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How a Financial Wellness Expo Became the Hottest Ticket in Town

One of the biggest challenges for financial wellness programs is engaging employees. But what if I told you that one plan sponsor figured out how to pack a convention center with 3,000 people for a financial wellness expo? Yes, that is not a typo: three thousand people! This is not some retirement plan tall tale; the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (Oregon PERS) has managed to do just that! As featured on our recent Revamping Retirement podcast, the PERS Expo, which will take place this year on October 9th, easily sells out the Salem Convention Center.

As many plan sponsors can attest, it can be challenging to get thirty people to attend a financial wellness event, much less 3,000. So how did Oregon PERS do it? The PERS Expo is no ordinary financial wellness fair. It is more along the lines of a festival; a way for PERS members to get together and have fun while learning how to improve their financial future at the same time. Don’t believe me? Watch this! Photo booth? Check. “Cash”-grab machine? Check. General fun atmosphere? Check! The concept is simple, in theory: If people are bored, it is tough to engage them - so let’s have fun! But it can be tough in execution.

For Oregon PERS, engaging employees means re-imagining the traditional employee benefits fair concept, from the venue (renting a popular convention center rather than using its own facilities), to branding (this year’s theme is “Your Path to Financial Wellness”), to use of technology (including an Expo App), to creating compelling content (with new features added each year, such as 2019’s prize wheel), to event staffing that fully capitalizes on the face-to-fact interaction with members. Each element of the Expo is designed to thoroughly engage as many people as possible. And it is hard to argue with the results. Not only does the Expo have sold-out attendance each year, but it also drives significant changes in participant behavior, which justifies the cost and time commitment of putting on the event.

Already the winner of a number of awards for excellence, including three straight NAGDCA Leadership Awards, I strongly suspect that the PERS Expo will serve as a model of employee financial wellness engagement for many other plan sponsors!

Do you have a similar success story of financial wellness engagement? Feel free to share it with me on LinkedIn, Twitter or at!

Note: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice. Opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Cammack Retirement Group.

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