further help guide them along, as part of particularly Welltower sponsorship of our conference scholarships. We’re also introducing what we’re calling the ambassador program so that those students are connected with practitioners in the space who are further connecting with them ahead of the event, during the event. And then for those who opt will keep in touch post the event to help them to continue to make connections within the sector. So yeah, Josh, we’re really excited about the progress that we’ve had with the university outreach and we frankly have our future leaders council to thank for that. That is an initiative, that they started dating back the previous decade back to 2010. And it’s only grown in prominence over time.


Josh 15:22

Well, that’s really exciting. And it just adds to what Lucas and I, I think we’ve explained to several people, we get asked by a lot of people, especially newer partners to the industry. What events do we need to attend this year or next year? What do we need to mark? We always say, NIC, it’s like the Super Bowl of events. If you can only go to one, that’s the one you need to go to. Lucas, I think it was like our second event that we went to together that we had met. And so a lot of good memories there. I know you’re looking forward to it as well, my man.


Lucas 15:59

Yes, definitely, definitely. And it’s gonna be an exciting time this fall. Chuck, as we kinda round out the program, talk to us about the final details about NIC attendees or people that are considering NIC, what do they expect as far as a takeaway?


Chuck 16:17

Great question. I think in recognition of the tremendous change that’s taking place in the space to your point, Josh, I don’t think there’s any better event out there. If you want to connect with the other decision-makers in the space and the thought leaders in the space to basically put your ear on the ground and understand the direction of how folks are handling their current outlook. Along those lines, think there are two sessions within the multitude of sessions that we are offering that I’d like to highlight. First and foremost the session that we’re positioning as the Marquee session at the conference is that with panel of CEOs, and this is, what we’re tagging it as Visions Insights and Perspectives, or VIP. And the VIPs in the space who are all leaders on their own, but will be sharing their perspectives on where they see the sector going, the challenges ahead, and how they expect to be able to address those challenges.


Chuck 17:27

It’s all operator CEOs, inclusive of Brenda Bacon, Greg Smith, Sevy Petras, and Cindy Baier. So I think that’s one that folks will be interested in hearing from leaders in the space and then addition given just the sheer degree of uncertainty as it relates to the economy. And frankly, it impacts in the healthcare space. We do have our keynote speaker, and this is financial futurist or economist Jason Schenker who is founder of the Prestige Economics and chairman of the Futurist Institute, who will be speaking, not only to economic trends but the outlook for the healthcare sector as well. There are various other sessions that you can see online in terms of what we’re making available. But I think it [NIC Conference and keynote speakers] will further reinforce the theme of the conference that we have an opportunity to move forward and forward together as a sector.


Lucas 18:36

That’s great. That’s wonderful. Well, we’re very excited. Bridge the Gap is going to have our studio there in DC at the NIC conference. We’re going to be on the Huddle Hub, the level M-4. So, anybody that’s coming to the NIC conference, we invite you to come and pay us a visit, come to say hi, and you can expect Bridge the Gap to be able to sit down with some of these other wonderful thought leaders that are all going to be there to pick their brains about the types of discussions that they’re having so that the bigger audience of senior housing can get a little more of a taste of the types of conversations that are taking place that are so important to move this industry forward. And guess what – Forward Together – very well put, well-said. Chuck Harry, thanks so much for taking the time today to tell our listeners about what they can expect at the NIC conference in DC.


Chuck Harry

Thank you, gentlemen.


Lucas 19:35

We’ll make sure that we put all of this in the show notes. We’ll connect to Harry and You can get your tickets in the link below, and we hope that you join Bridge the Gap and the NIC organization in DC in September. Thanks for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.



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233: Chuck Harry