On behalf of the staff of Employee Benefit News, it’s my pleasure and privilege to say ... "See ya later, alligator!"

The staff and I are leaving this weekend for EBN's 23rd annual Benefits Forum & Expo, and I hope many of you will be joining us.

The conference gods have blessed us mightily, as this year's BFE will be held Sept. 26-28 at the gorgeous Boca Raton Resort in Boca Raton, Fla. With all of the amenities at the resort, it might be tough to come in from the sun and sand for conference sessions, but I promise you it will be worth it.

Here’s just a small sample of what we have in store for you:

* Poll and be polled.
Expert pollster and author Frank Luntz — who’s been call the “Nostradamus of pollsters” — is our keynote speaker on Sunday, Sept. 26. What better way to open the conference than to get a better understanding of the powerful insight and information you can glean from employee surveys and focus groups?

Luntz knows of what he speaks, having written, supervised, and conducted more than 2,000 surveys, focus groups, ad tests and dial sessions. With good reason, he’s become the go-to consultant for Fortune 100 companies and CEOs in need communication and language guidance, including Disney, Microsoft, Pfizer and McDonalds. 

His advice has been captured in his best-selling book, “Words that Work: It’s Not What You Say it’s What People Hear,” and no doubt charges top-dollar for everything else. But at BFE, you’ll share in his knowledge for free and in-person. Your CFO can’t argue with that, right?  

* Hear straight talk on health care reform from some of the nation’s best.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A doctor, health insurance exec, health policy analyst and a benefits executive walk into a bar.

Okay, so it doesn’t make for a good joke, but it does make for a great panel discussion on health care reform, which is what you’ll get at BFE’s general session on Monday, Sept. 27.

Ray Fabius, M.D., chief medical officer for Thomson Reuters; Arthur Southam, M.D., executive vice president of health plan operations at Kaiser Permanente; Kay Curling, SVP of human resources at Salient Federal Solutions, Inc.; and Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy for the National Business Group on Health; will break down the best and the worst that have resulted from health care reform in an honest and informative session. Bring pen and paper — you’ll want to take notes on this one.

* Get the inside scoop on what it takes to be named a best place to work — during a recession, no less.
2009 was definitely not an easy year to get recognized for anything — nothing good, anyway. Just ask GM. But some companies managed to pull it off, and we’ve brought four of them to share their secrets to success in a keynote panel discussion on Tuesday, Sept. 28.

Janet Baker, SVP and director of human resources for Aflac; Anne Donovan, U.S. human capital transformation leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers; Sandra Porceng, vice president of total rewards at JM Family Enterprises; and Terry Stevens, director of benefits and compensation for Alston & Bird LLP will let you in on what it takes to break away from the pack — even in tough economic times — and be named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in America.

* Stand up and cheer your peers on a job well done.
It’s not often you get to feel like a rockstar as a benefits pro, so help us give a deserving group of your peers the rockstar treatment — if only for one day. On Sept. 26, we’ll honor the recipients of this year’s i-COMM Awards for excellence in employee communication, and some of the top companies on the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s 2010 list of the Most Adoption-Friendly Workplaces. On Sept. 27, the spotlight is on this year’s Benny Award winners, which showcase the best in benefits achievement.

* Walk — or run, spike or stretch — the talk on wellness.
No sense in talking up that wellness program if you’re not going to practice what you preach, right? As always, BFE features great opportunities for you to exercise, including our annual fun run/walk as well as a pilates class and beach volleyball clinic.

* Soak up some rays.
It would just be mean to bring you here to Boca and not have a beach party, and we’re not mean people. So, of course, we’re having a beach party. On Sept. 27, shake off a busy day of sessions and networking at our relaxing poolside soiree.

All this and more await you as we do BFE, Boca-style. But if you aren’t joining us in person here in the Sunshine State, don’t worry. The staff will be posting frequent Web site, blog, podcast and even video updates to make you feel like you’re onsite. You’ll have everything that we have here—plus, you won’t need sunscreen.

So, watch this space. Otherwise, see you 'round the pooldeck!

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